Director: Karan Johar
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor
Nice machine," says Amitabh Bachchan, eyeing a shiny black helicopter that he has just descended from. "I must get a few more of them."
Forget the chiffon, champagne and Switzerland universe of Yash Chopra. Or the permanently smiling and dining, dressed-for-a-wedding folks of Sooraj Barjatya. Karan Johar has just redefined rich. Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (K3G) is Bollywood's first designer film.
Johar and his technical dream team - cinematographer Kiran Deohans, art director Sharmishta Roy, dance director Farah Khan and costume director Manish Malhotra - have embellished each frame.
And his father-producer Yash Johar has pulled out the monetary stops. Helicopters, mansions, foreign dancers, Swarovski-encrusted clothes, it's all there. Even the poor people - a halwai's family in Chandni Chowk - look like rich people on a day off. K3G is sumptuous eye candy.
Add to that the high voltage star power. When all six - Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Hrithik Roshan and Kareena Kapoor - fill the frame shimmering in silks and diamonds, it's hard to decide whom to look at.
But thankfully, Karan Johar hasn't only relied on gloss. K3G has some fine writing, etched-out characters, textured moments and, at least in the first half, a well-paced screenplay. The story - how the youngest son of an industrialist brings together his estranged father and brother - echoes earlier blockbusters.
Both Barjatya's Maine Pyar Kiya (MPK) and Aditya Chopra's Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge had heroes leaving home to bring back a loved one. In fact, Johar pays direct homage to his teachers: a teary Khan, before he walks out on his family, asks his mother Jaya Bachchan if he is correct exactly as Salman Khan had done in MPK a decade ago. But Johar has updated the feel good family genre: so the children drop lines like "take a chill-pill mom" and Kapoor, playing the Clueless-inspired fashion victim Poo, says in disdain, "Whatever."
The first half, about Khan falling in love "beneath his status" and consequently leaving home, flows. The geography, as it was in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, is a surreally gorgeous Neverland - a towering palace in England is supposed to be Delhi and Hardwar is reduced to a beautiful temple set.
But the characters and dialogue are grounded so the scale is enjoyable, not alienating. Some scenes, like Rani Mukherjee handling unrequited love with dignity, are wonderfully underplayed. And Kajol, as the chatter-box Punjaban from Chandni Chowk, is magic.
The trouble starts in the second half where "designing" creeps into the script. Spontaneity is replaced by calculated claptraps. For the first time, Johar and co-writer Sheena Parikh seem to be struggling to juggle star-screen time.
So Roshan and Kapoor have tedious montages, which seem more like commercials to their beauty and youth than part of the script. And, of course, there's the requisite college, disco and Karva Chauth songs. The crying also reaches a crescendo. Everyone is shedding tears or wiping them. Barring a few scenes like the brothers reuniting, the emotions start to feel synthetic.
K3G falters post-interval because both Roshan and Kapoor are underwritten. Roshan is surprisingly sparkless (though his young avatar, a snotty fatso nicknamed Ladoo is superb) and the young pair cannot match the chemistry of Khan-Kajol.
In fact the film decides the Hrithik versus Shah Rukh debate firmly in the Khan's favour. Moving beyond his self-confessed stock of five expressions, he has matured into a fine actor. He outshines both his younger rival and Bachchan.
Despite the hiccups, K3G is worth watching. Johar, a compelling storyteller, has acquired technical finesse. K3G isn't innovative like a Lagaan or Dil Chahta Hai but it is a fitting finale to a decade of family sagas.
Bollywood’s most highly awaited production of the year, with a veritable constellation of star pairings, the family comedy-drama “Kabhi khushi kabhie gham …” is a highly enjoyable, often dazzlingly staged vehicle dragged down by a sluggish final half-hour. Opening worldwide in mid-December, pic started gangbusters thanks to hefty advance bookings, though its staying power will be tested in the coming weeks. Outside traditional markets, film has less crossover chances with non-Indian auds than recent period costumers “Lagaan” and “Asoka,” but, with considerable trimming to the latter half of Part II, pic would be a colorful audience-pleaser at festivals.
