Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna

Reviewed By Abhishek Bandekar
Posted 08/11/06 23:52:27

"Mellow Drama?"
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

Karan Johar was inspired to make 'Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna'(Never Say Goodbye), his study of love and its complex nature in these rapidly changing times, after a single viewing of Richard Linklater’s 'Before Sunset'. For the sake of all of us, may his DVD collection burn and/or the library he rents titles from run out of classics. And pray to God that he doesn’t get inspired by 'Before Sunrise'!

The ball starts rolling, literally, as we are introduced to the four principal characters in what has got to be one of the cheesiest opening credits in a long time. Dev Saran(Shahrukh Khan) is a football(soccer) player who has just earned a penalty and is about to make that guaranteed spectacular goal that film heroes always do. Remember Hrithik Roshan’s entrance in Karan Johar’s previous film, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham(Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sadness), where he hits a guaranteed spectacular six! It was cricket then, and because the football fever is so high what with the World Cup and everything, it is football now. That wouldn’t and shouldn’t have been a problem, except that this film takes place in the United States of America and all sense prevailing football is the one sport that Americans know nothing about or aren’t even interested in. Even the national team of USA defeating Brazil 6-0 in a competitive match wouldn’t make the news! Anyway, our very own desi Beckham(he actually has a tattoo on his hand that says Victory; Beckham sports one on his hand that has his wife Victoria’s name) shoots and scores! Desi Beckham has a wife Rhea(Preity Zinta), the diva of DIVA magazine. Don’t you get it- Victory + Rhea = Victoria! What a subtle tribute to the Beckhams, aye? Rhea is an ultra-modern, independent woman. In Hindi film convention, such qualities make you a bitch! Thankfully Johar redeems her character in the second half, but more on that later. We are still at the opening credits. Next in line- Rishi Talwar(Abhishek Bachchan), a man-child! Rishi is about to be married to bachpan ki dost(childhood friend, baba!) Maya(Rani Mukherjee/Mukerji/Mukherji/Whocaresji?). It is at this wedding that Maya, having double thoughts about her marriage, meets Beckhamji in a meet-cute that is lifted very conveniently from the Brad Pitt starrer Meet Joe Black! Didn’t Karan see Before Sunset?!? Beckhamji convinces Mayaji to get married and they part ways, turning back every alternate second only to find the other turning away until…..if you’ve seen Meet Joe Black, you know what! Don’t fret. Beckham only injures his leg. No sweat.

Fast forward 4 years later. Beckham has lost the agility and strength of his right leg. Or is it left? Who cares? More importantly, he seems to have lost his screws in the process. Dev-id Beckham is now irritating as hell, blowing his fuse and making rude comments at the drop of a ball…ahem, hat. Rhea somehow is still bearing him(perhaps for their kid who resembles Chicken Little), besides the fact that she is now truly Victor-Rhea as she is the major breadwinner in the family and the one wearing pants. Or is it micro-mini skirts? The problem in their marriage is apparent- she jogs; he is giving an audition for Langda Tyagi! The other couple has its own share of problems none bigger than Samarjit Talwar(Amitabh Bachchan)- father to Rishi Talwar, father-in-law to Maya Talwar, Casanova to anything that moves! Samarjit aka Sam sleeps around with high-end call girls and justifies it with his deceased wife! Doesn’t the mere description of this sub-track make you feel like we’re talking of a completely different movie, maybe a Mahesh Bhatt venture! But woe is us and woe is you Mr. Bachchan for taking on a role that reduces you to dressing like a pimp, acting like an oversexed dirty old man and mouth lines that’d shame even the most ardent of your fans. At the receiving end of his remarks Kirron Kher, as Dev-id Beckham’s mother, gets complimented for her butt…you read it, her butt. Papa Talwar calls Mama Saran’s butt Chandigarh! If this joke doesn’t make you cringe in your seat, rest assured others will.

Back to the Talwars. Maya cannot have a baby and Rishi cannot give up being one! Maya and Dev meet again, through a plot device so contrived it actually has to conjure up a child-kidnapper called Black Beast! Maya and Dev, unhappy in their current relationships, befriend each other. They are compatible you see- she cannot bear a child, he cannot lift his leg(what were you thinking pervert?). Meanwhile Rhea still can’t bear Dev and Rishi still cannot give up being a child. Why didn’t they just call this movie Bears, Children and One Broken Leg! Maya and Dev start out with good intentions, trying to save their respective marriages by advising and consulting each other. Let me warn you- these two should be the last people you’ll ever go to in hopes of saving your marriage and even then they’re disastrously dangerous. Maya suggests Dev to massage Rhea, giving him a public demo in a bed-linen store. Dev’s suggestion is simple, sexy lingerie. Except his definition of lingerie is whips, belts and garter. He takes Maya to a store that houses S & M stuff, but is supposed to be a lingerie store! I was further scared when Dev actually asks Maya to spank his bottom. And oh yes, earlier Dev compliments Maya on her bottom too! Sr. Bachchan likens a butt to a Punjabi city, Shahrukh asks for his bottom to be spanked and comments on the cuteness of Rani’s butt. And yet, the expletives in Omkara are offensive!

