Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)

Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham

K3G is an indulgence that I only allow myself to luxuriate in occasionally.  While I love the first half of this film, despite all its flaws and typical Karan Johar extravagances, I just wish that the second half came anywhere close to the emotional appeal of the opening melodrama.  Considering the stellar cast it’s particularly disappointing that the whole doesn’t live up to the promise of its parts, but at 3 ½ hours maybe only watching the first half isn’t such an issue.  It also contains my all-time favourite Shah Rukh song with plenty of shots featuring SRK in those lacy see-through shirts, which is probably enough of an explanation for my love of this film, but K3G also brings back memories of learning Hindi and actually starting to understand dialogue without subtitles.  Special for a few reasons then, but this song is still the best part of the film.

For those who haven’t seen K3G, it’s a fairly routine story of your basic multimillionaire family and the ups and downs of their domestic relationships.  The Raichand’s live in a large ostentatious stately home which seems as far removed from India as it is possible to get despite the fact that it’s supposed to be relatively close to a lively market in Chandni Chowk.  It’s the kind of family where running late means having to hop on the helicopter to get home in time for Diwali celebrations, but despite all the lavishness of their lifestyle, it’s a family where there is a lot of love.  This is emphasised in the opening credits as Nandini Raichand (Jaya Bachchan) plays with her young adopted son, but it’s also obvious in the interactions between Rahul (naturally this can only be Shah Rukh Khan) and his father Yashvardhan Raichand (Amitabh Bachchan) as well as in the later scenes with his mother and younger brother Rohan (Kavish Majmudar).

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Problems arise when Yash decides that Rahul will marry Naina (Rani Mukerjee) who seems ideal for the position of rich man’s wife entrusted with carrying on the family traditions.  However Rahul has other ideas as he has fallen in love with Anjali Sharma (Kajol), the daughter of a local shopkeeper in Chandni Chowk. Just to keep things in the family, Anjali is the niece of Rohan’s nurse Daijan (Farida Jalal) and has a younger sister Pooja who is roughly the same age as Rohan.  This helps later on in the story, although initially it just seems another way of emphasising the gap between the two families.

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The first half of the film sparkles with the romance between SRK and Kajol while the various family relationships add depth and interest to the story.  The two grandmothers, Achala Sachdev and Sushma Seth, ensure a typical Indian family feel despite the Anglicised mansion, while the glaring discrepancies between the Raichand’s home and the (somewhat sanitised) streets of Chandni Chowk are used to good effect.

Kajol is lively and boisterous as Anjali, while SRK is more retrained and less dramatically emotional which helps keep things under control.  There is a smattering of comedy in the romance too, which both SRK and Kajol handle effortlessly, and the appearance of Johnny Lever in comedy uncle mode is thankfully kept to a minimum and doesn’t disrupt the story.  The other characters all fit in too – the young Rohan is petulant and spoilt, just as a rich kid should be, while Anjali’s younger sister Pooja (Malvika Raaj) is bratty and approaching obnoxious at times, which does actually tie in reasonably well with her later persona.

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Naturally Rahul chooses love over duty and ends up cast out of the bosom of his family, although he does have Anjali and her sister Pooja as compensation.  Of course, this is a Karan Johar film, so it’s no surprise when we reconnect with Anjali and Rahul ten years later to find that they are living in a large and opulent home somewhere in London, despite the fact that Rahul left with nothing – pretty impressive work!

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But things start to fall to pieces once Kareena Kapoor enters the picture.  This was the first time I’d seen her in a film and it was also the last for a very long time – based solely on this dreadful performance. Hrithik Roshan as the grown up Rohan is also sufficiently unimpressive, seemingly unable to decide between the role of hot and macho student running amok in ridiculously expensive cars, or emotional wreck searching for his brother.  The two completely derail the romance and it’s hard to come up with any reason why Pooja has to dress like a call girl and act like a complete airhead.  The film also dives deep into overindulgent farce as Anjali complains about her son becoming too English (hmm, could this be because they’re living in England and he’s attending an English school?) while Rohan decides that staying with his brother while pretending to be someone else would be a good way to reconcile his father and brother.  Because that would definitely work.

If you can ignore all the self-indulgent weeping from Rohan and the insufferable unpleasantness of Pooja, the rest of the film is endurable, although unbelievably long and drawn out with a ridiculously contrived ending.  Karan Johar goes overboard trying to tug on his target NRI audience’s heartstrings with a rendition of the Indian National Anthem which seems totally out of place, and there are far too many references to ‘loving your parents’.  Even apparently when they don’t love you and repeatedly tell you so.  There are a few moments where the easy flow of the first half is almost recovered, but overall the second half is disappointing at best, particularly after such a good beginning.

