Last week if someone had told me that I’d be defending a Karan Johar film in public or private, I’d have rotfl’ed. But then, I’ve been proved wrong in the past ;-). So here goes.
I watched KANK on a Sunday afternoon, in a hot, smelly theater in my hometown, paying exactly thirty bucks a seat (that explains my lack of rage, some would say, and I agree wholeheartedly). I went in with zero expectations, or even less, for I have always hated Karan Johar movies, and SRK (and more so SRK in KJ movies!). It started predictably: loud, extravagant, stupid humor here and there, the usual Karan Johar stuff. I had that awful feeling, just fifteen minutes into the movie, that one gets before puking.
Some three and half hour later, I walked out confused. To my utter disbelief, I didn’t hate the movie. I came back to Pune next day and read the Times review of KANK, and was more confused. Then today I started reading reviews on net, and one after another I found reviews that basically trashed the movie on every single count. Karan Johar, the guy from the Yash Chopra pulp making factory, it was obvious, had failed the crowds — both the snobs and the aam junta. Boring, dragging, plastic, flashy … Well that’s how I would typically describe any KJ movie! I started wondering, how come I didn’t hate it too?
May be because I’m an incurable romantic — with those out of fashion, unrealistic beliefs about soul-mates and love? For some reviews seem to thrash KANK about the *unreasonableness* of its two central characters (yes two, the other two are supporting characters — what a waste, I know — especially AB). And yet love/hate was always unreasonable, no?
So sure, KANK could have been a lot better — and here I think I’ve come a long way :p. For I can easily see myself bashing KJ and KANK. It would be easiest thing to do. The man is surely no Govind Nihlani. But then how many people saw Drishti (okay, even that was supposedly a rehash of Scenes from Marriage)? KANK does something which not many commercial Bollywood movies have attempted: paint gray protagonists, make a bold statement (even if using a lot of cinematic footage to then rationalize or dilute it for wider consumption), and do what Silsila couldn’t dare do, understandably due to the prevalent morality
of the era. Yet if anyone could have got away with it, it was Yash Chopra, if only he had tried. The thing is, after flirting with the slippery sand, even he rushed back to safety of the land, with a ridiculous sequence of plane accident and melodrama to re patch what was eminently broken.
KJ, to his credit, using all the standard Bollywood techniques, said out what he wanted to say. I liked that fact alone. May be it was lost in the Karan Johan brand (which for me is no different from the Yash Chopra brand, although the latter has a stellar pulp factory as compared to the former) of movie-making — the absolutely unnecessary humor, the extravaganza of songs and sets and colors. Still, to me, that was something.
Then there were some curious things: like a man telling his daughter-in-law to leave his son, because no one benefits from half-hearted relationships, and in general the older-generation’s calm and resigned acceptance of infidelity… the younger-generation’s angry reactions, and eventual acceptance… A mother-in-law taking sides with her DIL, and asking if she could stay with her. Look at it one way, and it’s unbelievable, unreal and yet fiction should never restrict itself with the believable — and try and stretch the limits of what is possible, what is, even desirable.
In a scene where Maya (Rani) chases Dev (SRK) on a train station and tells him she likes Blue (a tacit declaration of love), the next moment a song (Tumhi Dekho Naa) starts and everything around them is blue. KJ has learned some subtle touches on his way. A subject as inflammable as this has been handled in a strange way to say the least — some of it is surely unpardonable, and some, in a mainstream movie, is quite commendable.
A word about characterization: lot has been said about it being hard to relate to the characters. I found it exactly the opposite. The characters were human, ordinary, making mistakes, trying to fix them, screwing up (literally at times). Yes not all the reasons have been spoon-fed, but then at times even the characters going through marital discord cannot put a finger on the reasons. It’s what you do in that zone that is the point. KJ has his take, and his characters are not without guilt, either. That’s why they’re believable, although some aspects of them might not be.
The performances are a mixed bag. Abhishek has had a cake-walk — his character is marginalized, yet he has made it alive. He’s surely come up a long way. Rani, everyone expects to be good these days, and she hasn’t disappointed either. It’s her silence that speaks more than her words, and in my book, that’s great. Preity is the only weak-link, although it’s unclear why she even took up such a role. SRK, and I can never be objective about the man, has IMO wasted the golden chance — he got probably the most complex character in the film, but did just about an OK job.
Editing — if it was there — was pathetic. If I were the editor I would throw away a lot of attempted humor and some unnecessary twists and turns. I think that one thing could have really got this movie better reviews than it has got. It’s way too long, and predictably loses focus at times (all the time, many would say).
Great film? Surely not. Good film, may be. Bad film, I don’t think so. Decent is what I’ll say. Against my better judgment, I’ll give KJ another chance.