Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Curious Case of the 350 Russian Views

One wouldn't be rebuked for wondering whether or not this blog is still running. It has, after all, been more than six (!) months since the last post. Needless to say, time in my head seems to go much slower than in real (and cyber) life. I was convinced that it was just a few weeks ago that I last wrote.

My atrocious timekeeping aside, the first thing I did was to diligently check my stats to see if anyone was still reading the blog despite my neglect, and convinced that I would see no more than a whopping 0. What I saw, however, truly shocked me.

Raj Kapoor in his 'lal topi russi' in the song
 Mera Joota Hai Japani from Shri 420 (1955)
Not only do the stats say that people are still finding and regularly reading the blog everyday (shocking enough), but there were a dizzying 350 views--yes 350!--on 28 April, and that too, mainly by people in Russia.

Now, I am aware of the long fascination with Bollywood in Russia, primarily due to Raj Kapoor's showmanship and charismatic penchant for braving hard times in his films (while donning his 'laal topi russi', of course) but I am truly confused as to why the sudden surge of views in Russia on 28 April.

The referring link is to a dead URL of some sort of poll. If anyone has any idea of what may have been going on, please let me know.

In the meantime, do svidniya to all and spasibba!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Moonstruck: Bollywood's Gaga Over Karva Chauth

The moon, a sieve, some sindoor, and a husband (or someone close enough). Everyone's gaga over Karva Chauth, Bollywood style.

Aishwarya Rai anticipating Karva 
Chauth, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
The depiction of numerous Karva Chauth scenes in Hindi movies since the mid-1990s has popularised the festival to such an extent that, according to local reports, it's being observed in parts of India which didn't have a history of practicing the tradition. Once mainly common in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and much of the Hindi-speaking belt, its spread is being felt in places like Maharashtra, West Bengal, and even the south, promising something for everyone including the cynics (for the latter to ponder: it's now a Hallmark holiday in India known as Husband's Day--I am not kidding I bought a card as evidence).

So, how have Bollywood movies transformed Karva Chauth? (A word of warning to feminists to stop holding their breaths. They do not question traditional assumptions of patriarchy and marriage--but then did you really expect them to?)

1. Fasting all day without so much as a sip of water makes one radiant (and so should you) 

A saas-bahu Karva Chauth moment
Hema Malini & Rani Mukherji, Baabul
Perhaps it's the special glow of the moon, or maybe their skin glistens as they break out in a cold sweat having fasted all day. Whatever it is, the women gather up the stamina to doll themselves up and look gorgeous. The guys on the other hand, tend to stagger in for the pooja either in run-of-the-mill white pyjama suits or their work clothes (Yes Boss, for example). They are, after all, bringing home the bread--we shouldn't expect much. Notable rays of Karva Chauth radiance come to mind in the form of the ever-stunning Aishwarya Rai as she recollects her past in the song, Chand Chhupa Badal Mein (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, 1999), and (even I am shocked at myself as I write this) a rare show of non-sluttiness by Shamita Shetty in the song, Agar Tum Mil Jao (Zeher, 2005), as she serenades Emraan Hashmi (eww) on the auspicious day. Hema Malini and Rani Mukherji as the fasting saas-bahu duo in Baabul (2005) looked perfectly decked out having their last meal at 4 am, a time better suited to fuzzy slippers and crumpled robes than solah sringaar.

2. It's the ultimate form of romance especially if it's on the sly (Nothing says, 'I love you', like hypo-glycemic shock.)

The perfect Karva Chauth ruse
Shah Rukh Khan & Kajol
 Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge
As with all else filmi, Bollywood has succeeded in capturing the cotton candy side of what is considered to be one of the most difficult and pious fasts in the Hindu tradition. To be fair, it is what we watch these movies for. Aditya Chopra's modern classic Dilwale Dulhania Le Jaayenge (1995) (DDLJ) is largely credited with propelling Karva Chauth into the modern-day psyche as the ultimate test of romantic love.  It's probably helped by some rather mushy (which I must admit, I love) scenes between Simran (Kajol) and Raj (Shah Rukh Khan), and the annoyingly catchy tune set to the recurring melody of Ghar Aaja Pardesi. Who can forget the scene when Raj likens Simran to the moon by pointing to her reflection in a mirror, or the late-night rooftop rendez-vous when Simran insists that Raj feed her the first bite of food and give her the first sip of water to break her fast, culminating in her fake-out fainting in front of everyone? Reprising the theme eight years later, Ishq Vishk (2003), also built on the starve-for-your-secret-love theme and included a scene with Payal (Amrita Rao) fasting for her best friend-turned beau, Rajiv (Shahid Kapoor), who sneaks into her bedroom so she can perform the pooja.

