Saturday, June 18, 2011

NEW: Always Kabhi Kabhi (2011): Are you sure you're 18?

Once again I put all pending reviews on hold! This time for the new release Always Kabhi Kabhi. After a day spent in Little India in Jackson Heights, Queens – which was AWESOME even though I ached but was too chicken to go into the sari shops for bangles and clothing (curse my awkward whiteness!) – I came back and went over to the theater to see AKK. This viewing experience was much more like watching a Bollywood flick in the theater back home (as opposed to my viewing experience at Ready): in a non-Bollywood theater, mostly empty, me the only non-Indian person in attendance.

But anyway, you want to know about the film.

Synopsis: Tariq (Satyajeet Dubey), Sameer (Ali Fazal), Nandini (Zoa Morani) and Aishwarya (Giselli Monteiro) are four students going through their senior (12th standard?) year at St. Mark’s High School, struggling with life, love and friendship all along the way. Tariq’s a nerd pressured by his parents to carry on the family tradition of MIT grads. His best friend is cool-guy Sameer, who always seems to mess something up, especially in the eyes of his overbearing father. Nandini (aka Nandu aka Nandy Bull) is a rebel wild-child with absentee parents. And Aishwarya’s the gorgeous daughter of a former film star mom who pressures her to become a model and actress.

I thought this movie would be a kind of cute young adult high school story and was moderately looking forward to it. Of course I probably would have seen it anyway since it’s under the Red Chilies banner, produced by Gauri Khan.

Sum total, my opinion of the film is this: It has its moments, but mostly I think everybody involved in this film has forgotten what it was like to be 18, which is how old the protagonists are supposed to be. The film wavers between having them act 25 to having them act 13 and doesn’t really land anywhere in between.

As someone who’s really, really not that far from 18 herself, I feel kind of offended at their view of 18-year-olds. I didn’t go to normal high school and I certainly didn’t go to high school in Delhi, but these kids act far, far more like middle school kids in my opinion. Yes, 18-year-olds (actually 20-somethings too) act like they're 10 or maybe even 5 at times, but usually that's in fun times with good friends. Not all the time bratty.

Do these kids look 18?
The only one who really may have hit it square on is utter freshman (first film?! wow!) Zoa Morani, playing a rebellious but inwardly hurt 18-year-old. Her performance and character was the only thing really keeping me tied to the film. She commanded the scenes she was in and demanded to be noticed.

Zoa takes over as, aptly named, Nandy the Bull.
Both the male leads are somewhere in between for me, but on the other end of the spectrum is Giselli Monteiro. Now I know she’s been catching a lot of flak for being a foreigner playing an Indian, and honestly that doesn’t bother me. More power to her, even. And I have to admit, the girl is pretty gorgeous. And I liked her all right in Love Aaj Kal. But here she has NO acting presence AT ALL. She’s awkward and numb and just… there. And for all the fact of her playing a girl who doesn’t WANT to be a model, it might help if, well, she stopped standing or sitting around like a model (and also DRESSING like one; her wardrobe people deserve a thumbs-down too).

The couples in this film are also kind of too-oddly paired and the chemistry doesn’t really go. I wanted to like Ali Fazal after loving his brief bit in 3 Idiots, but I really couldn’t love him all the way. He certainly had me about half of the time but only half. And then to put his character, Sameer into a relationship trying fervently to woo a reluctant Ash… Well, presence-less Giselli ruined that one. You can’t woo someone who’s not really there. And the other couple, Nandy and Tariq, just didn’t make the transition from friends to lovers enough. The beginning of the transition was good, but then they were just all of a sudden together. Didn’t work.

So with all of that happening, many of the scenes just didn’t have chemistry because too much was trying to go on/everything was too forced. The songs were, while awkwardly placed within the film, pockets of fresh air I needed to make it through this film. The few scenes I think that really, really had chemistry were mostly in the songs (some of which had the most ridiculously too-young-for-high-schoolers lyrics) where there was just fun going on. Youth and music mix well together. As do youth and social media, something that was used effectively in some parts and underutilized in others.

Oh, and another thing… The lingo of this film! I don’t know if it’s a cultural difference, but most of the lingo in this film was ridiculous! What 18-year-old is going to use the lingo that’s in the song Antenna?

Oh, but speaking of that song… Be sure to stick around into the end reprisal of Antenna! It features a special appearance from Mr. Red Chilies himself, SRK. :D 

Anyone that knows me at all probably knows that this instantly made the film a few degrees better. What can I say? I love and adore that man for reasons I can’t even begin to fathom. I was honestly disappointed when I read his tweet the other day that said, “Wish the cast and crew of always kabhi kabhi...most love and hope all like the work. Hectic shoot so couldn't be around...sorry guys & girls.” The sneaky little rascal. And I joked to Papaya via text that SRK acts more like an 18-year-old than any of the others, and he's 46! But watching that performance made me SO much more excited for Ra.One. October can’t come fast enough.

Summarily, age-inappropriate Always Kabhi Kabhi is definitely, definitely skippable. If you want some part of the film…Watch the songs. Leave it at that.