Monday, August 14, 2006

Does boldness good cinema make?

I watched Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna yesterday. Enough has been said and written about the movie - much of it laudatory (here and here for starters) with the occasional critical voice. Frankly, I cannot understand the plaudits. Yes, Karan Johar made a movie that was different by his standards, SRK played the role of a loser, the movie had a bold theme - so what? Does that make a great movie, or even a watchable movie? (Caveat: This ain't a review in the sense of quoting several renowned film makers or making gratuitous references to arcane subjects, however, plot spoilers abound.)

What makes a great movie is a great storyline - well plotted, with characters that speak to you, and situations that meld into one another well. What makes a great movie is superlative acting - underplayed, yet powerful. This movie has the second, in parts, but absolutely lacks the first. The first half stutters along - Karan clearly wanted to get to the meat fairly quickly and doesn’t waste time on preambles. The opening is fairly lame, with the initial meeting between SRK and Rani before her wedding being so contrived that it should have come with a Spoiler Warning or something (in this case, the title, never say alvida, comes in handy)! This segues into life four years later, with a perpetually grumpy SRK (I empathise, being in a similar position just now). There is the mandatory comic track, comprising of one very, very unfunny sequence in order to get SRK and Rani to meet, and a slightly better one where SRK and Rani are convinced their respective spouses are having an affair.

After all the comedy is done and dusted, and the respective parties have met, you'd expect things to get better. Well, they do, because this is what K-Jo wanted to get to in the first place. But not enough to forgive him a tedious first quarter of the film. Once SRK and Rani get to know each other, they start falling in love – but K-Jo made that clear from scene one, didn’t he? (And there's a comic track here that had me grabbing for a barf bag - Rani shows SRK how to bring some excitement into his love life in a bed showroom and a random foreigner thinks it's a great reason to buy the bed... seriously, what's with old jokes and random foreigners in every other laugh track?) I love the fact that there is no deep justification for why they should fall in love, except they are lonely and need each other’s company. But why would you screw this up with a random opening sequence where they meet and part? Why not be real for once, without having to resort to inane plot devices? Why do couples need to part and meet again, why, Bollywood script ke Bhagwaan?

There are some good parts here - I thought the dinner where SRK and Amitabh clash was fairly intense – both actors have a smouldering presence that’s brilliant when they’re together (except when SRK is hamming to kingdom come, that is). Abhishek-Rani and SRK-Preity have showdowns that have been well-scripted - very believable, unlike several other parts of the film. Then, the plot meanders along to a slow and painful end - predictably, SRK and Rani, having undergone the right level of pain and punishment for having cheated on their respective spouses, get together at the end, DDLJ-like with last-minute trains and what not.

The feeling at end of the movie was one of annoyance – I’d read a couple of reviews (the adulatory ones above) before watching the movie and didn’t find this movie anywhere near as good. Having the “boldness” to shift themes from inane romances to adultery and the “courage” to cast a superstar in a "loser" role does not a great movie make - superb plotting and great acting does. KANK is watchable once, but nothing more.