Unfairly maligned, copmpletely enjoyable film seeks understanding audience: Khushi

I found Khushi for a song at an international grocery store that was selling off its rental collection and bought it because I recognized the actors and could tell, from the pictures on the cover, that it was going to be a silly romantic comedy, which is the kind of movie I tend to re-watch the most often and therefore can justify owning. But if I had read about it first, it's likely I would never have even watched it, because all the reviews I have read are lukewarm at best, mostly just awful. I could understand the negativity if the reviewers had only seen the afore-mentioned blackface song picturization (which I think actually has "Latinoface," for lack of a better term, in it too), but this movie is fluffy and delightful in the ways I look to Bollywood to provide.

There are three elements of this movie I would like to comment on. The first is the main characters, of which there are really only two. Kareena Kapoor plays Khushi, your typical free-spirited and feisty heroine, but with a level of irritatingness I've not seen since Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon. Her introductory song, where she sings about how beautiful and wacky, yet actually quite shy, she is, is jarring and almost queasy, with the camera bouncing up and down as she manically pulls face after face and makes lots of kissy noises. Are those dubbed in after? Can you imagine sitting in a sound booth and making kissy noises in synch with yourself on a screen? What a way to spend an afternoon. "Sorry, Karisma, I'll have to meet you for chai later, I have to dub some kissing noises." Khushi is bright and smart but tends to talk without thinking first (it's okay, girl, I can relate).

Her foil is Karan, played with a combination of swagger and temper with puppy-dog eyes and I'm-actually-a-bit-scared-of-women by Fardeen Khan. Fardeen is cute, there's no denying it, and I think he dances well, although as though he has learned his moves in a step aerobics class. Unlike Kareena, he is not more annoying than his character demands. His action sequences are more believable than others I've seen, but I don't know if that's because of their setting in the movie (doubtful, as they seen chucked in just to give him a chance to fight off baddies) or their choreography or his ability. Anyway, what struck me about this pairing is that they seemed suitably matched in terms of maturity level, both of the characters and of the actors.

Anyone else want to just lump them together and call them Fareena? How about Kardeen?

I must also mention that Amrish Puri puts in a good turn as Khushi's father, who loves his daughter immensely although isn't always in tune with her view of what is best for her, and Kareena does a great job at going toe-to-toe with one of Bollywood's sternest father actors.

The second thing to discuss is the plot. Here we encounter a big potential problem, as I had a really hard time believing that anyone could possibly fall in love with Khushi because she is so grating - argumentative, clueless, and arrogant. We're not talking about the verbal fireworks of Katherine Hepburn, or even the endearing bumbling of Meg Ryan. We're talking just plain annoying. Karan, while not irritating, does not really present us with much to find lovable either. But this being Bollywood, I'll accept what I do not understand and just move on. Plus, Amitabh Bachchan told us in the introductory narrative that it was fated they would fall in love, so that's that. What Amitabh says, goes.

Anyway, the two are drawn together in the name of helping wrangle a romance between their two friends, Vicki and Priya. Karan and Khushi are clearly smitten with each other after several rounds of wacky fights, but they can't say it to each other. They even perform in the college's "cultural event," which is managed by tenth-year senior Johny Lever, who also does Ricky Martin and Asha Bhonsle impressions (Johny Lever in drag - what have we done to deserve this?). One of the biggest compliments I will give this movie is that the college Karan and Khushi attend is a far classier joint than St. Xavier's in KKHH or any other I've seen. Their college dance stage is quite snazzy, with lots of brushed metal and oversize posters of...well, I couldn't quite make that out, I think one was J Lo. None of the kids here feel the need to express their enthusiasm for the performance with hand-painted banners - which, while decidedly more sophisticated, is a real disappointment, because I do loves me some college kids' hand-painted enthusiastic banners at dance occasions.

But then they get in a fight because she accuses him of staring at her waist. Here we have another problematic plot element. I don't want to blame the victim, but if you wear midriff-baring clothing, whether a sari or some skanky western thing, you cannot be too outraged if people look at your midriff. Staring is bad, always, and the male gaze has latent issues of power differential, etc., but you're going to have to get off your righteous indignation horse and put on different clothes. Or stop studying in the wind. They argue, stop talking, go home for the summer, but at the new term put aside their differences to continue to help their friends' romance, and then, well, you know.

