Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Film: "Kal Ho Na Ho"
They were having an Indian film festival in the Swan Cinema. I made it to all of two films. First up there was Kal Ho Na Ho, an all-singing all-dancing Bollywooder like mama used to make. This one is set in New York, among the Indian immigrant community. The main character is this young woman called Naina - stunningly attractive, for all that she is presented as being a bit frumpy and over serious. The film follows her as she battles with family and romantic problems – will her evil witch of a grandmother ever stop blaming her daughter-in-law (Naina's mother) for Naina's father's suicide, and will said grandmother ever stop persecuting Naina's adopted younger sister? Will the café that Naina's mother runs with her sporty older lady friend be saved from bankruptcy? Will Naina make the right choice between the two men in her life – her fellow MBA student Rohit or swanky newcomer Amaan?
These questions are all answered, albeit after a lot of singing and dancing. Two of the more striking musical numbers are Amaan singing a Bollywood version of 'Pretty Woman' in a New York street (with everyone joining in, natch) or the much later song-and-dance off between Rohit's Gujarati family and the other Punjabi characters. Gujarati v. Punjabi rivalry seems to be a bit of a theme in this film, albeit one that largely went over my head, as I am not really clued in to the stereotypes. Gujaratis seem to be a bit brash, while Punjabis… er… are not so brash?
Do not think, though, that the film being a musical means that it is all light colours and happiness. It does look early on that it is going to be like a Jane Austen adaptation, in that the resolution comes from pairing off the boys and girls in acceptable happy combinations. Sadly, no. A bit of a transition sets in just before the intermission, where the audience receives a shocking revelation about one of the key characters. Thereafter regret and heartbreak become key aspects of the story, and it turns into a bit of a tearjerker, for all that things end well enough for most of the characters. Maybe I am a big softie, but I found the resolution of the Naina family plotline surprisingly affecting.
Anyway, I recommend this film highly. The song and dance routines are amazing, the comedy stuff is actually funny, and the editing and suchlike is very inventive. I keep expecting Bollywood films to be somewhat amateurish, perhaps out of borderline latent racism on my part, but any I have seen have displayed the highest production values. Watching this film makes me wonder why the West stopped making musicals.
An inuit panda production