The problem with a hit in the capital-intensive movie industry is that it tempts people into believing that they have hit upon definite clues to the success of subsequent products. And so even an intelligent Ramesh Sippy, overwhelmed by the success of his Sholay, makes a Shaan using the very same ingredients --
two happy-go-lucky heroes going after a villain and smashing him to pulp. The situations, the romantic angle (a smooth-talking thief played by Bindiya Goswami replaces the unstoppably loquacious tongawali Hema Malini), and the climax are all predictably repeated. If the villain in Sholay is an outlaw spewing rustic abuse, in Shaan he is a smooth-talking baldie who fiddles around with hi-tech gadgetry.
Karan Johar similarly carries the burden of a huge hit, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, into his second film. And you will find that he's repeating in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham several elements from his debut film: both titles have four words and begin with K, both feature Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol who have the same names of Rahul and Anjali, both share the same music composers ... and you can be sure you will find several other similarities when you see the film. But to be doubly safe, he has roped in other big stars, like Amitabh Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan, and in the music department, brought in two composers in addition to his favourites Jatin Lalit.
So it shouldn't really surprise you if this album looks like "new improved" Kuch Kuch Hota Hai.
At the heart of K3G, as the promos call the film, is a glorification of something that's bandied about as a great Indian virtue, "family values". This often means an unthinking endorsement of everything that sane people find loathsome -- unequal man-woman relationships being just one of them. The title song, released last month as a single and now the opening number on this album, goes thus:
Na juda honge ham
Kabhi khushi kabhi gham
Meri saason mein tu hi samaya
Mera jeevan to hai tera saya
Tera puja karoon mein to har dam
Yeh hai tera karam
Kabhi khushi kabhi gham
Yeh ghar nahin hain mandir hain tera
Is mein sada rahe tera basera
Man is god, and woman must adore and worship him. She is but his shadow. She must place a lamp at his feet day and night. And their home is his temple. Add this sort of religious imagery generously, and the song cynically plays on what the film industry calls "ladies sentiment". In industry jargon, this refers to a sentiment that idolises the man and makes a virtue out of the submissiveness thrust on women. The song is shot on Jaya, who, in a master stroke of casting, is made to sing it to her real life husband Amitabh Bachchan. Interestingly, Karan Johar said at a press conference that Jaya didn't take it kindly when he asked Amitabh to tell her to come for a shoot 15 minutes late. She told him bluntly that she and her husband were separate as professionals, and he had to deal with her directly. This looks like a small matter, but it underlines the fact that the screen roles given to this couple -- I say this on the basis of the promos and the songs -- is a terrible negation of how they, or for that matter, any couple which believes in egalitarian values, relate to each other in real life.
Amitabh Bachchan has over the last year or two recovered his stupendous public sway, thanks to his television job as the host of Kaun Banega Crorepati. The jockey of the quiz jackpot has become a charismatic role model for the middle and upper middle classes. And also take into consideration his past reputation as the biggest and most consistent box office draw in Indian films as the "angry young man".
Ideas like the ones put forth by Karan Johar and Subhash Ghai (in Taal, Anil Kapoor is outraged that someone asks Aishwarya Rai to model for bras, but he feels supremely comfortable and moral about promoting Coca Cola and getting her to dance in skimpy clothes for MTV!) are lapped up by millions of family audiences in India.
These celebrity directors know the power of their cast, and irresponsibly employ such role models to undermine whatever little is happening in the cause of women's emancipation and individual freedom. To glorify the woman as a "shadow" of her husband in a country where millions deny education to girls and marry them off before they can even open their eyes to what lies beyond such "family values" is to somehow remain blind to society-inflicted suffering.
After that stern scolding, let me get down to the music, which unfortunately makes me feel no better. Lata Mangeshkar sings the title song like the several hits she has sung in recent years, notably her number in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. The insipid melody does not challenge her or bring out a single new nuance from her voice.
Bole chudiyan is clearly modelled after Aja soniya from Kuch Kuch Hota Hain. Meant for a family party where everyone dances together, it's again an old melody trying to climb on the hit bandwagon on familiarity value.
You are my Soniya, composed by Sandesh Shandilya, opens interestingly with some good bass and a Hammond organ-style intro, but soon lapses into an overfamiliar Hindi film style that I'm truly fed up of.
And then come two more versions of the title song, one "sad" and the other instrumental.
Side B has five tracks, the same number as Side A, and features yet another version of the title song, sung this time by Sonu Nigam.
Suraj hua madham opens with an exotic Chinese-sounding violin, but the attention-grabbing intro does not lead up to the "mystical" beauty that the film's crew claims for the number.
I heard all the tracks several times, desperate for some small phrase
or interlude that might excite my musical tastebuds, jaded from an
overdose of similar assembly-line tunes on TV and on the FM station that is
all the rage in Bangalore, but it didn't
shava, a tune made by guest composer Aadesh Shrivastava, is a
bhangra-pop number featuring Alka Yagnik, Sunidhi Chauhan, Udit
Narayan, Sudesh Bhonsle and Amitabh Bachchan, besides the composer
himself, and loses its initial promise very soon.
If you live in any of the big cities of India, you run the risk of running into Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham tunes at every departmental store and restaurant and street-corner cassette shop. Such is the brand equity of the people behind this film. But if you care more for music and less for brand names, it's time you ran for cover.
on 5 November 2001
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