With all the hype and fuss surrounding Kal Ho Naa Ho, I was seriously beginning to doubt whether this movie would live up to all the hysteria it had generated. It’s Dharma Productions’ 3rd offering post Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (both of which were box office smashes in India and abroad) and again stars Shah Rukh Khan in a role which requires him to cry, ham, wear his heart on his sleeve and play the eternal good Samaritan – all of which he has now mastered to perfection. How could it possibly be different from other movies to come out of the Chopra / Johar camp?
However, all my pessimism was laid to rest, when I walked out of what I would classify as one of the best commercial pot-boilers of the year. Tears, laughter, gags, music, melodrama it’s all here for the audiences to lap up and keep coming back for more.
Naina Catherine Kapur (Zinta) lives in New York with her mother (Jaya Bachchan), grandmother (Sushma Seth) and two younger siblings one of whom is adopted. All that she and her financially and domestically unhappy family need in their neighbourhood, is an anti-depressant Aman (Shah Rukh) — to charm them off their troubles. That he does, sweeping ice maiden Naina off her feet too. But things are never that simple when you’re in Bollywood. Unknown to her, ‘Mr do- gooder’ is terminally ill and is actually in New York for medical treatment. Making matters worse we also have Rohit (Saif) besotted with Naina - with Aman, trying to play matchmaker between them. The plot moves from here on to a predictable yet teary (and very soppy) climax that will no doubt have you sobbing for more.
Essentially, there is nothing here we haven’t seen before. It’s just the way it’s handled by Karan’s young assistant Advani that makes it refreshing and very watchable. It’s all been shot innovatively, and NYC has never looked prettier. Thankfully, this time round we’re also spared the trademark, sports cars, designer labels and mansions that we’re used to seeing in movies of this genre. The film has a classy look and a very ‘today’ feel to it that will make most of us (abroad anyway) identify with the goings on and emotions (which work even if they are slightly melodramatic and over the top). You can relate to the characters, especially the 3 lead players, without whose chemistry, the film would’ve fallen flat on it’s face.
Shah Rukh Khan, is good though frankly there’s hardly anything here he hasn’t done before. Having said that he is restrained and doesn’t really go overboard, sparing the audience his excessive hamming and trademark mannerisms. I’m guessing he’ll be quite a favourite at the awards next year. Preity Zinta chips in a terrific performance looking gorgeous besides. Not once does she go overboard providing Naina with ample doses of attitude, warmth and vulnerability which makes her transition in the movie very believable. Saif is a revelation. His character is more or less an extension of Sameer in Dil Chahta Hai but in some scenes he’s so good, he almost manages to steal the thunder from both Shah Rukh & Preity. His comic timing is spot on. Jaya Bachchan is effective in a role that doesn’t require her to do much.
The main strength in Kal Ho Naa Ho lies in it’s spontaneous narrative and ability to flow – something which is rare in a Bolly flick. The humour isn’t loud or excessive like other films, but witty and intelligent. The songs go along with the mood and flow of the film rather than just being space fillers. And the cameos (by Rani Mukherjee, Kajol, Uday Chopra) though brief, are entertaining.
Inevitably off course, the film doesn’t work on all levels. It tries to too hard to ape Dil Chahta Hai which was a superior film in comparison. The jokes aimed at the Gujarati community, along with the ongoing gay gags don’t always evoke mirth and sometimes fall flat, but these scenes are few and far between.
On the whole though, Kal Ho Naa Ho is by far, one of the most entertaining films to come out of the Bollywood stable this year. It isn’t quite the ‘love story of a lifetime’ (as the tagline proclaims) we were hoping for, but it’s definitely worth a watch especially for the chemistry between the lead stars.