Thankfully though there is still SRK, who is as charismatic as always, and the Shah Rukh and Kajol jodi works even while the story around them falls to pieces. If only the whole Kareena Kapoor and Hrithik Roshan storyline had been cut, this would have been a much more enjoyable film, although still not perfect.  Still, I do recommend watching right up until the interval – after that it’s at your own risk!   4 stars for the first half, but only 1 for the second.

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7 thoughts on “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)

  1. When I showed this film to my mom, who was a budding SRK fan at the time, she had to hit the sack after the first half…we left the dvd for her, and she watched the second half alone by herself. When I came in, she was in a big weepy puddle on the sofa…”Why didn’t you tell me the second half was so sad!…but what’s with the stupid younger couple?” So I think for the most part she agreed with you, Heather, even though she liked the second half more than you did. Me, after the first full viewing, I find I spend more times watching the videos and SRK and Kajol’s courtship scenes and then fast forward through the rest. The full epic is really only a one time thing.

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    • Hi Jenny,
      I’m with you! I now watch this with the FF button to hand and watch the SRK/Kajol romance and the songs – plus some of the background family stuff with the two grandmother’s or Kajol and her cousin, which is reasonably amusing too. I’d forgotten just how much was cringe-worthy about the second half until I re-watched it for this review! Somehow my memory blocked the dreadful outfits for Kareena (and frequently Hrithick too!) and I’m sure it was self preservation that made me forget just how terrible Kareena actually was! And yet it’s a film I do still watch and enjoy – it’s just that I only watch some of it!
      Is your mother a fully fledged SRK fan now? :)
      Cheers, Heather

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      • She was a die-hard Rukhie and was well along to converting my dad, too…she forced him to watch the Inside & Outside SRK documentaries, and Dil Se, and his comment was “Something about that guy, I like…”

        High praise from the man who hated subtitles, and can’t sit still for anything longer than an episode of Mission Impossible (the tv show, not the film). They’ve both passed now, but I think they kind of got my enjoyment of Hindi film…or at least stopped worrying that I was going to convert to Hinduism :-) I admire the faith that I see in Bollywood films, but my Protestantism is firmly ingrained!

        And I think the Hrithik/Kareena jodi is very overrated…they have a lot of clunkers in there. Main Prem Ki Diwani Hoon was my first Hindi film in the theater and it almost broke me before I’d begun…and Yaadein sets a record for bad fashion in one film, if I remember correctly Hrithik’s fake leather jacket had about twenty-five zippers on it, plus slits AND fringe! And don’t get me started on that black and pink prom dress she had on…sheesh!

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      • :)
        Good to hear about a family of dedicated SRK fans!
        I completely avoided all Hrithik/Kareena films to such an extent that I have never seen them together in anything else. And judging from your comments, I think that was a wise decision! No regrets at all about missing out on the films, although I may need to check out the terrible outfits on YT – they sound awesome!
        Cheers, Heather

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  2. Hi Heather! The first time I saw the film, it was in a big group, at a friend’s home in USA. Most people had evidently seen it already, yet were happily re-watching. I just hated it and was astounded that everybody seemed so enthralled! It was all so overblown, so overdone! And I simply hated Jaya’s overdone ‘mum’ thing. But then I came to know what a hit it was and a friend who lives in Berlin said that it was a great hit dubbed in German as well. Curiosity eventually made me buy myself a DVD, especially as I quite liked the music. The film appealed to me better this second time, and as you say, I enjoyed the SRK-Kajol interaction very much. I didn’t hate the second part; it was contrived and the younger couple didn’t appeal but SRK-Kajol interaction continued to appeal. And I withstood Jaya a bit better, even adopting ‘Keh diya naa’ as my slogan :) Now that is a line every woman needs to learn :)
    BTW Does your Hindi allow you to now watch it fully without subtitles? I find that watching with subtitles is always a distraction..
    Cheers. Suja

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    • Hi Suja,
      I think it’s more my familiarity with the film that lets me watch without subtitles :) Since I started watching Telugu and Tamil films I seem to have forgotten a lot of my Hindi – not helped by working on a PhD for the last few years!
      For me this is all about SRK and Kajol. I liked the way Jaya stood on a stool to fix her husband’s tie and I could appreciate her mother act, but it’s all secondary to the main romance. I think that’s why I really don’t like the second half as SRK and Kajol are pushed to the side by the Hrithik/Kareena shemozzle. Best to concentrate on the songs and skip over the annoying bits!
      Cheers
      Heather

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  3. I can only watch the SRK/Kajol parts. The rest of that movie gives me a headache…I call it my Kjo headache when a film becomes so annoying/terrible that it makes me angry. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed one of his films, except maybe KKHH, but I know I’m the minority!

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