Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Of Similarities Between Kal Ho Naa Ho And Kuch Kuch Hota Hai

I watched Kal Ho Naa Ho again yesterday. I think I can never be good friends with a person who does not like this film. I love this film and, like always, I have a lot to write about again on the eternal charm of this movie. 

While watching Kal Ho Naa Ho, I could not help but observe how much it is similar to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. There are many common themes between the two movies. In Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Rahul and Anjali are the best of friends. Rahul falls in love with Tina, though Anjali is in love with Rahul, too. Tina and Rahul get married; however, Tina dies due to complications during her pregnancy. She writes a series of letters to her daughter in which she expresses her wish that Rahul and Anjali should get together after her death. Similarly, in Kal Ho Naa Ho, Naina and Rohit are friends, and Aman comes as an angel in Naina's life. Naina falls in love with Aman, who also loves Naina immensely; however, Aman is suffering from heart disease and does not have many days to live. Therefore, he helps Naina find love in her friend Rohit, who also loves Naina. As she says to Aman, "Itna pyaar karte ho ke jaane ke baad bhi mere liye pyaar chhod ke jaana chahte ho, chahe kisi aur ka sahi." Both Aman and Tina wanted to see the person they loved to be happy after their deaths and wished to help them find love again when they are gone.

There is also a theme of falling in love with two people in both films. I have written many times on this theme before also. At one point in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, on being asked by his mother to get married again, Rahul says that we only live once and we only love once. He says, "Hum ek baar jite hain, ek baar marte hain, shaadi bhi ek hi baar hoti hai, aur pyaar, pyaar bhi ek hi baar hota hai." Though he said this statement, later he realized his love for Anjali. By marrying Anjali, he did not stop loving Tina, it is just that he found love again. Similarly, Naina fell in love with Aman. However, she was tricked into believing that Aman was already married. At one point, Rohit asked her if she would ever be able to love someone again. She did not reply but it seemed that she will not be able to love anyone again. But Rohit asked her to marry him and she accepted. She might love Aman, but it does not mean that she cannot love Rohit. At the very least, she tried to move on. This is a heartening message in both the films that just because one does not get his first love, it does not mean one should stop living, but rather one should move on. As Riya had perfectly summarized in Hum Tum, "Kisi ke jaane ke baad bhi pyaar thori na kam ho jata hai. Sameer ka pyaar mere saath hamesha rahega. I will always love him." Not everyone has to self-destruct like Devdas. Maybe if Anjali had married Aman who loved her immensely, she might have started loving him, too. Even in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, there is this message to move on. Though Maya was never really in love with Rishi (she tried, but maybe she did not try enough), she was being advised by her father-in-law Sam to leave Rishi as by not leaving him, she is stopping him from the love he could get. Rishi ko chhod do, is tarah saath reh kar tum usse kisi aur ke pyaar se door kar rahi ho. At some levels, there was a hidden subtext of falling in love with two love people with Naina's dead father, too. He had an extra-marital affair with a woman, with whom he had a daughter, Gia. He commits suicide because he could not bear that his wife Jenny accepted his daughter from another woman. We don't get to see more about his back story but he fell in love with another woman but still remained married to Jenny but did not have the courage to fight for his relationship. As Jenny said, "Tumhare Papa kamzor the." It is indeed remarkable on Jenny's part that she understood and forgave her husband. She is a great woman. 
