lunchtime poll #11: KJo's world

Now that I'm no longer buried under a pile of work, it's time to get back to important "Pretty Woman" in Kal Ho Na Ho. Yesterday I was talking with Samrat about its many fascinating and glorious elements. To my eye, that song picturization is a mind-blowing combination that is far, far greater than the sum of its independently fabulous components: neighborhood dance party, cute-eyed children, orange cargo pants, SRK lip-synching to rap about sunshine, and, my favorite, the gospel choir, a feature that has of course since echoed in My Name Is Khan. "Indians love song and dance and religion," Samrat replied. "The gospel choir phenomenon speaks to us on many levels. It DOES NOT, however, speak to us on the batsh*t cuckoo level it speaks to Karan Johar."

I know a good topic of discussion when I hear one, so I ask you, lovely readers, can you think of anything that speaks to the average movie viewer on the same level it speaks to Karan Johar? Hurricane Katrina, soccer, the Brooklyn Bridge, the tears of Shahrukh Khan, the makeover of a tomboy into glamorous Kajol, Scottish ruins, the demographics of New York City and San Francisco, the domestic use of helicopters to run home and see your mommy? None of these things do to, or for, most of us what they do in KJo's world. Add yours in the comments.


Im not a KJo fan, so I cant imagine WHAT people see in his films. I do think however that rain speaks to me the way it does to him. He features it quite a bit in his movies (im specifically thinking of Kajol and SRK at camp in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai), and getting drenched in the rain is so fun i think :) Now whether it speaks to me at the same LEVEl as it does to him, I can hardly beleive.....:D
Sujoy said…
I haven't liked most of K-Jo's work except for Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. K2H2 has a very clever magnetism to the whole plot, which despite of a million plot holes and manipulative storyline, just sucks me in, even today.

But the same formula does not work over and over again. I get it that his stories are all different, but somehow there is that link of - unrealism in them, which just ticks me off. A lot of it is just blown to epic proportions and massive exaggerations - be it scale of sets, or situations. Calls for a post really :P
Thanks for the ignition Beth!
notabilia said…
The Egyptian Pyramids, Burberry scarves.
notabilia said…
The Egyptian Pyramids, Burberry scarves.
bollyviewer said…
There is only one thing about KJo's world that speaks to me on the same level as it does to him - I want to be away from his world just as badly as he wants to be in it!
Banno said…
When I first saw 'Kuchch Kuchch Hota Hai' I was appalled. But it helped me on a very personal level to relate something difficult to my then 5 year old daughter, who loved the film. Since then, I have watched the film several times, and yes, got sucked in. Each time, I see a KJo film, I go through the same motions, an initial WTF, and then, watching it again and again. It is full-blown masala, I think, and I'm getting to be, well, not exactly, a KJo fan, but at least, conceding that he's doing something right. :)
Anarchivist said…
It is almost too embarrassing to admit, but I had a fleeting moment where real life caused me to flashback to KJo's world ... On the Amtrak this fall, heading south, I noticed a young Muslim guy wearing a prayer hat, reading a book in Arabic. It was getting to be late afternoon, and I thought, hey, he's going to have prayers to do before long. And I totally flashed back to the Greyhound bus scenes in MNIK! Yarg! But although I assume he prayed, the guy on the train drew no attention to himself, and there was no need to defend him with any impassioned, teary-eyed speech about the brotherhood of humanity -- thankfully removing me from the mental KJo Land and back to normalcy.
Mette said…
KJo is KJo and we need to accept that.
I like his films, without being able to tell, why.

K3G was my first Indian film ever, that might be one of the reasons, or maybe it really is because of Shahrukh. I know, I'm very mainstream concerning this topic, but I don't know... I just like KJo and Shahrukh. Anything wrong with that (if you also like very different films and actors)?
Kishore said…
I liked Kuch Kuch Hota Hai when I saw it first (I was in my teens then). Looking back now, I feel embarrassed even to recollect that. Now, after 13 years, I hate every thing about KJo. If I were to choose between watching 10 minutes of K3G and watching Ramgopal Verma ki AAG 10 times, I would prefer the latter :-)
So far your answers demonstrate so well what I've been thinking. It is not that KJo picks or emphasizes things I don't understand or don't respond to - it's that he inflates, overblows, and/or over-dramatizes them. For me, it's all about level (and not about loving your parents - sorry K).

Shweta - Heehee! I love that rain scene in KKHH, I must admit.

