There’s no better wind-down after sitting in the library for 3 hours than to be initiated into the world of Bollywood in the Junior Common Room for another 3 hours – and a half. It was Diwali, and there were samosas and onion bhajis abundant.
Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham… known to fans as KKKG, the English title is ‘Sometimes Happiness, Sometimes Sadness’, but actually it was also everything in between. I’d been warned beforehand, and had also watched mini-Bollywood films in the form of Hindi TV ads in a teahouse in southern Tibet, so was not completely thrown off guard. For those who have not watched their first Bollywood film, this is 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. Don’t worry – I’ll give no spoilers.
The film had one of the longest opening credits I’ve ever seen – and 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 period, was difficult at first. But not to worry – we had a lot of time to figure it out! One character went from being (the guesses of my friend and I) daughter, to second wife, to potential daughter-in-law. We got there in the end. It soon became funnily predictable, and I mean fun in a good way! My friend and I were the only ones who did not take a nap in the middle of the film. As for predictability, we were all fooled at one point, when at the deceleration of the pace it seemed that the film was about to end, then 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 in 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 in fact a part of it is more like a music video. And the second half was a sort of cinematic travel guide. But do watch the film! – if you have already, what did you think of it? Every Hong Konger has watched a Korean drama at some point in their life, so I know something about melodrama. The typecasting in this Hindi film does provoke a humoured response, but at least this prevents an emotions overload in the audience’s system. Plus, it does have the ‘King of Bollywood’ in it. And a very beautiful actress, who manages to stay that way despite some pretty bizarre decisions in the costume department.
My new favourite word: soniya, ‘beloved’ or ‘gorgeous’. But that might change if I don’t get that song ‘You Are My Soniya’ out of my head soon.