Writer/director Karan Johar has made a career from wholesome dramas where loving relationships are always at the heart of the matter. But instead of the usual happy families, it's warring spouses that take centre stage in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Superstar Shah Rukh Khan and queen bee Rani Mukerji play a couple who embark on an extra-marital affair to remember. As to be expected, there are plenty of tears but sadly few genuine emotions in this melodrama that is taboo by Bollywood standards, but tame by any real measure.
Dev (Khan), an injured soccer star, is married to Rhea (Preity Zinta), a high-flying magazine editor, but is less than thrilled with the state of their marriage. The same goes for Maya (Mukerji), a timid schoolteacher who married PR guru Rishi (Abhishek Bachchan) despite not truly loving him. When the pair meet and exchange stories they soon recognise their true soulmate in one another. However, in the fantasy world of Bollywood, Indian couples may live in downtown New York and have secret rendezvous at Starbucks, but ultimately they are expected to stay in unhappy marriages instead of breaking up or seeking comfort elsewhere.
"MANY TEARS BUT FEW GENUINE EMOTIONS"
And therein lies both the selling point and downfall of Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna. Brave enough to break out of Bollywood stereotypes, but not convincing enough to reflect modern day reality, Johar's script lacks the honesty of films like Silsila and Arth, which examined the subject of love in and outside of marriage, warts and all. In Johar's story things are too glamorous and restrained to get really ugly. And at over three hours long it's left to the lighter comic moments, provided by Amitabh Bachchan as an outrageously flirtatious pensioner, to keep the momentum going.
In Hindi with English subtitles.