Movie Review: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

Title:  Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
Director:  Karan Johar
Starring:  Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol, Rani Mukerji

This movie fits into the category of Secret Heresy.  I should not like this movie.  It’s ridiculous, campy (literally and figuratively), and more full of cheeZe than a Velveeta factory…but it’s also strangely addictive and a rather essential film to watch if you’re going to get educated on Hindi films.

In Bollywood watching circles liking Kuch Kuch Hota Hai isn’t really heretical.  It’s pretty well liked over at Bollywhat, and if you’re getting into Hindi films, you will probably encounter plenty of references to this both in discussions and in movies themselves (Kabie Khushie Khabie Gham, by the same director, and also starring Kajol and Shahrukh Khan has plenty of KKHH in-jokes) but when surrounded by non-Bollywood film fans, this probably isn’t the thing you’re going to trot out on movie-night.

Let’s summarize this Cammy-style starting with the first half of the film, most of which is a flashback.  Imagine Bayside High from Saved By the Bell.  Now stick it in India.  And add song and dance numbers (if you’re picturing the infamous “I’m So Excited” episode, know that you’re not alone, but no one here will have a drug problem–this is family style Bollywood–and we’ve expanded our dance troupe way beyond The Max), slap brand name logos on everything that stands still for 5 seconds, include people who cannot dribble a basketball with any level of respectability and stir in liberal use of wind machines.

The second half, hmmmm, imagine a one-kid, highly condensed, musical version of The Parent Trap, mixed with The Sound of Music’s rain-soaked gazebo scene (only better and fulfilling the semi-obligatory wet-sari criteria for most Bollywood films), a kid who sees dead people, the decorations from a church basement kindergarten Sunday School classroom, a smattering of anti-British Indian patriotism, and a last minute wedding-crisis averted scene.  In Hindi.

You want to see it now, don’t you?

The real summary is more like this:  Little Anjali is given a mission from beyond the grave.  Little Anjali’s mother, Tina, knew she was dying right after her daughter was born, and so wrote her one letter for each of her first 8 birthdays.  Little Anjali is chomping at the bit to open the final letter when the movie opens…but this one is different.  Tina tells her daughter the story of how she met Little Anjali’s father, Rahul–and how their meeting ended his relationship with his tomboyish best friend, Anjali (hereinafter known as “Original Anjali”).  Tina knew Rahul and Original Anjali belonged together, and she’s using the only tool at her disposal to rectify the situation she caused:  from beyond the grave she instructs her little girl to play matchmaker.  So, Little Anjali and her Grandma figure out where Original Anjali wound up….they track her to a kids’ summer camp, and wherever Little Anjali disappears off to, her doting Dad must follow, so there, in the middle of singing, dancing kids, Original Anjali–who is no longer a tomboy and now engaged to be married–and Rahul re-unite.  Of course there’s some drama, what with the fiance (who is not a bad guy so it’s not like you’re rooting for his ultimate demise), but it’s classic Bollywood, so you know it all comes out right in the end (but only after multiple song-and-dance numbers and a lot of glycerin tears).

The good:
-It’s fun
-It’s colorful
-It’s got great Bollywood Song and dance numbers (and if the title theme doesn’t get stuck in your head, I kinda hate you)
-The love triangle between Rahul, Tina and Anjali is the first love triangle I’ve ever encountered on film, tv or in a book where I really didn’t hate one of the pairings.  I mean, it’s a given that Rahul and Anjali belong together, but I don’t hate Tina, not even in the flashbacks.  It’s to the point where I literally cannot understand the people who are avowed “Tina Haters.”
-The little boy counting the stars.
-What Anjali sees at the wedding
-You will wind up spotting references in other films

The delightfully bad:
-Re-living Saved by the Bell for the first half of the film.  ZOMG, it’s wrong to miss the early 90s this much….
-The most unrealistic basketball playing ever in the history of ever
-Even MORE unrealistic “playing” of musical instruments (Rani Mukherji and Shahruhk Khan, have you REALLY never watched people play a guitar?!?!?)
-Obligatory random song scene in a painfully European location

The Just Bad:
– The outcome of the second basketball game (so much for sportsmanship and women)
– Miss Burganza and Principal Malhotra (WTF was all that??)
– Every time “The Neelam Show” was on
– They couldn’t put Little A in a better outfit for the wedding?  Really?

The part of me that wants to shun cheese, cliche, over-the-top acting moments (“CHEATER CHEATER CHEATER!”) wants to put this as a 2, but that part is way smaller than it ought to be.  I’m embarrassed to say it, but for the cheesy fun, and the educational reference for further Bollywood watching, I give this 3.75 jars of peanut butter.

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