3. If he really loves you, he'll fast too. (Aww... now the two of you can rest in adjoining cots strung up to a joint glucose drip.)
Stolen Karva Chauth moments
Shah Rukh Khan & Kajol in DDLJ

We have DDLJ to blame for women everywhere feeling crappy if their husbands/significant others don't at least feign to fast with them on Karva Chauth. I found the surprise fast in DDLJ by Raj ending with a secret Karva Chauth meal on the rooftop utterly endearing. It's become so much the politically correct thing to do in Bollywood, that real life superstar husbands, Askhay Kumar and Abhishek Bachchan, claim to be fasting with their wives, Twinkle Khanna and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, respectively, and compel those who cannot to provide a reason why (see Amitabh Bachchan's tweet T-166).

Amitabh Bachchan & Hema Malini
in a happier Karva ChauthBaghban
The reciprocal fasting in Baghban (2003) between a senior (yet very unoriginally named) couple, Raj and Pooja Malhotra (played by Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini), on the other hand, made me nauseous. But then again, there was many a nauseating moment in this film. For one, it is unbelievable that even in the modern age, Raj Malhotra's daughter-in-law (or her servants) who is also fasting, would not have arranged to have any cooked meals made for the evening. Equally unbelievable is that his son, daughter-in-law, and grandson would have left him alone at home with no food (knowing that he fasts) while they chow down at some restaurant after the pooja. And of course, the ultimate level of disbelief came when the only thing the two perfectly healthy and active seniors could do was cry into the phone and sing pathetic songs rather than arrange to have met on what was made out to be the most important day in their lives.

4. If you're not married, fast for the guy you want. If you don't get him, treat it as a dry run for the guy you end up with.

Aishwarya Rai & Abhishek Bachchan's
first Karva Chauth
Dhaai Akshar Prem Ke
Even though keeping the Karva Chauth fast if you are unmarried is a strict no-no and wouldn't be condoned in most families, romance prevails. The most common justification for showing unmarried couples or hopeful singletons keeping the fast is that by doing so, you will get the guy... forever. Notable fasting singletons include Kareena Kapoor for Hrithik Roshan in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001), ironically, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan's first Karva Chauth for Abhishek Bachchan in Dhaai Akshar Prem Ke (2002), and of course, Kajol for Shah Rukh Khan in DDLJ.

The not-so-happy Karva Chauth
 Ajay Devgun & Aishwarya Rai
Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam
Of course, where the unmarried Karva Chauth wish is proved wrong, like in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, we can take solace in the fact that the leading lady already had practice pre-empting any embarrassing fainting spells in front of the in-laws... though a smile would not go amiss.

5. There's only one way to celebrate Karva Chauth... the Punjabi way... oh, and there will be dance!

The homogenised depiction of what were and, for the most part still are, extremely varied regional and community-based Karva Chauth practices all go one way (much like everything else in Bollywood). The practices of sargi (a special set of offerings for the bahu by her mother-in-law) which was popularised in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, looking at the moon through a sieve and then capturing your husband's image in it, and the passing of the pooja thali around a circle in a group of women are largely all Punjabi customs.

A family Karva Chauth
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham
There is nothing wrong with this but some variety (especially, when the lead characters are not Punjabi, as was the Gujarati Nandini in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam) would quell some of that KC déjà vu. Mostly though, rather than succumbing to dizzying headaches, our main characters rejoice in fast-paced twirls and group dances à la Bole Chudiyaan in K3G and Mera Mahi in Dhaai Akshar Prem Ke.

Happiness isn't happiness without a healthy dose of love and starvation.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Love and Arranged Marriage: back off Hollywood, Bollywood does it better

Toh Baat Pakki? Damn straight... Because I Said So!

Who said marrying off your youngest daughter to the first eligible suitor was just a Bollywood hobby restricted to strict (for some reason always Punjabi) fathers and helpless (often ill/widowed) mothers?

The other day, on a night I really should have bothered to go out, I was flicking channels while home alone and came across, Because I Said So (2007), a movie of the out-on-DVD-in-two-weeks variety starring Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore, and no one else I care to remember.

