Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998)
Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Rani Mukherjee
Director: Karan Johar
Synopsis: Beautifully acted and directed old fashioned romantic saga is the best of Bollywood
The film opens with a funeral pyre, the lead character Rahul (Shahrukh Khan) standing behind with a voice over leading us into the past…his wife Tina (Rani Mukherjee) dying after having given birth to a baby girl. A few moments of happiness are seen and soon, within a flash, she is dead.
Right from the start, one is gripped by this extraordinary film, not only for its almost faultless performances but for the vision of its young director to have put together such an outstanding product with such meticulousness and clarity of thought. We are then thrown forward, 8 years forward to be precise when the little baby girl, Anjali has grown up and looks forward to her birthdays with relish as her mother had left behind for her, 8 letters to be presented on each birthday. Rahul has not married and does not intend to get married..in fact his line to his mother is Hum aik baar jeete hain, ek baar marte hain, Shaadi bhi ek baar hoti aur pyaar bhi ek baar.
Unknown to the viewer at this stage, that line actually means much more about the future than the past. On her 8th birthday, her mother’s letter tells Anjali of what life was like for everyone at college and we zoom back into the past again and this is where we first encounter Anjali (Kajol), a tomboyish girl, constantly bantering with Rahul, both of them being best friends. She dresses in dumpy clothes, is not interested in make up or looking smart and basically hangs out like one of the boys. In this set up arrives Oxford-returned Tina, the principal’s daughter to whom, Rahul takes an immediate shine to. The three become good friends but it soon begins to dawn on Anjali that she is in love with Rahul although Rahul is in love with Tina. Tina suspects that there is feeling between Rahul and Anjali but is fobbed off by everyone saying that they are best friends.
One day, Anjali decides to tell Rahul all when Rahul spills the beans about his love for Tina. Anjali leaves college and we see Tina realizes at the train station that she actually came between Rahul and Anjali. Back to the present, Anjali, the child is given the task of bringing together Rahul and the adult Anjali by her dead mother…except that we have no idea where Anjali is. We soon find out. She has blossomed into a beautiful woman who is about to be engaged to someone else, Aman, played by Salman Khan. Rahul and Anjali meet again, engineered by Rahul’s daughter and it is during this short period of time that Rahul begins to realise what he had with her and what he feels for her.
They rediscover each other, not only as friends but much more. But is it too late? The film has its flaws…the scene where Rahul admits to Anjali for the first time that he loves Tina is forced to such an extent that it almost ruins the flow of the film. Shahrukh hits a false note here.
There are other bits where the film is stretched out too much, some bits which are not too convincing and almost too coincidental and also areas where a greater depth could have been injected. The ending is also sadly hurried. But these are minor distractions from the bigger picture which is simply a great joy. The dialogues and scenes are almost written from the gut.
Who does the film belong to? Well, Shahrukh is almost perfect in his role as Rahul and balances both the archie-ish college kid and later, the widower looking out for his daughter at a even pitch. There are some scenes where one feels he could have been given a more convincing scene but that is not Shahrukh’s fault. It is one of his most accessible and charming performances in recent times.
Kajol is always wonderful and once again, she shines bright and from afar in this film. She brings a diversity and difference to her character and matches Shahrukh step for step. In fact, both of these two make a most volatile and dynamic combination.
However, the true revelation of the film is Rani Mukherjee. From the moment we see her walking with her sexy strut towards the college campus, in a yellow skirt, we know that we are in for a rollercoaster…The reason for this impression was that not much was expected of her and because of that, she takes everyone by surprise and is stunning.
The other surprise is the uncredited special appearance by Salman Khan who enacts his real with his customary gusto…I know that he has evoked a tremendous amount of praise for his performance but I simply cannot take him seriously….certainly in the bits when he tries to be serious. The music grows on you and after a while, you find that you actually like all the songs.
The real star of the film is undoubtedly Karan Johar…he is only 25 or 26 and has written a film straight from the heart, conceptualised it and executed almost perfect film. The parallels with Dilwale Dulhaniya are obvious and given a choice, I would pick this one…at least there are no villains and no fights in this film.