Karan Johar has indicted the treatise of marriage as a committment. What comes through pre-dominantly as the raison d’etre of this enterprise is, to present the notion of ‘holy matrimony’ as a nebulous institution open to a re-definition, where accepted norms have been questioned, vows overlooked, sanctity ignored. All this with a plaintiff ‘cry of the soul’manner of treatment, a refuge in stars gracng the scenes with their glitzy presence and in a sense lending weight to what might have otherwise been a half baked attempt of reviewing an age old institution, which is the foundation of the social fabric of any society.
What strikes you in the first half hour is the forced contiguity of events, knitted together with a purpose and therefore conveniently placed rather than arising organically from the nuances of the story. Shahrukhs first meeting with Rani, on the hilly slopes , in the middle of nowhere, attired in her wedding finery, whilst the ‘barat’ awaits her for the ceremony, is indigestible. Forced and convenient. To top that,their parting is highlighted with the background score of the title track..So the mood is set right away.. Kabhi alvida na kehna, implied for the just discovered soul mate, not the to-be husband, while on the way to ones marriage?? Mocking marriage, and the religiosity of the sentiment behind it was never more aptly depicted.
A relationship gone awry is a tragic circumstance to forebear. However in cinematic language, the events preceding this have to justify the conclusion. I waited patiently to understand, sympathise and relate with protagonists on when where why and how they reach the ‘point of no return’ with their partners,, but that point sadly eluded the entire four hours. Which is one of the major drawbacks of the script. Abhishek, Ranis husband, is a normal, goodlooking, well placed, fun loving, cutely sexual husband, who dotes on even her ‘toes ‘ literally. Just what more was Rani expecting and why?
Alternatively what was it about Sharukhs character that attracted her so? He was portrayed as inordinarily difficult, cynical, brash and ill tempered. Did she nurse a penchant for masochism?
Preity , Shahrukhs wife, is a driven, successful, gorgeous, woman who is striving to don various caps simultaneously of wife, mother, career woman, with no help from a grouchy hubby who for reasons unknown never misses an opportunity to chide her busy-ness or her schedule. So according to Karan, a woman if she happens to have career that has helped find her own place in the sun is a stereotype to be sneered at by hubby. I wonder who is the archetypical component here. The woman, man or the storyteller, who failed to convince on why two people grow apart, when they do. Or why is it so wrong to have a wife who not only contributes significantly to the finacial goals as a couple, and one who would never despite her economic independence. ,cheat on her husband, and expects a well adjusted man at her side? Where is the blasphemy here?
Amitabh Bachchan with his legendary status, image of a doyen,a virtual God for the masses and classes alike, is made to mouth the core dialogue of the film. Let us keep in mind here that Amitabh, when he appears for a public sevice campaign on television for say, polio drive, millions of Indians would give their children the required polio vaccine, as required. Now this icon on his death bed advises his daughter-in-law- who he caught a while before, passionately kissing her lover on the streets of New York( Believe this.. almost all their meetings, clandestine supposedly were out either on the subway or streets) to leave his son since she does not love him and therefore is depriving him and herself of an unknown future entity who will descend from somewhere and poise to be the perfect love of their life.
In other words, he advised’DUMP this marriage” and move on baby. This, after being fully aware that Abhishek was madly in love with Rani! With the present figures of divorces in India having tripled if not more, the last decade, one can expexct the family courts to get real busy .
“Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments.Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds or bends with the remover to remove” ..Shakespeare. As in life, marriage is a battle not a bed of roses. Love has to be accomplished in a marriage,It is not the end but a journey towards that end. If lack of love or the perception of its paucity would be cause enough to dissolve a marriage, no prizes for guessing just how many would still be listed in this institution..unlike Grouch Marx who hates institutions and therefore marriage.
When reasons are flimsy, without gravity then results can be disastrous and often far reaching. Extra marital affairs are a truism today. To equate that with propriety of thought and validate it is what seems debatable. A theme of this kind needed a lot more thought as to the conditions that preceded the events of such a grave nature. If a message of the kind had to be delivered then what should have been the uppermost brief was clarity of milestones in the journey.
One expected a far more mature evaluation of relationships, of dynamics that play a rudimentary role, of ever changing scenario of indian woman vs man, the male psyche vs female psche in the backdrop of an empowered woman and a yet -to-come-to-grips-with-it man, of marriage that ensues when such people get married and the progression of conflict that arises in the arena.
As far as performances go, Shahrukh displayed a maturity expected and long overdue, despite the facial contortions which often distract. Rani Mukherjee delivers..an actress of her calibre, after “Black” must have sleep walked through this role. Preity Zinta looked like a doll, and lived up to the demands of her character. Abhishek has been somebody who I was sure would rule the roost even as far back as Refugee, when he was almost written off. He had the chance to blossom here, and made the most of the opportunity. Amitabh Bachchan was wasted in this role. Clout is more than apparent here when karan could rope in his services,for this cameo, while other talented film makers may not even get an audience with him.
Cinematography was the mainstay. It lent a dimension which was almost like an integral part of the screenplay. Capturing New York which is essentially a ‘vertical’ frame with its high rises and cityscape into a wide lens and cineam scope must have been a difficult feat. Music is hummable and melodious. Editing of great quality. Handling of certain scenes by Karan was excellent. He does specialise in squeezing out every bit of emotion from a scene, leaving you with a lump in your throat whenever he desired to do so. A special mention of the dining room sequence where shahrukh confesses love for rani had a palpable feel, graphed with perfection. It bespoke of a director wisened far beyond his years.
All in all, a must see once..though it leaves you feeling unfulfilled and disappointed.
An Aside: Couple of days ago a husband having an affair which he wanted to legitimise by divorcing his present wife, on the pretext of saving their marriage, took her to see the film. On the way home, he killed her and dumped her on the highway. This was reported in Mumbai Mirror, as she lived to tell her tale.While this incident is in no way meant to reflect the way things will be, yet this film will serve as a foil for those who are on the verge of a divorce or an affair. Films are a medium of change, especially if the stars are of the calibre as in kank.