Directed by Nikhil Advani
Written by Karan Johar
Running Time: 3:03
Shah Rukh Khan
as Aman Mathur
Saif Ali Khan
Posters and Prints for Sale
Kal Ho Naa Ho was easily the best Bollywood film I've ever seen in the theater, and is right up there with the best Bollywood films I've seen period. Extremely funny and well acted, the movie has everything you come to expect from a Bollywood film, with a lot of American influences. Still, with a running time over three hours, it could have been cut down a little to make it a little more palatable.
Naina has a troubled family life. Her father committed suicide, her mother's business is falling apart, her brother has limited use of his legs, and her grandmother hates Naina's adopted sister. On top of that, her grandmother is trying to get Naina married off, even though Naina has no interest in that at all. Her two best friends, Sweetu and Rohit are both slightly crazy and only really interested in the opposite sex. Naina has no love in her heart, because she doesn't see love around her. Enter Aman, who comes to live with his Uncle, a neighbor of Naina. Through his quick wit and charm, he managed to make everyone around him happy. To many, he is like an angel sent down from heaven to look over them. But Aman hides his own secret, one that leads to a strange love triangle with himself, Naina and Rohit, but one that ultimately shows Naina how to love again.
The one thing about Kal Ho Naa Ho (which translated means Tomorrow May Never Come) that stands out immediately is how funny it is. I don't think I've ever laughed so hard at a Bollywood film before. The dialogue, even with subtitles, is extremely clever and witty, which is hard to do when you have to read the words instead of just hear them. And the banter between the characters is quick and sharp, again, impressive considering you're reading everything. The first half of the movie is also very fast-paced, with the editing giving it the feel of an MTV video with quick cuts, different camera angles, and never letting the viewer get too settled in, which in this case is very nice. Most Bollywood films tend to slow down immediately, and you get rather bored after a while. Here, the first hour and a half flew by. What also made it work is that almost the entire film was shot earlier this year in New York, so the more American style fell in with the American setting.
The second half of the film, while still with the quirky visual style, fell back into more typical Bollywood. The twist is revealed, and the love triangle is played out, complete with the ever popular rain scenes (although this time, there was no song-and-dance routine in the rain), and the loud, banging gongs to signify a 'serious' situation. The second half will definitely appeal to the more traditional Bollywood fan, although for my tastes, it did fall off from the first half. What I did like though, was the fact that they still played up a lot more humor than I expected, continuing jokes from the first half, without casting them aside. Right up till the very end the characters were joking around with each other, so even though the movie got very serious and sad, it was still lighthearted enough to make it that much more interesting.
What I didn't like about the story, was how the love triangle played out. It felt kind of weird to me. I don't want to give away the twists, so I can't talk about it too much, but what Naina felt and how Rohit comes to grips with it felt off. And Aman's request of Rohit near the end really felt weird. I kept wondering how Rohit could make that particular promise to Aman. Even though I don't know how I'd react in their situation, the characters seemed to take it all in stride, so it didn't take away too much from the film, but it still left me thinking about it for the last half of the film.
The three main actors, Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Saif Ali Khan were perfect casting choices for their respective roles, even if Shah Rukh is starting to look somewhat old in the face. All three worked exceptionally well with each other and you could understand why they felt what they did towards each other. Shah Rukh, arguably the biggest star working today, always has a commanding screen presence, and his character was unlike any other I've seen him play, in that although he had his trademark crying scenes, most of the time he was a total goofball, which was a lot of fun to see. Preity Zinta, one of the top actresses in Bollywood, has totally come into her own the last couple of years. She looks fantastic and the transformation from angry to happy to sad can be seen within her eyes. She has that girl-next-door quality about her that most Indian actresses don't have, which makes her stand out from the pack. And Saif Ali Khan has both the guy-next-door thing going for him, as well as the stud-next-door factor that makes him so appealing.
The other really good thing about the movie is the music. It's not a Bollywood film without singing and dancing, and this movie does a really good job with the music. There's a Hindi rendition of 'Pretty Woman' that comes early in the film, complete with a block party dance sequence that sets the tone for the rest of the film. There's a track called "Its the Time to Disco" that although slightly cheesy, works well in the film. Both those tracks have a good Indian/American fusion essence that will make it more enticing for casual fans. But for the classic fan, there are still more serious, moving songs that I didn't hate, which is a pretty good sign.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, I would highly recommend seeing Kal Ho Naa Ho if it's playing anywhere near you. It's very funny, has great performances, good music but still has the traditional Bollywood story lines. The running time is a bit long, and I found the first half of the film to be more entertaining than the second half, but in the end, it's definitely worth a watch, even if this would be your first Bollywood film.
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham
Bend it Like Beckham
© 2003 Wolfpack Productions