When the efforts with the massage and sexy lingerie end up in disastrous results(they weren’t great ideas to begin with), Dev and Maya begin to realize that their respective marriages are a lost cause. They also become aware that they are falling for each other; something which the viewer knows is inevitable from the very first reel. Dev and Maya acknowledge their predicament and accept it. This, apart from the shockingly crude jokes, is the only refreshing aspect in an otherwise typically clichéd Karan Johar film. But the conservatism of Karan Johar never lets down. In order to make his audience endear to his leads indulging in extra-marital affair, he resorts to making Rhea earn hatred and Rishi come off as a nincompoop. Almost as a conditioned subconscious reaction he does a complete 180° turnabout post-interval where, upon realizing that it’d be blasphemous to boldly make an argument in favour of adultery, he makes us sympathize with the situation that Rhea and Rishi are in by labeling the actions of their respective spouses selfish and inconsiderate! Also absurd is the sermonizing on love and loyalty by Amitabh Bachchan’s Sam, a speech that is no more enlightening than the agony-aunt columns in your newspapers. That a man who makes light of an issue as grave as call-girls and exhibits his lewdness with such gay abandon should give a morality lecture is indigestible. And what was all the pre-release hype that Karan Johar had cut down on the melodrama. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna has the requisite rona-dhona and dollops of it.

On the acting front, Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna is a mixed bag. Preity Zinta and Abhishek Bachchan have been relegated to less than supporting roles, although Abhishek has it worse. Abhishek sleepwalks through his part and save his high-intensity face-off with Rani Mukherji, is awfully absent. Even his chemistry with Amitabh Bachchan(so fine in last year’s Bunty Aur Babli and Sarkar) is missing here. In fact, their dude banter gets on the nerves. Preity has a role with no meat, only bones. Rani Mukherji, it seems, doesn’t know to do anything wrong. She is as dependable as always. But whoever said that this performance is better than her deaf-mute-blind turn in last year’s Black is stupid. Arjun Rampal makes an inconsequential appearance, and so do Kajol(in a booty-shaking dance) and Saira Mohan(woman with the perfect face). The friendly appearance of John Abraham in the ‘Where’s The Party Tonight’ song, cements his position as a favourite in the Chopra-Johar camp.

This is an out-and-out Shahrukh Khan film. Karan Johar has openly expressed his admiration for his favourite actor, and as before gives him the meatiest role of all. Thankfully, Shahrukh Khan is in good form this time around. He hams, which is a given and a trait that his fans love him for, but he has it under control. Be it his resenting anger, his short-temper or his sharp sarcasm; Shahrukh manages to convey every emotion with amazing precision, and his trademark personal style. He has also been given enough scenes to chew into, especially one at a dinner-table with the entire cast where he succeeds in stealing the show from one and all.

Technically too, the film is a mixed bag. While Anil Mehta’s cinematography captures every location in a pleasant manner, Sanjay Sankla’s editing leaves much to be desired. The movie is over 3 hours long! Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy are not at their best here. ‘Where’s The Party Tonight?’ is the only track that bears their trademark stamp of contemporary awareness. Karan Johar does a good job however of making the songs easy on the eyes, especially ‘Tumhi Dekho Na’(See It Yourself)- a song that uses blue, yellow, orange, pink, red and green as colour codas. Talking about coda, why did Karan Johar find the need to mock ballet? Farhan Akhtar, his contemporary, had shown wonderful maturity when he presented opera, another alien art form to Indians, with dignity in his debut feature Dil Chahta Hai. And why did the writers(Shibani Bathija, Niranjan Iyengar and Karan Johar) find it obligatory to set this story in the United States. Couldn’t these characters exist in any Indian metropolis?

As a movie, 'Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna' is better than Karan Johar’s previous films. But those aren’t very high standards to overcome. However, for once, despite the melodrama, K-Jo seems to have taken a step towards saying what he’d like to. One hopes he goes the complete distance the next time around.

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