Friday, December 2, 2011

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham revisited: a Bollywood anniversary

Well, the time around Thanksgiving was not just a holiday for me. It also marked my one-year anniversary with Bollywood. Sometime around Thanksgiving (or a little after) last year, I watched my first Bollywood film, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, with my then-roommate.

I was reluctant to watch it, actually, because of the subtitles. But little did I know what would result! I fell in love with K3G almost immediately (almost meaning after that confusing opening scene that I still don't love) and that was the launching pad to my Bollywood obsession.

Well, on the occasion of my Bollywood anniversary, I wanted to do a list of the 120+ films I've seen in the year since then, but I lost my list somewhere and most of my viewing history was wiped out when I canceled my Netflix account a few months ago. So instead I only get to do the other thing I wanted to: an assessment of how far I've come in that year. Aka watching K3G again and thinking back to the first time I watched it (or even the first three times I watched it within a two-week span because I was introducing it to other people).

I realize now that watching Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham — whose title I couldn't even remember or pronounce — there were so many things I straight-up didn’t understand. Some of them you think I would with my literary background that has a definite lean toward India and colonialism. But, nope, I was clueless.

For one, I didn’t understand the sheer star power in this film. And it’s a lot. From the Bachchans to golden couple SRKajol to youngsters Kareena Kapoor and Hrithik Roshan (WHO WAS SO FREAKING YOUNG AND TWIGGY).

I didn’t understand traditions — the foot-touching thing was SO bizarre to me — or the real significance of tradition in Indian families.

I didn’t understand the cricket. At all. And I didn't realize how much they talk about cricket (actually a lot). Contrast that with now when I'm making class projects on cricket. lol

I understood class conflict — which, I've since learned, is crucial to the melodrama genre everywhere — but not the rest of the reason that the families were so disparate. I also failed to comprehend just how rich the family in K3G is.

I didn’t even understand who the grandmas were. (That may be because the version I watched had sketchy subtitles.)

I so didn’t realize the different religions at work, despite several clues. I also didn’t understand any of the religious traditions that are shown in the film, from the marriage to the singing of hymns and so on.

I didn’t understand all of the (million-and-one) throwbacks to K2H2. (I actually watched Kuch Kuch Hota Hai right after K3G and fell even more in love; K2H2 is still my favorite film).

I liked the music — "You Are My Soniya" was stuck in my head for DAYS — but I didn’t really fully appreciate it. I also loved the dancing and was baffled by the way Hrithik moves (and still am, though you can tell he's matured A LOT in his dance). But if you can believe it… I didn't understand playback singers at all!

I didn't even notice Hrithik Roshan's double thumb even though it's SO obvious!

I didn't realize really how much it shows globalization and Indian characters with Western brand names.

For that matter, I didn't understand why there was so much random English!

I was utterly baffled by the lack of kissing (although Bride and Prejudice had already somewhat clued me into it).

Apart from realizing how much of the film I straight-up didn't understand on the first go, I also noticed that K3G is just about the ultimate epitome of drama in a film. Like it’s so dramatic, it’s like WHOA. Even for Bollywood. Even for KJo. And the only way it could be more lavish is if Sanjay Leela Bhansali decided to chip in with his camera filters and affinity for a theme color (although yes, K3G is subtly themed red).

And in other things, my original take on the film was reconfirmed.

Hrithik's body language still screams "GAY" to me in this movie.

Poo is still the most annoying character to ever walk the face of the planet.

Big B's hair is STILL awful.

I am still utterly charmed by Shahrukh and I STILL have no idea why, even after trying to figure it out for a year.

Yeh Ladka Hai Allah is still one of my favorite song-and-dance sequences ever, and Udit Narayan's voice still makes me think of SRK.

And SRK and Kajol are still my favorite jodi. I really and honestly don't know how anyone can beat them.

Well, it's been a brilliant first year with Bollywood, and I feel like I've learned so much during that time. Here's to many more years! Cheers!


  1. Oh thanks, I enjoyed watching that song again. Perhaps I should include this film in one of my pupils' Bollywood nights. I've shown them recent film which are really good but possibly they don't realise what Bollywood is all about yet.

  2. Well from someones who's seen this movie atleast 10 times, I agree Poo is annoying. And SRK and Kajol rock. Love seeing them together. Though, my favorite scene in the movie is, when SRK finds out Hrithik is his brother and he asks him- "How the heck did you become so thin".

  3. Joss: As KJo says... It's all about loving your parents. ;) I don't know; K3G, like I said, is kind of hard for a beginner to understand. Obviously I was very, very confused.

    Neeraj: Oh, I had completely forgotten that scene. That was soooo funny. I said the same thing the first time I realized that the chunky kid and Hrithik were supposed to be the same person. Haha.