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.

Don 2

Don 2 was so much fun! I really like the 2006 film, and this is a great second chapter. Don 2 is not a police procedural or an examination of the drug trade. It’s one man’s fight to get his life back and live on his own terms. Does it matter that his life is based on drugs, murder and mayhem? Not really. You don’t have to like him or his business to wonder how he is going to do it.

Looking bedraggled and scruffy, it seems life on the run since the first film has been hard on Don (Shah Rukh Khan). He is tired and wants to go back to the high living he is accustomed to. He will have to eliminate his enemies and outwit the law. But if your cash flow depends on trade of some sort, how can you kill everyone and still be in business? And what to do about those pesky police? The gleefully improbable plot rolls on with a cast of human dominoes set up and knocked down as Don wreaks havoc. Farhan Akhtar clearly didn’t invest as much in his writing as in the visuals, and while that does lead to some WTFery, it is so entertaining that I didn’t care one whit. The double crosses and manipulation drive the plot along at a cracking pace.

SRK started his career as a baddie and that is my favourite kind of role for him. He brings a reptilian coldness to Don that is usually masked by a twinkle and a smirk, and his charm is used deliberately to seduce or scare. Don is an enigma and I like that. I find it tiresome to have every villain given a tragic back story so we can see how they went bad and feel sorry for them. Don is unapologetic and he is not looking for moral redemption. He’s also quite irritating, as though he is so bored by always being 3 steps ahead that he acts up just for fun. Actually, he reminded me a little of a much loved pet, my tiny Chihuahua who always acted like he was a big scary dog – they share the same self-belief. Don may seem smaller and less impressive than his opponents, but he has supreme self confidence, and no sense that he may appear to be ridiculous. The dual roles of the first film have been transposed into two sides of his character. Shah Rukh shows a playful side when he is taunting adversaries or flirting with Roma, but he also shows implacable rage when he is thwarted. Don never gives up on himself and that’s why he outlasts his enemies. Considering the number of people he hired or could afford to hire, Don was very hands-on and a control freak. What a nightmare boss! No wonder he struggled to find good help.

Don’s wardrobe lacks the flamboyance of the first film which is, perhaps, a shame. I suspect some of the drug lords’ attire in an early scene was inspired by him, so there are a few choice shirts on display. Don has a predilection for leather, but usually keeps it simple. The characters don’t look like tourists in Berlin – there’s no blinged up denim in sight. They dress to blend in and to suit their role. It’s a small facet of the great attention to visuals throughout the film. Shah Rukh does get some very bad hair in the first section of the film.

I hoped his microbraids may have housed an ingenious MacGyver style mechanism for a jail break, but no, it was just another bad wig. Maybe in the next film!

Priyanka is good as Roma, although her role is less prominent this time. Roma is a driven career cop, as obsessed with Don as he is with himself. Their love/hate attraction is still there, and Don knows it. Roma has a strong but lowkey presence, feminine but not girly. Sparks fly in her verbal encounters with Don and the dialogue crackles and flows between them. But what has Priyanka done to her nose? It was quite distracting.

Ayesha (Lara Dutta) is not just Don’s piece of fluff, she executes some important tasks, and Lara played Ayesha as smart. But there was little for her to do and she is a better actress than this role allows her to demonstrate. Sadly the one big dance number was picturised on her and she looked badly dressed, awkward and out of time.

Boman Irani was in scene stealing form as the former kingpin Vardhaan. He is such a good actor that I sometimes forget he is acting – I just see nice, likeable Boman and then he turns evil. He is the ideal counterfoil to Shah Rukh’s preening Don, adding a heavier energy to the ensemble. He also scored some of the biggest laughs with a scene involving a scientist who was so boring you could almost see Vardhaan aging as he listened.

Kunal Kapoor looks set to inherit the franchise as son of Don or something. As hacker Sameer, he seemed to spend more time spray painting vans and the like than actually hacking. He is decorative enough but I don’t think he has come close to recapturing his acting form in Rang De Basanti. Om Puri makes a return as Malik, who is on his way to retirement. His role seemed to set up Roma as his successor in the force rather than actually doing anything. The European support cast are surprisingly not completely terrible so that was nice to see.

The music by Shankar-Ehsan-Lloy is unimpressive, and the couple of dances were also underwhelming. What on earth was Hrithik Roshan doing  when he was supposed to be waltzing? All that tippy toeing round in circles was ridiculous. How much cooler would it have been if the character ‘impersonating’ Hrithik had ripped off a prosthetic thumb instead of a mask! The closing number over the titles was fun for the Bond flavoured visuals.

The action is brilliantly executed. Matthias Barsch did a fantastic job of maximising the impact of the star talent and seamlessly integrating doubles for the tough stuff. Shah Rukh was Don fighting for his life, waiting for his break and ruthless when it came. Priyanka’s action scenes are as physical as any of the men, and she gives the effort and intensity that makes Roma a ‘junglee billi’.

Don borrows liberally from Bond and Mission Impossible etc, but the whole genre is built on one-upmanship. A stunt in one is pushed further and faster in another and so it goes. It’s not the style for delicate psychological insights and introspection as it is about what happens next. The pace is perfect and I never felt that things dragged or went too fast. The locations are used well, and really add something to the flavour of the film. I like a big glossy action thriller, especially when the anti-hero is having as much fun as Don.

For me, Don 2 builds on the 2006 version and gives great bang for your buck. It’s pretty clear the way has been paved for another adventure. Roll on Don 3!

Heather says: The problem with sequels is that they often try too hard to be bigger and better than the original and end up failing rather spectacularly. Don 2 doesn’t. It is bigger, better and more spectacular than the first film and I loved it! Farhan Akhtar’s previous Don was one of my favourite Shahrukh Khan films and this is the first film since Om Shanti Om where I have wanted to watch the film again right away. Shahrukh Khan is so very, very good at being bad. I much prefer him in a negative role where he can be totally evil and chilling and yet in the blink of an eye change and schmooze with his leading lady or charm his erstwhile enemy into taking part in his latest scheme. Yes, there were parts that didn’t work as well but once Don was back on-screen these faded from importance. Priyanka was great in the action scenes although I still find the plot point that has her attracted to the man who killed her brother and sister-in-law to be a little strange. More believable is her obsession with capturing Don and this was well captured in the story. I also really enjoyed Lara Dutta’s Ayesha who was very capable and clever, and also had the best outfits apart from the dreadful dress in the dance number Temple has mentioned.

The whole film looked very slick and polished with great cinematography, in particular for the scenes in Europe. The action  was excellently choreographed as Temple said and I liked that there were plenty of good old-fashioned beat ’em up fights rather than too much reliance on guns and other weapons. Although there were enough explosions to keep me happy but nothing beats the crack as Don breaks yet another bad guy! There was plenty of variety in the action shots, helped by the different locations, but each action scene was set up and played out uniquely which was impressive for a movie with so much happening. I did think that Boman Irani’s Vardhaan was a little underused and would have liked to see a little more interaction between him and Don, but that may have made an already convoluted plot just a little too much to follow. I liked Kunal Kapoor as Sameer and appreciated the fact that his character was given a little more depth and empathy, although I think that counts him out as being a Don protégé as he was just too nice.

This was such a fun film to watch, with a really excellent performance from Shahrukh. I totally agree with Temple – Don3 next!