Sujoy - I'm with you! I cannot defend the film at all but I really do like it. "Exaggeration" really is his modus operandi, isn't it? DO A POST! :)

notabilita - Oooh the pyramids! Though as my song collection might suggest, he's not entirely alone on that one :) And why do I not remember Burberry in his films?

bollyviewer - HAHAHAHAHA! RUUUUN!

Banno - It's so curious. I often do not agree with his choices but it's hard to deny their power. Though somebody slap me if I ever get tempted to watch K3G again. Blechchchchchcch.

Anarchavist - I would have thought of that too! No shame! :) Though really, if it HAD gotten to that level, maybe you would have gotten a magical glorious "song on a train, uniting disparate strangers!" moment :)

Lime(tte) - I don't think there's anyone here who does not accept that KJo is KJo. What we don't have to accept is his attempts to emotionally manipulate us :) There's nothing wrong with you liking them, and there's nothing wrong with other people not liking them AS LONG AS we are all willing to think about our opinions. (Other people may disagree with me on that last caveat, but it's my blog.)

The point of this post was not whether a person likes KJo films but to think about how he treats certain elements, namely, as Sujoy says and I concur, how he exaggerates them for various effects. By no means is KJo the only filmmaker to exaggerate for effects of many kinds, but he is the one I'm thinking about at the moment.

Kishore - Hehee! Now THAT is a strong preference :)
Ellie said…
My favorite thing about KJo is what I think of as "Karan's America." I cannot get enough of what he thinks this country is like-- America definitely says things for him that it has never said to me, and I love it.