Now, normally the thought of spending 90+ minutes watching Diane Keaton don the same white palazzo pants suit she has over the last 30 years (seeing her in a dress in The Godfather seriously destablised my chakras) would have been enough to keep right on flicking, but the plot line seemed much too retro-Bollywood to pass up.

Moore, Graham, Keaton, Parabon
Because I Said So (2007)
Unbeknownst to her youngest daughter, Milly (Moore), Daphne Wilder (Keaton) takes out a personals ad to find her a husband. She finds not one, but two potentials. Yes, you heard right--old school, arranged marriage tactics.

We aren't entirely sure what compelled Daphne to do so other than her own assessment that Milly was on the path to spinsterhood because of her current lack of boyfriend, and that, in a nation where 50% of marriages end in divorce, her own failed marriage somehow left Milly deeply emotionally scarred (she overlooks the fact that her two older daughters seemed to have come out OK, and yes, miraculously were able to get married).

Milly displays no obvious or subtle personality disorders. Being in her 20s she is certainly not over the hill, is generally cheerful, and the sole neuroses she seems to have to deal with on a regular basis come from the general direction of her mother. I leave you to fill in the blanks but a few misunderstandings, an ick-worthy scene between mother and three daughters trading orgasm experiences, and a wedding later, the movie ends.

Needless to say, I was unimpressed. Not only did I have to sit through the white palazzo pants suit, a movie about arranged marriages without mehendi songs, red saris, embroidered lehengas, and an evil (or nice) saas just didn't cut it.

But before I could write to the Barjatyas and demand an updated Rajshri version, I got my hands on Toh Baat Pakki!

Tabu and Yuvika Chaudhry
Toh Baat Pakki! (2010)
The Bollywood remake is built around the same plot with the exception that Rajeshwari Saxena (Tabu), a happily married yet somewhat dominating woman, is a small-town middle-class housewife from Palanpur trying to find a suitable husband for her younger sister, Nisha (Yuvika Chaudhry).

As far as knock-offs go, it fares much better than the original. It's a simple, feel good comedy. The dialogue is refreshing, not least because the characters actually bother to speak Hindi (been a long time since I heard it in a Bollywood film) and the costumes are a treat for the eyes (they actually wear Indian clothes). Best of all, there are no cringeworthy orgasm scenes. Typical for a Hindi movie, the ending does stretch and some of the situations are taken too far, but all in all, this film reminds us of simpler times with a wedding thrown in. You get your horse, groom, mandap, and bride to boot.

Sorry Hollywood, when it comes to arranged marriages, Bollywood's got you beat.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sirf Tum: No seriously, why the hell you?

Sometimes nostalgia is best left in the past.

Sanjay Kapoor and Priya Gill in Sirf Tum
Having had a rather stressful work week, I longed for simpler days and yearned for a movie I hadn't watched to death but which was, to the best of my recollection, nothing more than cotton candy fluff. As if on cue, a commercial for You've Got Mail aired on TV but since I've seen it so many times I could replace Meg Ryan in the lead, I decided that the Bollywood remake, Sirf Tum, would do.

To be fair, as far as remakes go Sirf Tum, starring Priya Gill and Sanjay Kapoor (and supported by a host of other usual suspects of the time including Johny Lever, Kader Khan, and Mohnish Behl), was fully rewritten and adapted for the Indian screen. The only real similarity is that the two main characters, Aarti (Gill) and Deepak (Kapoor), fall in love without meeting over a series of correspondences by (snail) mail. For the younger readers, yes a large amount of people actually did communicate that way *gasp* even up to the late 1990s--though frankly, I found it hard to believe that Aarti's sister and brother-in-law, with whom she lived, didn't have a residential phone line given their rather large detached home.

All I could really remember about the first time I watched Sirf Tum shortly after it released in 1999, was being struck by how quickly a Bollywood remake of You've Got Mail was executed (remember, satellite TV was new, youtube didn't exist, and entertainment sites on the internet were limited). I recently came across a review on Sulekha that it was in fact, a remake of a Tamil movie, Kaddhal Kottai, by the same director.

But I digress.

Fully blissfully ignorant of the Tamil movie scene, my rose-tinted optimism in fated love got the better of me. The image of Priya Gill singing in a range of coloured chiffon saris amidst the misty fields and hills of Nainital as Sanjay Kapoor penned romantic thoughts stuck, hiding a multitude of sins.

