In the year`s most anticipated movie, too much money causes a rift in the relationship between two brothers.
`Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham`
Yashovardhan Raichand (Amitabh Bachchan), a hugely successful businessman, rules his household with an iron hand. Wife Nandini (Jaya Bachchan) is content taking care of their sons Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan) and Rohan (Hrithik Roshan). Rahul is disowned when he chooses commoner Anjali (Kajol) over moneybags Naina (Rani Mukherji). Rohan falls for Pooja (Kareena Kapoor) and vows to bring the family back together.
In its eagerness to hit all intended targets, or coveted demographics, Karan Johar`s new film has been executed with the precise planning and logistics of a military campaign.
For tradition lovers, there are karwa chauth celebrations, subservient housewives, and houses with religious idols bigger than the residents. If your bent is more modern, you have people dressed up to the nines in micro-designer garb and the fabulously choreographed `You are my Sonia` set in a disco.
If you dig Indian pop culture, you`ll find a galaxy of white-hot stars singing not-so-olden goldies like `Wah Wah Ramji` and `Aati Kya Khandala`. If you`re outside India and missing Indian culture, you have kids in London singing our national anthem and a montage set to a hip rendition of `Vande Mataram`.
For the sentimental, there`s crying galore with every relationship hitting rough waters and crying galore when said relationships are mended. And if you prefer lighter stuff, you have Kajol, Kareena and Johnny Lever providing sporadic laughs.
Fans of the Shah Rukh-Kajol pair will be glad to note that they get three songs and dominate the first half. And if you prefer Hrithik and Kareena, even after `Yaadein`, you`ll come away with their three songs and strong presence in the second half.
While this calculated pursuit of audiences does take away its spontaneity, `Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham` still comes off as a good entertainer, marred only by extreme length and its similarity to recent films like `Mohabbatein` and `Ek Rishtaa`.
Johar`s eye for visual composition, aided immeasurably by cinematographer Kiran Deohans, elevates a routine story to something far better. The opening credits are set against black-and-white images with tints of colour. An overhead shot of helicopter blades dissolves to swirling dancers.
But it`s not just pretty photography. Johar integrates his colour palette into the storytelling itself. There`s a beautiful song with a throng of youngsters shot in blazing earth colours, after which you suddenly see Nandini all alone at home, shot in a deathly gray. This visual contrast speaks more eloquently than any teary dialogue would have. Johar also imparts visual signatures to scenes, like how emotional shots of the brothers always envelop them from behind a bench on the green.
Sometimes, things get too pretty for their own good. You`d think the picturisation of the dulcet `Suraj hua madhdham` would emphasise emotions, with lyrics like `main thehra raha, zameen chalne lagi`, but it`s shot against pyramids and rock formations that dwarf Shah Rukh and Kajol, both clad in equal-opportunity see-through dresses. And a funeral scene that would have worked with just the leads is instead made up like a tableau, with perfectly arranged crowds in designer kurtas on all sides.
But the screenplay is good enough that you get many little moments that overcome some of this stifling beauty. The young Rohan is shown as a chubby kid who can`t tie his shoelaces. Scenes with other kids ragging him with a tongue twister are done well. And all of this is shown to define Rohan`s character later. Another really well-conceived sequence shows a marriage intercut with a funeral procession.
The crowded canvas leaves little room for any one performer to stand out, but the cast is good. Amitabh Bachchan seems to have gotten typecast of late as a strict old man, but he`s expert at conveying disapproval with minimum fuss. Jaya is saddled with a role that has her wandering with an arati at all times, but she does wonders in her breakdown scenes, when her voice just cracks under the weight of tears. It`s great to see these two together, some intentional humour creeping in when she stands on a stool to help him with his tie. Later, the mellowing of his character is subtly shown as he bends down so that she can apply a tikka.
Kajol has a loud role and she`s encouraged to play it broadly, which may be the point but it soon gets wearying. But she`s golden in her interplay with Shah Rukh, who does a nice job that would have been even better if we hadn`t already seen him in several similar roles. Hrithik shines in a tailor-made part and Kareena is delightful as an airhead whose attitude in life is `whatever`. Rani Mukherji contributes a nicely underplayed moment when she gives up Shah Rukh and Farida Jalal has the film`s most honestly emotional scene in which she meets Hrithik after a long time.
Sharmishta Roy`s art direction and Farah Khan`s choreography contribute greatly to the film`s aesthetic success. Jatin-Lalit and Sandesh Shandilya do a good job with the songs, but the background score gets awfully repetitive with just the title track being used over and over the three-and-a-half hour film. In fact, the final confrontation between Amitabh and Shah Rukh works beautifully precisely because there`s no score behind and we sense the raw, unorchestrated acting.
Yes, this is a `safe` film. Yet it`s hard to fault Johar for so consciously seeking commercial success, especially when things look so great. But he should return to creating cinema with freshness and guts. This is, after all, the man who began his debut film with the hottest star of the day standing beside his wife`s funeral pyre.
K3G is leagues ahead of your average Friday release, if only in terms of style. You just wish that all this craft had been spent