Following Karan Johar’s huge 1999 success “Kuch kuch hota hai,” expectation for his “K3G” has been at fever pitch, especially in light of Bollywood’s rocky local fortunes this year. Billed as the most expensive Indian production ever (at a reported $10 million) and going out in an unprecedented 650 prints in India alone, pic cannily brings together three generations of stars (several from “KKHH”). The splashy, super-long production — lensed in India, London and Egypt — plays traditional Indian values off against Western-influenced attitudes.
Repping the older generation of stars are Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan as Yash and Nandini Raichand, traditional heads of a filthy rich family living in a vast English-style chateau outside Delhi. As celebrations for Diwali get under way, younger son Rohan (hot new star Hrithik Roshan) arrives from overseas and learns that his beloved elder brother, Rahul — who’s mysteriously not around for the family get-together — was actually adopted.
In a huge 90-minute seg, pic flashes back 10 years. Rahul (’90s star Shah Rukh Khan) falls for Anjali (Kajol, also from the ’90s), the feisty daughter of a provincial sweetmeat-shop owner, instead of the girl his dad favors for him, the glam Naina (Rani Mukherji, also from “KKHH”).
After some entertaining character comedy between the breezy Anjali and confident Rahul, pic really kicks into gear with its second musical number, set during father Yash’s 50th birthday party, which underscores all the relationships and social divisions.
Stunningly scored and costumed, and gradually bringing in all the principals as it crosscuts between the Western-influenced party and Anjali’s more traditional, middle-class milieu, the sequence is a corker — modern Bollywood at its extravagant, exhilarating best.
As love deepens between Rahul and Anjali, subsequent numbers–including a fantasy sequence by the Pyramids — expand on the relationship. When Rahul insists on marrying Anjali, Yash finally boots his son out of the family.
Second half begins with a switch in tone, as Rohan travels to London, where he hears Rahul and Anjali have settled. Lighter and more modernistic, Part II throws the spotlight on Roshan, here re-teaming with Kareena Kapoor, his partner in recent surprise flop “Yaadein.” Best known to Western auds as the heroine in “Asoka,” Kapoor has a great deal of fun spoofing Alicia Silverstone in “Clueless.” As Pooja, Kapoor first falls for Rohan and then engineers the incognito meeting with his elder brother that drives most of the second half.
“K3G” starts taking on water, however, in Rahul’s reconciliation with his dad back in India, an unnecessarily drawn-out affair with traditional values laid on thick. Script seriously loses momentum in the final 30 minutes and shows its formulaic, soap opera origins.
Performances down the line are utterly confident, with Khan (from “Asoka”) adopting an agreeably lighter style and leaving Roshan to pile on the look-at-me-I’m-a-hunk appeal. Latter has good chemistry with the equally forthright Kapoor, while Kajol emerges as the funniest and most likable of the distaff players; looker Mukherji brings considerable credit to a smallish role.
Tech credits are tip-top in all departments, from Kiran Deohans’ eye-watering widescreen lensing to the sumptuous costumes, both Western and Indian. Between the regulation six musical numbers, Babloo Chakravaty’s copious background score makes hay with the catchy main theme as well as other musical montages. Hindi title literally means “Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sorrow… .”
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham …
Production: A Yash Raj Films release of a Yash Johar presentation of a Dharma Prods. production. Produced by Yash Johar. Directed by Karan Johar. Screenplay, Sheena Parekh, Karan Johar.
Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Kiran Deohans; editor, Sanjay Sankla; background music, Babloo Chakravaty; song music, Jatin, Lalit, Sandesh Shandilya; lyrics, Sameer; production designer, Sharmishta Roy; costume designers, Manish Malhotra, Thilaku Paranesh, Shabina Khan, Rocky S.; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Digital), Anup Deco, Anuj Mathur; choreographer, Farah Khan. Reviewed at Warner Village West End 5, London, Dec. 14, 2001. Running time: 209 MIN. (I: 100 MIN.; II: 109 MIN.)
With: With: Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukherji, Simone Singh, Himani Shivpuri.
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