From the beginning of the movie to the penultimate frame, Aarti whines and bemoans her down-trodden luck. Even though she whines throughout the movie about her raging unemployment, she manages to land a teaching job in Singapore with a salary of Rs. 20,000/month (remember it's 1998) but decides she would rather give it up to go back to her slightly abusive jijaji's house (by the way, we're later told that the mean jija bit was just an act since he wouldn't want his wife thinking he was flirting with her sister--some serious family issues there)!

You'd whine too if Richie Rich loved 
you. You know you would.
If having phooti kismat means that your sister and brother-in-law are willing to let you live with them and pay all your bills until you get married or find a job, having an honest and hardworking man fall in love with you without ever meeting, having a friend in Delhi who opens her place up to you any time you need somewhere to crash, and having the richest industrialist in Nainital (Salman Khan) respectfully approach your family to ask for your hand, then phooto some kismat of mine, baby! The only time Aarti manages to crack a smile in the film is in the song sequences, but then I guess those are just figments of our imagination since the majority are dream sequences anyway.

And what can we say of Deepak's character? He sends random acquaintances birthday cards because he doesn't know his own birthday, being an orphan, of course. It seems having a family in Hindi movies is much too cliche. Facing some routine goondagardi issues from the mazdoors' union leader in Cochin, he wimps out on his job even though his boss is fully supportive of his concerns and begs him to stay. Of course, having a boss whose sister, Neha, (Sushmita Sen) owns a large company in Delhi is handy.

When Neha's unrequited love causes too much stress for him because he would rather be with a faceless woman rather than someone bearing an unusual resemblance to Miss Universe, Deepak quits his job and resorts to driving an auto riksha, despite having decent qualifications and experience and contacts from one of the largest companies in Delhi and Cochin. Oh... and rather than bunking with his reasonably well-off bachelor friend (Mohnish Behl) until he finds a job, Deepak would much prefer living in a one-room kholi with fellow rikshawaala Pritam (Jackie Shroff). Street smarts, I guess, are not Deepak's forte.

But I morphed into a sati savitri 
and I still can't get the guy.
These character issues aside, what really perplexed me was why Deepak and Aarti would actually want to be with one another once the mystery lovers are revealed. Unbeknownst to her, Aarti has recurring run-ins with Deepak in Delhi whom she charaterises as a good-for-nothing, woman-hungry lafanga, even though his only crime was to offer her some of his puja flowers at the temple, and bump into her quite mistakenly on the crowded platform stairs at one of Delhi's teeming train stations. She makes no qualms about her disdain towards him in every meeting and is repeatedly rude throughout the film.

Whine girl, whine!!!
I mean, really, if I were Deepak I'd go running cap in hand to the ever doting (and conveniently, rich and beautiful) Neha. As for Aarti, she should have been grateful anyone would want to put up with her incessant whining, grab Salman Khan's with both hands, and run back to the hills of Nainital. Readers of my blog will know that in normal circumstances I would not suggest for anyone to run off with Salman Khan, but desperate times...

The only character you have any real sympathy for is Neha (Sushmita Sen). In a poignant scene, this otherwise independent woman confides in Deepak explaining that she leads a rather lonely life having lost the majority of her siblings (save her brother in Cochin) to a plane accident (yes, you can roll your eyes at this but the emotion is poignant nonetheless). Not only has she lost her family, she can't even seem to get the not-so-dashing, not-so-swift guy. My heart bled for her.

The saving graces are few but topping my list of eternal gratitude was that Kader Khan's and Johny Lever's 'comic relief' could be fast forwarded without missing any of the 'plot' development.

Surprisingly, the film did provide a number of life lessons:
  1. If you whine and wear simple chiffon saris, you get the guy. But the key is to whine. Neha tried the simple sari look in the second half of the film but failed miserably because of a distinct lack of whining.
  2. If you're a gal and you've got the looks of a Miss Universe and the money of a Donald Trump, you're resigned to a loveless, friendless life with, to quote Neha, 'only yourself to talk to in the mirror'.
  3. If you're a guy with what we're supposed to think are dashing good looks (you know what I think of Salman Khan) and the money of a Donald Trump, you're resigned to a loveless life of playing golf.
  4. Even though you know you aren't going to get the guy, you have to trade your designer dresses for simple khadi silk saris on the off chance that he might come bursting into your office one day.
  5. If you're Jackie Shroff and have to play second-fiddle to Sanjay Kapoor in a film, it's time to through your hands up in the air and ask what went wrong.
My alternative ending would see the perfectly matched Sushmita Sen and Salman Khan characters hook up, diss out the wimpy, whiny losers they were pining for, and frolic in Switzerland while throwing stacks of money up in the air.

