There’s no better wind-down after sitting in the library for three hours than to be initiated into the world of Bollywood in the Junior Common Room for another three hours – and a half. It was Diwali, and samosas and onion bhajis were provided.
KKKG is what fans call Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. The English title is ‘Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sadness’, and it was also everything in between. My encounters with Bollywood had so far been limited to Hindi TV ads and dramas watched while on holiday in Tibet, but they were enough to give me an idea of what to expect: a movie marathon with family and relationship issues, stunning costumes, all-out theatricality, palatial settings, mass-choreographed dances, catchy musical numbers, an agglomeration of major movie genres all rolled into one, and – of course – the classic happy ending. Every Hong Konger has watched a Korean drama at some point in their life, so I know something about melodrama. Now I have witnessed melodrama on a higher level.
The film had one of the longest opening credits I’ve ever seen – to someone who’s seen Monty Python’s Holy Grail that’s saying a lot – with just a splash of tinted colour for each ‘photographic’ sequence. Getting to grips with the characters, who at first looked so similar to each other, and the time jumps, was difficult at first. But we had a lot of time to figure it out! In the guesses of my friend Lucie and I, one character went from being ‘daughter’ to ‘second wife’ to ‘potential daughter-in-law’. We got there in the end, and as we became more familiar with the characters it soon became comedically predictable. We two were the only ones who did not take a nap in the middle of the film. When the pace of the film slowed and it seemed that the film was about to end, the words “intermission” flew up on the screen. And I reached over for my fifth samosa of the evening.
How to describe my reaction to the film? In the words of a Classicist, whoever came up with the film was like Homer on steroids. Key lines are repeated several times each, so I could ‘grab a coke’ and still make it in time to catch an important plot development. They really worked that pathetic fallacy with the character whom I privately dubbed “the Christopher Lee of India”, and they managed to match the colour of what the characters wear to their surroundings, so it’s like one never-ending photo-shoot. I expected it to be like a musical, but a part of it is more like a music video. And the second half was a sort of cinematic travel guide.
Do watch the film! It has the ‘King of Bollywood’ in it, and a very beautiful actress, who manages to stay that way despite some bizarre decisions in the costume department. As of that screening my new favourite word is soniya (‘beloved’ or ‘gorgeous’) from the song ‘You Are My Soniya’.