Then, there is a subtext of incomplete first love in both films. First love is always special and everyone remembers it. In Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Anjali runs to Rahul to tell her about how much she loves him. Instead what happens is that Rahul tells her that he loves Tina. She, then, remains quiet and tells him to go and tell the same to Tina. In an almost similar scene in Kal Ho Naa Ho, Rohit calls Naina on a lunch date to tell her that he loves her. Instead, Naina tells him that she loves Aman. He is heartbroken, but then, he also tells her that she should go and tell Aman like Anjali said to Rahul. She should not be afraid because, "Koi pagal hi tumse pyaar nahi karega, Naina." Then, there are two more similar scenes. Anjali comes back and tells her Rifat Bi, "Mera pehla pyaar adhoora reh gaya." In a contrasting scene, Rohit says, "Mujhe apna pehla pyaar bhulana padega." At the end in Kal Ho Naa Ho, Naina remarks that Aman was her first love and she will not forget him. 
There is also a theme that love is friendship in both films. Rahul believes that love is friendship, "Pyaar dosti hai, agar woh meri sab se achchi dost nahin ban sakti to main us se pyaar kar hi nahi sakta." Rahul believes that to fall in love with someone, you have to be best friends with that person. Rahul and Anjali were best friends. Tina became friends with Rahul but as she says, perhaps, she never became his best friend. It was always Anjali, who was in love with him, but Rahul realized it only later. Anjali was there in his subconscious even after eight years. Similarly, Rohit and Naina were great friends. Rohit was in love in Naina. They both found love in each other. As Naina said perfectly in the end, "Har ladki ka sapna hota hai, ki use apne pati mein hi ek accha dost mil jaaye. Lekin main bahut khush kismat hoon, ki mujhe apne sabse acche dost mein hi apna pati mil gaya."
I also felt many similarities between the relationship of Anjali, and her mother; and that of Naina and her mother. There was lack of a fatherly figure in the life of both Anjali and Naina. At one point in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Anjali's mom observes a certain grimness in Anjali and asks her is she is happy with Aman. She replies that she has made a compromise in life. Similarly, Naina's mother figured it out that that she loves Aman, and asks her to move forward. Interestingly, there is a similar moment during the engagement of Naina and Rohit, and Anjali and Aman where their mothers dance during the songs Saajan Ji Ghar Aaye, and Maahi Ve.
And, while Anjali throws a red dupatta to Tina as a symbol of her love for Rahul in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, we see a red tie and a red dress by Rohit and Aman, a metaphor for love in Kal Ho Naa Ho. It is also worth mentioning how love brings a change in both Anjali and Naina. Naina learns to smile again, she learns to be happy again. Aman's love makes her feel alive again. Similarly, Anjali tries to change herself so that she can be loved by Rahul. She becomes more mellow, and 'girly' to get Rahul's love. There is another similar line in both the films that gives a feeling of déjà vu. When Anjali is leaving, Tina says, "Anjali ki khamoshi mujhe sab kuch keh gayi." And, Naina on being asked by Rohit, if she can fall in love again says, "Meri khamoshi sab kuch keh gayi."
At two points in the film, Kal Ho Naa Ho pays a tribute to Dil Chahta Hai. In the first scene, Aman, Naina, and Sweetoo are sitting on a ferry. Aman tries to hitch Sweetoo with Frankie and calls him Ramdayal. He says, "Kya karoo maine Dil Chahta Hai nahi dekhi hai." It is interesting because Preity who starred in Dil Chahta Hai, is sitting with him in this scene. In a second scene, Aman is sitting with Priya and he remarks, "Koi mar gaya kya," another iconic line from that film.
In another funny similarity, in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Farah Khan and Nikhil Advani make a special appearance in a film directed by Karan Johar. In fact, in that scene, he calls his girlfriend Superna who was actually Nikhil Advani's girlfriend at that time (now his wife). In Kal Ho Naa Ho, Farah Khan and Karan Johar make a special appearance in a film directed by Nikhil Advani. 

Books in Movies:
Kal Ho Naa Ho has done excellent research on the MBA books that Naina reads. 