On a happy note, Sushmita's Dilbar Dilbar number is still catchy. Watch it by clicking on the link.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Dead Again/Born Again: Reincarnation Bollywood Style

Deepika Padukone & Shah Rukh Khan
 in Om Shanti Om
Image: Eros International
Abandoned ruin, palace, Rajasthani desert, or some such combo? Blurry visions, inexplicable dreams, and blackouts? Recurring melody? Forbidden love? Check, check, check, and check.

You must be in for three hours of déjà vu Bollywood style, otherwise known as the quintessential reincarnation story.

Even though seasoned Bollywood watchers can spot the signs well before one of the leads first blacks out to an annoyingly catchy recurring melody from their past, we can't seem to pull ourselves away from the screen until the two lost lovers find their way to each other again. I mean, they travelled through time, fought with destiny, and by some freak genetic mutation managed to look exactly the same just to be together, the least we can do is watch as they vanquish the villains (sometimes thakurs, often long-haired and/or moustachioed) that separated them in the first place and sob while they reunite for generations to come.

Karzzz (2008) A Reincarnation of Karz (1980)
Image: Bollywood Hungama
Tongue-in-cheek aside, the caricatured nature of this genre became more prevalent in its modern-day remakes like Karz (and yes, Karzzz, sigh), thought to be inspired by The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, itself thought to be inspired by Madhumati (the tangled webs we weave), Prem (Tabu-Sanjay Kapoor), Hamesha (Kajol-Saif Ali Khan), Ab Ke Baras (Amrita Rao-Arya Babbar), and the blockbuster Om Shanti Om to name a few (there was also a low-budget film with now-TV host Pallavi Joshi called Mangni if you can remember it!). The original precursors to these spoof-like films toyed with the psychologically thrilling aspects of the stories and had some genuine mystery and intrigue.

Madhubala as the hauntress in Mahal
The 1949 Mahal, directed by Kamal Amrohi and starring Ashok Kumar and an esoteric Madhubala is credited as being one of the first films to deal with the subject. The film is best remembered for its haunting music ('Aayega Aane Wala') and moments of genuine psychological wrestling and angst for Kumar as the protagonist. Similarly, a decade later, Bimal Roy's Madhumati (1958), who incidentally edited Mahal, was an instant cinematic success. It not only captialised on the famous Dilip Kumar-Vyjayanthimala chemistry but had the audience guessing until the end with some plot devices which may seem cliched now but were novel for the time. In fact, Om Shanti Om's similarities to Madhumati were so clear that Roy's daughter was reportedly suing the producers, Red Chillies Entertainment (headed by Shah Rukh Khan and his wife, Gauri Khan), for infringement of intellectual copyright and plagiarism.

Over the years, some directors altered the tried and trusted formula with varying degrees of success. The Rishi Kapoor-Sridevi starrer, Nagina, relied on the audience not only believing in reincarnation but also in the ability of female cobras to morph into humans at will, avenge their mate's death, and recognise their souls in human form. Seriously. I don't have that good an imagination to make that up. Oh, and in case you were wondering and slept through the mid-1980s, yes it was a hit and there is, brace yourselves, a sequel (Nigahen).

When all is said and done, if you feel you need to justify the three hours as more than just brainless fun, you can cock up some story about better understanding the depiction of the teachings of Hinduism or Buddhism through popular culture or the social psyche of a people's attitudes to death, life, and human existence.

Frankly, I just watch them for the marked costume changes between the two lives and call it a day.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Turko-Baba a la Bollywood Baba

The other day, while taking a public transit bus on holiday in Istanbul, my light snooze was interrupted by the blaring of the catchy 'We Twist' from Love Aaj Kal on the local radio station.

Deepika Padukone and Saif Ali Khan
Suddenly, the sapera leitmotif throughout the remixed version of the song I rather like, took on a new flavour and a stereotypical image of harem concubines serenading a sultan in the inner quarters of a palace jumped to mind. And, just as another foot tapping oddly Arab-sounding chord of the chorus played on, it all seemed to fit maybe better in Istanbul than in Indore.

It got me thinking.