Kishore-- I love most of his films but even I would rather watch an RGV film-- even RGV ki Aag-- than K3G one more time.
Ava said…
Curiously, I miss the 'BIG PICTURE' effect that KJo's movies had. His and Aditya Chopra's movies too. That larger than life movie thing that seems to have died out now. The grand sweep of a movie like Hum apke hain kaun and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham that I loved to rile are no longer around... sigh.
Aparna said…
KJo seems to be a fav bashing topic for most people. Sometimes it feels that people are almost embarassed to admit liking any of his films, in the fear of being grouped under 'KJo's fans'.
I am not a fan of KJo, in the sense, I wouldn't want to catch a movie just because KJo made it. However, there are some things that 'speak' to me, sometimes without me realizing it.
1. As Shweta points out - Rain! KKHH's rain seems to be another character altogether. It was present when Kajol realizes that Shahrukh loves Rani, as he leaves her in the field and runs to talk to Rani, and she stands drenched. It comes back to ignite or bring the two close some years later. Rain returns in Kal Ho Na Ho, as the bunch of roses get passed from Saif to Preity to Shahrukh/his grandfather. And then it returns in KANK, when the protagonist give in to their "passion" (through a maze of tears!!).
2. Humor: Undoubtedly, the humor has deteriorated a bit with his movies, but I see flashes of dry humor in everyday scenes, so much so, that though his main aim (I am guessing), has been to tug at heartstrings through emotional scenes, you cannot help chuckling throughout the movie.
3. Flashes of magical moments (which can get lost in the noise if not paid attention to): The scene in KKHH when Kajol and Shahrukh meet again after all those years - the is-that-really-you feeling coupled with both speaking at the same time due to millions of questions wanting to be asked at the same time, and so much more. The pre-marrriage scene in KANK when the movie starts, when Rani is sitting confused, wanting to be sure that she is making the right choice - it could have been a better scene, the extravagance somewhat ruined it, but still, it brings in the suffocating confusion and the magic between the two protagonist (which sadly does NOT re-surface when they actually come together later).
4. Song picturisations and dramatic visuals: Visual interpretation of songs have always made me look up youtube to watch re-runs. They are emotional, artistic, sometimes symbolic, but all in all, makes me wish that the movie had nothing except the songs and I could just watch them to get the story. Cases in point - 'Mitwa' in KANK, 'Tere Naina' in MNIK, 'Kuch toh Hua Hain' in KHNH.
5. Music: Mostly appropriate to the mood and theme, and well selected. Sort of ties in with my previous point. I can maybe hazard to say that when it comes to understanding and selecting music, KJo is comparable to Mahesh Bhatt, Subhash Ghai, Yash Chopra, and Sanjay Leela Bhansali.
6. As someone mentioned before: Big Picture story-telling. It is not always appropriate, and many times it distracts the viewer from a simply told story, but, it still makes a compelling case to watch a movie in the theatre as against a home video. Also, as his movies are enjoyable in parts with breaks, they later make very good television viewing with ad-breaks in between.
7. All points of view: I like it that his movies have no “villains” and he tries to explain all points of view. Now whether he always succeeds or not, is a different discussion.
Aparna said…
All in all, there are a lot of things we can blame KJo for, but sometimes to me, it feels like his sparks of brilliance touches me in spite of most of it getting drowned in extravagant and exaggerated canvas that he uses. To list a few of what does not speak to me:
- Exaggerated emotions : be it patriotism, or parental love, sacrifice
- Over-simplistic representation of India and America without any finer nuances
- Almost always rich protagonists whose life needs love, understanding and a crash course of realism
- Tears: too much on screen, and usually has the effect of NOT touching the viewers
About the comparison between RGV's Aag, or for that matter any of RGV's films except Rangeela, Shiva, Satya and Company (and maybe Sarkar) and KJo's K3G - there is a lot I want to say. But Beth, this is your blog and it would definitely be off the topic, so I will restrain.
Sorry about the l-o-n-g post.:)
Suja said…
The first KJo film I saw was K3G. I saw it with a big group of NRI's in USA - children, adults, grandparents - in someone's home theatre. I HATED it. I was even embarassed at the over-emotionality of some scenes so I switched-off. Instead of watching the film, I started watching the audience. It was fascinating how connected EVERYONE seemed to feel with the film. I was amazed! Out of curiosity, I rewatched the film a couple of years back. I see that I was too harsh that the first time. KJo takes real experiences we have had and spins them out of control in ways that one cant let oneself do - and there, I think, is the fascination. For example, 30 years back I too demanded to & married someone whom my father did not approve of - the drama was no less than that in K3G, truly. And KJo takes some reality, some fantasy and puts it all together in an attractive package - perhaps, that's why he succeeds. Since that bad start with K3G, I have come to appreciate his films because funnily enough, they DO connect at some level. Plus I like looking at beautiful people and beautiful landscapes/sets as much as anyone else.
Sal said…
I think KJo is very skilled at working with emotional textures that audiences respond to, even though his characters have none of the practical day-to-day problems that most of us do. I, too, enjoy that glamorous sweep of his films (even though I detest Louis Vuitton bags and luggage, a favorite motif of luxury in his films (:) I remember watching that scene in K3G ( a film I unabashedly love despite its many faults) and being blown away by the title song in which he cuts from the party to Shahrukh hopping in and out of that helicopter and Jaya waiting. But the sweetest thing about that scene was that like Jaya, my mother too could tell that I was about to arrive without any indication from anyone or anything, even though she was doing the waiting in a cotton saree while cutting vegetables and not draped in Manish Malhotra and dripping with jewels. There's a sense of emotional connect, combined with a sense of fun and a predilection for glamor, that I just can't resist. However, the guy needs a ruthless editor and a really strong writer; he tends to play with problematic material, run with that complex, messy tome for a while, and then give into a simplistic conclusion. I think someone like Habib Faisal, who wrote Do Dooni Chaar and Band Baaja Baaraat, would be a great collaborator, tempering KJo's more overindulgent tendencies with grounded yet sparkling writing.
Jess said…
The only Kjo movie I like is KKHH, because the topic was simple. It was about love and friendship and so it is easy to look past the silly plot twists and enjoy the cheese.
The problem I have is that ever since then Kjo seems to want to make movies about more serious issues, racism, mental illness, adultery etc, but he approaches them with the same cheese and nonsensical plot devices. You can't make a movie about Americans being racist toward muslims after 9/11, and set it in SAN FRANCISCO and have someone yell 'paki' and have me buy what you are selling.
If Kjo wants to take on more serious topics, he himself needs to be more serious about getting his facts right first. Maybe Kjo THINKS the American south looks like a 20s cartoon, but he should have done a few minutes googling before he actually shot it that way.
I would be very happy to never see K3G or MNIK ever again, but I will give the guy props for speaking to a lot of people.
Jess - I've never thought about it that way, but that's a really interesting summary. Where does K3G fall for you? That's the one I hate most (and by miles, too) - I'm not sure what I'd say it's really about (NOT loving your parents, I am pretty convinced :) ) but I wouldn't call it an "issues" story, off the top of my head. Love your summary of what KJo seems to think modern America is like. That film is such a shocking lack of thought and comes off as a hypocritical mess.

And I agree - clearly he is saying things, and saying them in ways, that speak to or at least interest a lot of people! That's one of the reasons I'm so curious about what's going on in his head. :)

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