The concept of Indian film is a real challenge for Western film lovers. The huge volume of production of India's film industry and the local popularity of the Bollywood blockbusters have caused festival and cinematheque programmers, film writers and fans throughout the world to try to discover this distant branch of film-making, especially in the past five to ten years. Yet the spirit of this interest is often one of amazement at the exotic extremity of Bollywood rather than cinematic enjoyment on equal terms as with Western films. After seeing "Kal Ho Naa Ho" at this year's NatFilm Festival in Denmark thoughts about this particular East-West meeting seem more pressing than usual, particularly because this film seems to approach Westerners by setting its story in New York City and tying into familiar elements of American pop culture, starting with an adapted version of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman".
"Kal Ho Naa Ho" basically deals with the same main topics that most other successful Bollypics do: Love, marriage, friendship, family. It does so in the most high-strung way imaginable, mixing melodrama with comedy and musical, and adds the melancholic but lively plot line of an unselfish man who, as though sent from heaven, helps his fellow beings while having only a short time left to live.
My own reaction to the flamboyant style and emotional subject matter is mixed; it's certainly an experience, and there is laughter and entertainment, but I also react negatively to what I comprehend as kitsch and camp, to the plot holes and implausibilities, to acting that I am used to categorizing as over-acting, and to what I think is a dull and overdone final half hour. In addition, I realize that some of the things I laugh about in this and other similar productions are involuntarily funny and not a laughing matter for Hindustan audiences.
Beholding the melodramatic proportions of the plot and the general bombardment of the senses presented here, it is convenient for the Western crowd to conclude that this is simply so bombastic, so unrealistic, so cliché-driven that we should simply dismiss it as anything but a quick laugh. However, that would be a partly incorrect conclusion. While it is true that "good taste" in a European and American context has to do, to some extent, with moderation in style and social relevance in content, it is apparent that we have our own Western examples of every of those aspects that feel different in a Bollywood blockbuster. Examples include the classic Hollywood melodramas from "Gone with the Wind" to "Magnificent Obsession", musicals from "Singin' in the Rain" to "Moulin Rouge!", American soap opera like "The Bold and the Beautiful" and a multitude of American and European comedies and romances with more or less implausible plots and reluctance to deal with any social issues whatsoever. The more exact description is perhaps that the Bollywood approach simply seems to try to unite all these aspects into the same multi-hour film, which ultimately, when all the elements are joined together, forms a barrier for the Westerner's enjoyment of the film. Entertainment overload you might call it, or, alternatively, emotional manipulation.
This, however, is not to say that Western audiences necessarily react to the Bollywood experience without regard to the qualities of the individual film. Bollywood and Indian film in general is certainly more diverse than one can sometimes get the impression of, and even among the blockbusters there are notable differences in approaches and qualities. For instance, I personally have greater esteem for "Devdas" and particularly "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" than for "Kal Ho Naa Ho". There are two central reasons for this. First, that they both have an Indian setting, which means that we viewers feel we are learning a story about a place from people who know that place, and which also gives way for a more local, more inspirational choreography and production design. Second, that these two films more effectively tell a story of something that seems to matter, something true, even something social-minded, with the quarrel over arranged marriages in "K3G" as the leading example.
I don't like "Kal Ho Naa Ho" much, but I respect it and its predecessors for their ambition, for their difference from what I usually know and like, and for their occasional ability to combine their entertainment with something real and poignant
Way to go!Classic Dharma productions look and feel, so not let down there. New York is captured so beautifully and for the second time within a very short time frame (After the suprisingly well treated, and refreshingly different 'Out of Control') New York has been made the heart of the storyline in a way that does not stand out and remind you it doesn't fit in with your regular serving of bollywood protagonists. Nor is it one of the locales, one that appears in a brief period of the movie or a song -its right there as the setting of the entire movie, all throughout.Nothing in the script occurs because the setting is NY and not Mumbai for e.g. to remind you that the location is relevant. This has been attempted with a lot of movies no doubt, Yaadein for e.g., not so much K3G, which has an overlap with India, but each time the characters have felt out of place. In Kal Ho Na Ho(KHNH), I must say I was able to enjoy an NY setting, without getting distracted from the story. So that's a definite plus. Then comes the maturity in terms of absence of melodrame and sensitivity to audience emotions - Aman (SRK)had to die, otherwise the story would have lost its meaning, and yet seeing Aman take his last breath in a dramatic fall of his hand from Rohit's(Saif) palm or a turn of the head on the pillow would have made me wince, and left a bitter taste in my mouth. That bitter taste would take away the warm, somehow feel goodness about how we can move on and things can turn out once you accept the inevitability of death that Karan (by way of script) or Nikhil (by way of direction and final presentation) had very very carefully managed to build up in me till that point. That was very beautifully handled, and though I did well to not let tears run free, I did not really come out heartbroken either :-) , in a way that would discourage me from seeing the movie again etc or want to forget it.So improvement there :) Improvement also in a way, that there seems to be a sprinkling of somethign for everyone in a just right balance that has been so elusive to the best of filmakers. Focus too much on a tight storyline and you end up with a gut wrencher like Aks that is so dark that there is no emotional relief during the 3 hours and the movie doesnt click, or mix one element too many to provide that relief and audiences come out of the theatre wondering where the joker fit into what had potential to be an intense script!!! KHNH seems to have found that balance and people were laughing loudly at the humour, as well as weeping with the emotions :) so that's worked. These are my take aways from the movie, and the things I wanted to focus on in the review becasue everyting else is summarised in the first line -Classic Dharma production. Beautiful locales, wonderful perfomances, superb music and feel good , 'shudh desi ghee main prepared' Indian emotional appeal :)Should definitely work, and take Bollywood one step further in the conventional channel, just as films like KMG are tapping unconventional channels :)
I just came back from a show of this movie, through a heavy rain and chilling weather - and am totally excited about it. There are some movies that make you go hmmmmm. Then there are some that make you feel like calling up all your friends and telling them to go see it right now. KHNH is definitely in the latter category as far as I am concerned. For all New Yorkers - definitely make it a point to catch this movie in the theater in Times Square, Virgin store - it's worth every penny! It's just awesome to be watching a movie in a good theater, and to see the theater itself in the movie! I am not going to compare the plot and the acting and comment on how the direction was - that is left to the critics. I love New York, and love being in it, and it was just mind blowing to see so much of it in the correct context, in a Hindi movie. You'll probably end up, like me, seeing your office building(s) and your favorite places in Central Park (Sheep Meadow, the bridge on the lower west, and the fountain jump to my mind) - not to mention the Union Square, the bridges in the lower east, Battery park - and a lot more! Definitely a must see for everyone, and New Yorkers in particular.
"Kal Ho Naa Ho was an master-piece by Nikhil Advani, Sharukh, Preity and Karan" many people might have said it and I also strongly agree with this statement. But I want to say it was a very bold movie and all the stars( not only the film-stars but all who have worked in the film) can be said as people having lot of courage especially Karan Johar - Producer who knew that the subject was like the old classics and media would be comparing KHNH with all that classics and finally for any fault found in KHNH they would just accuse the filmaker and their staff, but still they made the movie and finally they proved that even if the subject is same for movie to be made, but if the work is done direct from DIL SE and with full effort, then the movie made can achieve even greater heights than previous classics. In short, the movie was having a repeat-value, the property which had been lost from last several years and one should definetly watch the movie not less then thrice or you R not a film-lover or sensitive person or person who does not appreciate a very good and inspiring work. You can decide yourself by asking a question "Who am I" Thank you