While we shouldn't be surprised that all things 'Bollywood' are crossing more oceans and countries than before, it seems that young new directors are wise to markets beyond the usual suspects (e.g. NRI communities in places like Canada, the US, and the UK). In fact, given the growing disillusionment with standard Bollywood fare in much of India and among the usual suspects, these newer markets might be the only way forward to keep the magic of Bollywood alive.

Anyway, have a listen and tell me which market you think they're targeting, Istanbul or Indore?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna: 'Good-bye' didn't come soon enough

*Cautionary note: This was the film that put me over the edge and prompted me to stop blogging about Hindi films for so long. A previously unpublished post from 2006, read it with 'retrospect' in mind.*

Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta,
Abhishek Bachchan, Rani Mukherji
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (2006)
That Karan Johar gives his audience little credit comes shining through in this nearly 4-hour celluloid magnum disappointus.

Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (dubbed KANK by filmi acronym enthusiasts), does nothing but confirm suspicions that Johar fancies himself a Robert Altman but blatanlty lacks the talent or originality of the senior director.
Relying heavily on his almost incestuous connections with Bollywood luvvies, Johar unsurprisingly reeled in an all-star cast with Shah Rukh Khan, Rani Mukherji, Abhishek Bahchan, and Preity Zinta as the leads, and Amitabh Bachchan, Kirron (that's how she's spelling it these days) Kher, and Arjun Rampal as the supporting cast. Resorting to cliched 'spot the star' cheap thrills, Kajol and John Abraham make brief appearances in two all-thumpy no funky songs.

The story centres around the tumultuous relationships of two not-so-happily married couples, Dev Saran (Khan) and his wife Rhea (note the Americanised spelling here) (Zinta), and Rishi (Bachchan Jr.) and Maya Talwar (Mukherji). To make a much-in-need-of-editing film short, all four characters have certain issues that they can not solve within their respective marriages, leading Dev and Maya to seek solace and comfort in each other.

Seems like an opportunity to delve into the darker side of cotton candy romance, doesn't it? Well it is. Sadly, this movie does not deliver on Johar's loudly asserted promise.

Despite the inordinately long time the film has to let the audience engage with the characters, they appear as little more than cardboard cut-outs throughout.

Dev, a disgruntled former soccer star, remains disgruntled, humourless, and unneccessarily mean to his son Arjun; no real explanation is gleaned as to why Maya constantly feels inaduequate despite her husband's overt attempts at love; Rhea's gung-ho 'all work no play' attitude is taken to extremes presenting her as a one-dimensional working mother; and Rishi who is presented as 'child-like' throughout, really does nothing of the sort.
The most unique and believable relationship in the film is the sweet and spunky friendship that develops between Dev's mother, Kamaljit (Kher), and Rishi's father, Sam/Samarjit (Bachchan Sr.). Sadly, the film's treatment of this and the other relationships is as superficial as the glitz in every reel.

The shortcomings are not because the script, largely written by Johar, relies on subtlety--in fact, at times it is so cumbersome that the audience wishes for the opportunity to read between the lines. The script simply does not build on what could have otherwise been a rather meaningful film.

Instead, Johar indiscriminately relies on cliches from his own and mentors Yash and Aditya Chopra's previous celluloid melodramas to weave thin attempts at humour and depth. KANK resembles, in no small measure, a not-so-cheap knock-off of
Silsila with a sleeker look. Slight changes to the central plot and the now requisite shift of scene from Bombay to New York common to every second film these days is all the credit Johar can take.

In fact, since Johar so vehemently tried to ward off accusations of what can only be labelled intellectual/artistic property theft, one wonders why two classic scenes from Silsila were left blatantly unedited from the final cut.

I refer to: (1) the hospital scene in Silsila when Rekha presents Ambitabh Bachchan with a bouquet of red roses: 'Khamosh ho ke bhi phool apne rang or khushboo se bahut kuch keh jaate hain' and (2) watching his wife Rekha dance with Bachchan, Sanjay Kumar says to Jaya Bachchan: 'Aise lagta hai ki angrezon ne dancing ka doosre lagon ki biwiyon ke saath naachne ka achchha bahana hai.'

Both scenes are almost identical in KANK, with Abhishek Bahcchan echoing daddy's words 25 years later in response to a red rose he mistakenly assumes Rani Mukherji brought home for him, and Shah Rukh Khan aping Kumar's words but substituting 'dancing' for parties while Bachchan Jr. obliges Preity Zinta in a PR-do.