DISCLAIMER: I am a 32-year-old, never-married, WASPy, midwestern American who has only recently begun to learn, in an organized way, anything about India, and a lot of what I have started investigating is because of movies. So I don't really think I'm at all qualified to talk about this film's portrayal/exploration of adultery and marital unhappiness - I have no personal connection to them, but more importantly I have absolutely no informed idea how these issues and their treatment by this movie resonate in India (or Indian-American culture, for that matter) or why. So I'm just not going to talk about that, other than to say that, in general, it is a sad thing to be unhappy and to feel trapped by that unhappiness, and ideally you don't get yourself into such a situation in the first place, but if you find yourself there, it is, in general, a good idea, or at least not a bad one, to try to get yourself out, as long as you take into consideration the other people affected and try to be respectful of them.
HEY, I KNOW THAT GIRL: Totally Basmatic, whom I totally saw running basmatically up and down the stairs of the train station.
QUESTION: Would this movie be getting even half of the attention it's been getting if it had been made by someone else and starred different people? I feel like I was tricked into thinking this movie was - or was supposed to be - important when it struck me as no more - or no less - full of statement or meaning or lessons than any other Bollywood movie picked at random. But now I've seen it, I can say my piece, take place in any further discussions anyone wants to have, and move on.
QUESTION: Has SRK ever played a less empathetic character, even in his villain days? Gad. By the time we see him publicly berating his son on the soccer field, I was ready to slap him myself (and was really pleased when Rhea did so at the end, though I cannot condone violence, etc.) and lost any interest in caring about him. What a colossal ass. I am uncomfortable with the concept of "deserve" when applied to people, but I think in this case I can say that he was getting what he deserved, at least in that he put incivilitiy and pettiness out into the universe and was certainly not getting any sunshine back. I don't think having your career hopes dashed means you get to be such a horrible parent, either. And that stunt he pulled at his mother's dinner was just mean-spirited.
QUESTION: Did anyone else get confused by what Karan Johar was trying to say about working women? Preity's character voiced at least one point I agree with - "no one asks why men are too busy to spend time with their children" - but if there was clear support for either case-by-case basis distribution of parental/household duties or condemnation of women having time-consuming careers, I sure didn't get it. It's always interesting when a writer has an unlikable character represent an intriguing or moving side of an argument (a good example is from Ally McBeal, when icy Nell argues in court that workplace promotions should go to the people who do the work, regardless of why other people hadn't been able to do the work, even if that means women who choose a leave of absence to have children are held back) but I just wasn't sure what KJo was up to here. If anything. He might have just been tryign to raise the question, and that's okay. But I think it's important to note that Rhea was self-centered because she was self-centered, not because she was dedicated to her job ("It's hard to meet me"). Her career aspirations had little to do with her general nature.
PARENTING: I think KJo (sorry, that's really fun to say) might have been trying to say something about parenting, because it keeps coming up, at least in passing, even though the movie didn't spend huge amounts of time looking at parent-child relationships or dynamics. There's a point made that Maya's parents are long dead; Dev's father is gone and he himself is a lousy father most of the time; Rishi's mother is gone and Maya continually tells him he's being childish and needing some kind of mothering (don't know if there was supposed to be a connection there, nor if we're supposed to agree with Maya on that [I didn't see it, actually; I just thought he was emotionally enthusiastic, and I have no problems with that]). And the family background of Rhea, the character whose parenting is most criticized, is never mentioned, making her own parents a cipher and maybe therefore she cannot be expected to know how to be a mother?
EW, EVEN THOUGH I CAN'T QUITE JUSTIFY IT: Ah, Sexy Sam. That one went just a smidge too far. Elder statesman of Hindi film as ridiculous comic relif? Sure. Cf Buny aur Babli. Humor that's magnified because Sam and Rishi are actually father and son? Sure. Letting clunky, lechy comments sail by in comparison to their accompanying giggles by completely wooden or otherwise glaringly untalented non-Indian extras (and I share TB's general dis-ease with white extras)? Sigh. He's the Big B, you gotta set him up to succeed at most any cost, even if it means you deliver some cheap laughs ("cheap is nice," after all). Mega-star in fur handcuffs? Okay, if you must (although I beg you to think about that really hard before you decide that you must, just like having homophobic lines delivered by Satish Shah). However, he got more and more likable as the movie went on, and I genuinely liked Sam's reaction to Maya's affair and his parting words of advice.
