Sugary sweet romance
Kal Ho Naa Ho (DVD)
Member Name: sunmeilan
Kal Ho Naa Ho (DVD)
Advantages: Entertaining, lots of twists
Disadvantages: Too slushy, even with the comic angle
Naina Catherine Kapur, known simply as Naina, is struggling to grow up in New York with a family who are constantly at war. Her father is dead, and she lives with her mother, Jenny, grandmother, Lajjo, brother, Shiv, and adopted sister Gia. Jenny and Lajjo hate each other, for reasons that aren't clear and Lajjo refuses to accept Gia as her granddaughter because she is adopted. On top of that, Jenny is about to lose her restaurant and therefore their livelihood. Then Aman moves across the road and everything changes. He falls for Naina and Naina for him, but there is a complication and Naina is left heart-broken. Meanwhile, Naina's best friend, Rohit, suddenly decides that he is in love with Naina - and so the love triangle begins. Will everything work out the way it should? Or is Naina's life destined to continue to be a disaster?
The main reason I watched this film is because of Shahrukh Khan - I saw him not long ago in Om Shanti Om and loved his performance. Here, he plays quite a similar role as Aman. He's annoying as hell at first, talking far too much and generally appearing to be a complete know-it-all. He does soften throughout the film, however, especially when his big secret comes out, but generally, he is way over the top and his presence eventually exhausted me. He is funny, and I think he's supposed to be, but at times I just wished he would shut up for five minutes! I think the problem was that this was a real romantic role, the whole film revolves around that, and it was just too slushy for me, especially coupled with his fast talking. I appreciate that it is probably partially because I don't fully understand the culture that the film is portraying, but a love story in any language is just not for me.
Of the two lead men, I preferred Saif Ali Khan, who plays Rohit, although I don't think he has been as well received in other quarters. I thought he was funny without being too over the top, although he plays a character who appears to have two screws loose. In the double acts between Aman and Rohit, and there are a number of them, I thought Rohit came off the winner. I wasn't too sure what to make of Preity Zinta as Naina. She bounced between being completely irritating and silly and overly serious. I suppose she could have easily walked straight out of a Hollywood rom com - it's just that I wasn't really expecting that. She looks great, there's no doubt about that; I'm just not sure that she's all that great an actress. Then again, I'm not convinced that the role gave her much of a chance to do much apart from look cute.
Bollywood films are known for their music and dance routines, and this film is no different. They were worked into the film very well though - one took place in a disco and another in a dance class - although there was still the odd routine that involved dancing in the streets for no good reason other than Aman had fallen in love with Naina. This was partially to the tune of Pretty Woman, although with some (presumably) Hindi music worked in too. I know many people avoid Bollywood films because of the singing and dancing, but I really enjoy it - it's always so daft, but bright and fun to watch, and sometimes there isn't enough of that in film. One reason I like Asian film is that it is so colourful, and colour hits you from the moment this film begins, for all that it is set in New York. Bright splashes of red, blue, purple, yellow, green are there at every point of the story and it is gorgeous to watch.
My main issue with the film is that it is just too darn romantic. Had I realised earlier on that it was going to be pure romance, I would probably have avoided it - it just isn't my thing, especially when it is this sloppy. And it really is sloppy - think Pretty Woman times about ten. The comic turns, particularly between Rohit and Aman, do help to break up the slushy bits enough to make it entertaining, but generally, it is three hours of an intense love story. It was way too sugary for me to watch all in one go - it took three sessions to finish it in the end. Once upon a time, I was a believer in love at first sight, but I'm way too cynical for that now. However, I appreciate that many people will be more than happy to have such an epic love story played out in front of them.
One advantage of the story is the many threads that go on apart from the main love triangle. Naina's best friend, Sweetu, has a love affair of her own and is very funny with it. I also loved Rohit's housekeeper, who became convinced that Rohit and Aman were in love - and with good reason, she kept coming across them in bed! Then there is the Kapur family and all their ins and outs. Lajjo was a nasty old witch, but Jenny was sweet and helped keep the film from falling apart completely. It was also good to see the family come together eventually, despite all their differences. I prefer tragedy to romance any day, so this was a welcome break for me.
The film is in Hindi, apart from a few sentences every now and again in English, so the subtitles are much needed. They weren't a problem to follow, despite Shahrukh Khan's amazingly fast speeches, but I definitely needed to concentrate on them more than I usually do during a subtitled film. For anyone wondering what the film title means, according to Wikipedia, it is literally Tomorrow May Not Be.
The only extras that come with the DVD are the songs - basically clips from the films that show the singing and dancing.
I really wanted to like this film a lot more than I did, but in the end, it was too over-dramatic for me and I found myself cringing more often than I like to. I don't mind people crying, but over and over again is not good - and that was just the men. The fact that the film was so long should have given me plenty of time to get to know and like the characters, but by the end of it, I wasn't all that bothered about what happened to them - although it is very tragic, and lovers of epic romances will love it. However, I am obviously in a minority - nearly 5,000 votes on imdb.com give it 7.7 out of ten at the time of writing. If you like a tragic love story, with a bit of humour thrown in, then give this a try, whether you're new to Bollywood films or not. If love stories aren't your thing, stick to something less tear-ridden. Three stars out of five.
The DVD is available from play.com for £15.99.
Running time: 186 minutes
Summary: Sickly rom com