Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna: New Bollywood?

I love Bollywood, but I’m a real starter when it comes to knowing about the films, so it would be great to hear people’s responses to Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. (Director: Karan Johar). I remember Lagaan seemed to promise the first Indian cross-over success, but KANK is far more modern. Not your typical Bollywood product, it’s set in New York and deals with divorce and infidelity. The characters drink and there is a definite lack of the trademark Bollywood music and dancing, given the ‘hero’ is an injured football pro. Any musical numbers are modernised and often set in discos.

I’d made a mental note to discuss it with my students who are Bollywood fans, but saw (Screen International 1/09/06) that is has had the biggest box office opening in territories other than India, for a Bollywood film. It has some of the brightest stars of Bollywood, such as Shah Rukh Khan, not for the first time tackling a quite unsympathetic hero. The film is pretty tortuous – there’s loads more dialogue than usual – and some of it pretty dreadful!

I’m not sure how far it represents a true Bollywood film for the global market though – although it seems it might be targeted at younger viewers. It certainly is different from Johar’s 2004 film Veer Zaara (which had three out of the four leads) which was far more traditional, particularly in gender representations.

I’d love to know how it fits in with other, earlier Bollywood or how younger people (i.e. students) have responded to it? Or any other films that people think make ‘westernised’ Bollywood, for the global market? (I’m thinking particularly about A2 Film and Media options re World Cinema, and for teaching institution, generally?)

6 comments

  1. Samakshi

    Hey Rona,
    Kabhi Alvida Na kehna got quite a few lukewarm responses here in India :)
    Most thought it was overly dramatized although the theme was thought of as quite brave and refreshing (for the younger lot especially.) It was a coming of age film where both the lonely people (Rani & shahrukh) unite despite thir real circumstances – One of the few rare moments in Indian cinema where the heart ends up ruling more than tradition and other responsibilities. The concept of adultery coming from a ‘family director’ such as Karan Johar was not welcomed with open arms either. Surprisingly many Shahrukh fans came out concluding that his performance in the film was rather annoying… And yet the film did quite well owing to it’s larger than life star cast.

    Karan Johar’s got his best response from his 1998 film Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. His next directorial venture ‘My Name is Khan’ is set to release around end of 2009 and stars India’s most loved on-screen pair – Shahrukh Khan and Kajol. Let’s see how well that does!

  2. Rona

    Hi Samakshi,
    That’s really interesting – and it is logical that its reception might be problematic in India. ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ you can see is far less so, and manages to blend the energy and appeal of its (then) young stars and target a younger audience. Yet it does not question accepted, traditional ideologies in the same way . Am I right in thinking of ‘Saathiya’ is similar to this – it really struck me watching it how modern the couple were, but how really traditional feelings were always present – particularly in the musical sequences?
    What and who is making the news in India at the moment?

  3. Samakshi

    Saathiya is one of my favorite Indian films!! All the musical sequences in the film represented a lot of Indian culture and traditions, I agree. Although I thought the lovers to be quite inherently traditional too. They chose to quickly get married, and stay apart with their own families till ripe time came for instance. The Indian roads, local trains, temples, saris, lifestyles (of both families) and marriages made the film feel very Indian too :). Saathiya attracted much of the younger lot in India for its sweetness and honesty. It’s youthful humor, real circumstances and fresh songs were what appealed most to the youth.

    A lot of good cinema in mainstream Bollywood happening too :) Parallel cinema aside, the typical song and dance Bollywood films are becoming more sensitive and intelligent too I must add.
    A few recently released good films that I would recommend to you are:
    A Wednesday – the movie is merely about the events that unfold between 2 pm and 6 pm on a particular Wednesday and how it affects the lives of the 2 protagonists, but is the best film of 2008 according to many.
    Bheja Fry – A great work of Bollywood comedy.
    Jab we met – If you want to watch something that is typically Bollywood! The film did tremendously well at the box office.
    Rock On – a young film about a rock band, the youth film of the year! The film was very well taken by all masses.
    Cheeni Kum – starring Amitach Bachhan and Tabu in an unconventional to India love story about a 34 year old woman and a 64 year old man.
    Mumbai Meri Jaan – a critically acclaimed film about the 2006 Mumabi Train Bombings
    Vanaja – a 2006 Telugu Art house film, listed by many among the top 5 foreign films of 2007. A must watch! But the interesting thing to note is that the film failed to find any distributors for screening in India! Sad, but true..
    Jodha Akbar – a majestic film from the maker of Lagaan. The film did not manage to live up to expectations but is an interesting watch for an international audience nonetheless.
    Taare Zameen Par – I’m sure you know about this one :) India’s official Oscar entry this year.

    Hope this helps :)
    Have fun watching!

  4. venicelion

    This is really useful as a list of recommendations. Most of them have yet to appear on DVD over here and they don’t last long in multiplexes, but we can order them on rental DVD. Cheeni Kum was rated very poorly by mainstream UK critics, but it sounds interesting to think of this London romance in an Indian context.

    I’m really looking forward to the Telugu film.

    The Bollywood films in our local multiplex this week are Kidnap and Drona.

  5. Samakshi

    Kidnap and Drona both got very disappointing reviews.
    Another film I forgot to mention is Om Shanti Om (starring Shahrukh)- it’s got plenty many flaws but is an important film in the context of redefining Bollywood. The film recreates/spoofs Hindi Cinema of the 70’s and boasts of starring more than 42 stars, with 30 of them in one song alone – you might enjoy this one if you watch it without using too much of your mind!

    The film is studied in film schools across India as an exercise to identify the actors and films (all of which are iconic) that it attempts to replicate. If you manage to identify all, you could positively say that you know all that there possibly is to Bollywood :D

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