IF I HAD TO INVITE ANY OF THESE PEOPLE TO DINNER: I would choose Rishi. I didn't like any of the other people, not even the little boy. Dev and Rhea were both awful, incompatibly so, obviously; I didn't dislike Maya particularly but I couldn't quite warm to her either, because she knew full well she shouldn't marry Rishi but she went ahead and did it anyway, and at some point cowardice about decisions that so involve other people takes on selfish overtones. I think Rishi was the only one who was upset about what happened because he truly cared about the other person - which is maybe supported by his breakdown when Maya confesses and by the gesture he makes to keep her involved in his life years later, which we don't even see the co-parents do, even though they have such a compelling reason to figure out how to co-exist in any way - whereas I think everyone else was just sad that they had failed the institution of marriage (or it had failed them). And much to my surpise, I really did not care at the end whether Maya and Dev got together again or not. Overall, I don't understand why anyone would choose to make a movie with such unempathetic, uncompelling people in it. Message or no, controversial or no, please give me something to hang on to, or else you'll just lose me. I just didn't care most of the time.
A TEENY GEM: The dialogue Rishi has when questioning Maya about her affair and asks her "Did you have fun?" I thought that was a smart bit of writing, as Maya never seemed to have any fun and she certainly seemed far from happy with Dev in that hotel - she barely had any life in that scene at all, I'd have to say - and somewhere in his heart I think Rishi did want Maya to be happy, and if she had been happy with Dev, that would have helped Rishi understand a little bit. Maybe Rishi, son of id-meister Sam, put too much emphasis on fun in this particular situation, but I think that was a fair question, and it also showed his willingness to be vulnerable to the whole weight of her transgression, because if Maya did have fun, he would have had to accept the fact that she was capable of it, just not with him.
OH, FARAH: I think the fantstic Ms. Khan kinda phoned it in here. You get to have SRK do the three-quarter turn arm-fling thing a time or two in any movie, especially a Karan Johar movie, but enough is enough. How 'bout getting him to actually dance, since we all like to see him do that? Even surly Dev could have had a dream sequence in which he was happy enough to strut his stuff. This movie wasted two of Bollywood's most reliable entertainers.
WHY DID ALL OF ABHISHEK'S COSTUMES HAVE CONTRASTING-COLORED COLLARS? Seriously, why? I know the midwest lags behind fashion trends a bit, but what was going on with that? I mean, it didn't detract from his apperance one teeny tiny bit - Akshaye had better look out, AB's hot on his heels - but I just thought I would ask in case someone knew. Also, please go read what Filmiholic had to say about Abhishek in this movie becuase she sums it up perfectly and I formally, publicly second her emotion about his potential greatness, and though I'm not yet well-versed in Amitabh's movies, I think Baby B might soon surpass both his parents. (I know a bunch of people are going to get all upset at me saying that, but please re-read my original disclaimer and remember that I'm getting to know both Bachchan men at the same time and did not grow up under the legend of the senior, the role of violent, funny, and occasionally loving angry young man being filled in my world by Al Pacino - who, by the way, is equally squeamishness-inducing in his performance as an aging lech).
WHAT ELSE I LIKED ABOUT KANK: The songs were better in context than they were when I first heard the soundtrack. The flowers, as first pointed out by Filmiholic (see above). That we're told that when we feel like holding someone's hand, we should do it. That Sam calls Kamaljit "Chandigarh," a joke which I had to phone India to figure out, and now that I know what it means, I find it pretty funny. And I don't remember anything else. It's been 24 hours since I saw the movie and I really don't remember when or why I laughed when I did - except for during "Rock 'n' Roll Soniye," becuase I loves me some Bachchan family dancing in its grinning clunkiness. I also liked that that scene, stated as a 60s theme party, included Marilyn Monroe from 1955's The Seven Year Itch and 40s-looking gangsters in zoot-ish suits and fedoras, but whatever. (But it's okay to be careless with other people's culture, right?)
COMING ATTRACTIONS: We got no trailer for Dhoom 2 or Kabul Express but on the way into the theater we were handed flyers for a surprise showing next week of Lage Raho Munna Bhai! Hurrah! And when I handed my ticket to the young Indian man at the counter, he looked at me and smiled and said, "Are you Beth?" Hee. I love Bollywood.