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 cafĂ© 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.

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An inuit panda production

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