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Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham - Movie Review

Published: November 18, 2009


Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (2001)

Starring Amitabh Bachchan, Jaya Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Hrithik Roshan, Kareena Kapoor

The title, which means “Sometimes Laughter, Sometimes Tears,” pretty much sums up Hindi cinema, and the film is inclusive in another way: it embraces the transition in style and content that was well underway in Bollywood when it was released while remaining rooted in India’s time-honored film conventions and cultural values.

The family unit is held in sacred regard, and the bonds of love between parents and children are often stronger than any other—except when romantic love dares to take precedence, which is what happens to the Raichands, a spectacularly rich family in Delhi. Yash (Amitabh Bachchan) and his wife Nandini (played by Amitabh’s real wife Jaya Bachchan) are the zillionaire parents of Rahul (Shahrukh Khan) and Rohan (played as an adult later in the film by Hrithik Roshan), who was unexpectedly born to them nine years after adopting Rahul. In the beginning, the family is full of worshipful love for each other, exemplified in the first musical number, the title track, in which they pray to the gods and bless one other while singing and dancing goes on around them.

The wealthy are a trademark subject of the director, Karan Johar, and he consciously winks at the audience with the film’s ridiculous display of affluence. The Raichand’s home looks like an Indian palace on the inside and the manor house of an English lord on the outside (even though it’s in India). For transportation, they use their own personal helicopters, which drop them off on the front lawn of the grand estate.

Yash wants Rahul to marry Naina (Rani Mukerji), a family friend, who has all the class and breeding required to fit into the Raichand household. But Rahul loves Anjali (Kajol), his nanny’s niece, a brash and boisterous lower-class girl who runs a sweet shop in the chaotic, colorful Delhi neighborhood of Chandni Chowk. Opposites attract, after all, and when Anjali’s father dies, leaving her and her much younger sister Pooja (played as an adult by Kareena Kapoor) with no one to care for them, Rahul defies his father and marries Anjali. The stern authoritarian patriarch promptly disowns his favorite son for what he considers to be an unforgivable betrayal. Rahul and his new wife and sister-in-law move to London. When Rohan grows up, he sets out to reconcile the two enormous egos that split up his happy family.

The superb melodrama is as thick as honey and as darkly sweet, but the film is a whopping three-and-a-half hours long and the interminable musical numbers (there are 10) may test the endurance of all but die-hard Bollywood fans.

Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham is rated Worth Watching.

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