The third thing worth noting, I think, is a collection of some of the small details of set, plot, dialogue, etc., now presented in no particular order.
  • The first "college cultural event" is sooooo sponsored by Pepsi that the crowd (or maybe the back-up dancers, it's hard to tell), when seen from above, are in the colors and shape of the Pepsi logo. Fardeen enters this number from a cage, which is kinda cool. And Kareena is often in front of a backdrop that reminds me of very rich Victorian flocked wallpaper, burgundy with dark squiggles and paisleys.
  • Karan drives a completely normal car, a little red hatchback type thing, no doubt also a product placement but still a refreshing change from the luxury cars we usually see in Bollywood.
  • In an attempt to make Khushi jealous, Karan pretends to woo Roma, the college beauty. Roma is a forward young lady, pawing at Karan during their dance rehearsal, moaning out his name, and chasing him all over his apartment. She even bites him at one point. I felt bad for her, because forward girls never fare well in Bollywood. Heaven forbid young women express desire outside of the context of dreaming of marriage. All I can say is, Roma, come on over to the US - I could find you some guys who would respond in kind.
  • After running away from Roma, Karan, panting heavily, picks up his phone. It's Khushi. She hears his heavy breathing, punctuated by Roma's screams as she jumps on top of him on his bed. Khushi assumes the worst, I think fairly enough. Another wacky sex misunderstanding. Not as funny as in Dil Chahta Hai, but I still laughed. That probably implies something less than mature about me. But it does remind us all of a valuable lesson: if you are breathing too heavily to talk properly, for whatever reason, especially if there is another person in the room who has their vocal capabilities and could make further incriminating noises, do not answer the phone/door.
  • What is that plaid wrap thing Fardeen wears in the scene in which he gets drunk in his apartment with his friend from home? It totally works for him.
  • Why do Karan and Khushi have giant posters of themsleves? Were these a souvenir of the first "college cultural event"? If so, where's the Pepsi logo?
  • Always carry stationery with you. You never know when you're going to have to leave a really important letter for someone.
  • While not strictly an important element of the plot, this movie features my first taste of the duplicate plot device. Two of them, in fact. When Fareenas are two of a kind (sorry, Gorilla, had to do it), cowboys, police officers, hippies, and hip-hop dancers are sure to follow. And I would be interested to know whether, even with all the different "characters" in this song, it involves more costume changes than the average song sequence. Something tells me probably not.
  • Khushi's family lives in a house that has a main hall that opens up on to a spectacular waterfall. When I move to Bollywood, this will be my summer house. My winter house, by the way, is Aishwarya's in HDDCS. But my primary residence will be Kausali, with Hrithik and Preity in Koi Mil Gaya (and Akshaye, naturally, who will have moved there too for as-of-yet unspecified reasons). Those little bungalows are too cute, and I've always wanted to live in a colorful small town in a breathtaking natural setting where interesting things happen and there's lots of dancing.
  • I would also like to propose that Fardeen be given a project in which he gets to play Paul McCartney, to whom he bears a striking resemblance (especially in the 1967-8 era of sideburns and fluffy hair, like here). A Bollywood project about the Beatles would be my dream movie (that and the Bollywood verisons of Heathers and Four Weddings and a Funeral), although given their actual ties to India, surely there already is one. Only Aamir could do justice to fiery, passionate, funny John, and SRK could definitely pull off Ringo, what with the nose and the goofiness, and for George...well, I'm not sure about that one, maybe Zayed Khan?

    All in all, very enjoyable and no sillier than most others. Solid performances from the three stars, although I will forever argue with directors that they must do whatever it takes to keep Kareena under control, even if her character is supposed to be egotistical and wound-up. There's annoying, and then there's Kareena when she's going full force. Just rein it in a bit. Her considerable talent shines when she shows restraint.

    Oh, and to close, an exceptionally good piece of dialogue: "If one knew what's on everyone's mind, there wouldn't be any problems at all. We have these problems because we don't know." My thoughts exactly.
  • Comments

    Anonymous said…
    Dude, you watched Khushi? As I have actually commented elsewhere, the first two songs of this movie are awesome. My favorite part of the first song is when all of the villagers put on haystack costumes and bobble back and forth in the rain like Weeble Wobbles. There's this one part where Kareena pokes her head out of her haystack costume and makes a kissy-face (or something, I don't really remember) that I have to rewatch over and over again everytime I see it. Between that and the "It's six a.m. I love you mom! I'll have some cornflakes!" song, there so much to love.
    bollylitsa said…
    Ha ha! I watched Khushi a few days ago and I also liked it very much! Especially the songs. Although I would watch anything that has Kareena in it these days, I'm totally hooked, for the time being at least

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