Saturday, August 19, 2006

KANKing on empty

So, let me not repeat what the entire world's already told you. That Karan Johar has deviated from his usual candyfloss style and given us a movie that explores infidelity in marital relationships. That the movie tries dealing with an issue that Johar is inept, at best, to handle with maturity. That the characters are poorly written and one often wonders what the raison d'etre of their anguish is. That Abhishek is the best performer, and Amitabh's silly flirtations don't do him justice.

Phew! So what could one still say about the movie? Lots, as it turns out. Johar should be lauded for breaking tradition and keeping his promise of never again creating maudlin characters upholding "Indian" values. That said, he fails to truly radicalize his script. What is being touted as landmark is only a slight shift in Bollywood mores, in the aftermath of the success of movies like Murder. It's in no way a tectonic shift in how cinema is perceived and influenced by the society at large.

Where KANK is different is in its climax. The separated stay separated. Not just that, the characters seem to have reconciled to their situation and are looking ahead on a life with new directions. Shah Rukh Khan revealed in a television discussion recently that he would have liked the movie to end with a voiceover that would have taken a bit from the "happily-ever-after" aura of the ending. For one, there is no such aura. Johar introduces a pivotal dialogue in which Dev is shown cribbing about Maya's sari in what is a pointer to a return to the mundaneness of relationships in the aftermath of the dramatic meeting. This was reminiscent of the hospital scene in Johar's earlier Kal Ho Na Ho, in which Shah Rukh is shown mocking Saif for assuming he was dead.

Johar's film is a visual reaffirmation of his own doubts about the institution of marriage. He clearly wished to say more, or at least, in a better fashion, but box office success has forced him to sweeten things a bit. What I would have liked to see in KANK is more anguish, shame at taboo desires, conflict and an overall sadness, the absence of which, given his opulent sets and unnecessarily brought in humor, ensures that the movie fails to really connect with the viewer.

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