The Portable MBA Desk Reference  Paul A. Argenti
Competitive Strategy — Michael E. Porter
Advanced Modelling in Finance using Excel and VBA  Mary Jackson, Mike Staunton
Catch 22  Joseph Heller
100 Love Sonnets: Cien sonetos de amor  Pablo Neruda
A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You  Amy Bloom

Twelve Women Detective Stories — Laura Marcus, Chris Willis
The Giant Book of Dreams: Unlock The Secrets of Your Unconscious Mind  Pierre Daco
Kal Ho Naa Ho is a glorious film. I weep every time I watch it and can watch it repeatedly. The film has great dialogues, melodious songs, and above all amazing characters. I love Rohit. Naina accuses him of being weak because of taking Aman's help to make her fall in love with him but in fact, he was one of the strongest people in the film. As Jenny said perfectly, "Vo jaanta hai tum kisi aur se pyaar karti ho, phir bhi tumhe apnana chahta hai. Yeh taakat hai." It takes great courage to accept that your love might not be reciprocated, and Rohit had that immense strength of character that Naina might never love him but his love can be enough for the both of them. Indeed, he is a gem of a person. Koi paagal hi Rohit se pyaar nahi karega.
I have already written so much on these two films here, but still, I can continue to write. More here, here, here, and here. And, yes, I still sing the Kunwari Kudi ad whenever it comes. Kudi Kudi Kudi, choose karle munda, one two ya three, ke aaao aooo ke aoooo aaooo :)
Dialogue of the Day:
"Ishwar ki prathna karne ka kya fayda jab uski zindagi ki kadar karna na jaano, tumhare paas jo hai tumhare hisaab se kam hai, par kisi or ki nazaro se dekho to tumhare pass bahut kuch hai."
— Aman, Kal Ho Naa Ho

Friday, April 24, 2015

Badlapur — Of Badla (Change) And Badla (Revenge)

When the first rushes of Sriram Raghavan's Badlapur came out earlier this year, I confess that I was not excited by them. I am not a fan of gore and violence, and I assumed that the film is going to be another revenge saga as the name suggests. Badlapur meaning a place for taking badla or revenge. I thought that it would be similar to Ghajini or Ek Villain; films which I did not like at all. I watched the film two days ago with a bit of trepidation but I was proved wrong. The film is not as violent as I expected and is, in fact, deeply philosophical. Revenge or badla is the underlying theme of the movie, but the film is also about change or badla. It is as much a story of redemption and forgiveness.

Badlapur is primarily the story of Raghu (Varun Dhawan) and Liak (Nawazuddin Siddiqui). Raghu's wife Misha (Yami Gautam) and his son Robin (Neel Tyagi) are killed by Liak and his partner Harman (Vinay Pathak) after a bank robbery. Liak is caught by the police and given a twenty year prison sentence, while Harman escapes. After fifteen years, Liak is released as he is suffering from cancer. Raghu, meanwhile, has gone into a complete shell. He is overwhelmed by his immense grief and solitude. He is unable to cope with the loss. He plots to take revenge from Liak and Harman. He kills Harman and his wife Kanchan (Radhika Apte), and steals Liak's share of money. In a stunning reversal, Liak lies to the police that he committed the murder of Harman and goes back to jail, giving Raghu a chance to start over. The film underscores the futility of revenge, and highlights the change in a persona that grief can bring. It emphasizes the importance of second chances, and, perhaps, learning to let go. It also talks about not only helping reform the prisoners but also helping the survivors of grief.

As I said earlier, the film is more about badla or change. In fact, the title has special significance. We see a train station named Badlapur many a time in the film. In an interview, Sriram Raghavan explained the meaning of this. At one time, Badlapur used to be one of the stations where the trains would change tracks. This aspect is significant in the film because the station features in the backdrop when the plot undergoes a change. Thus, Badlapur is more about the change rather than only revenge. Raghu transforms from a victim to a criminal, while Liak transforms from someone who is considered a bad influence on society to someone who becomes a role model in terms of forgiveness. Badlapur is the place where this transformation happened in both the characters, thus, the name is befitting.

The film credits the story to Massimo Carlotto. As per Wikipedia, Massimo is an Italian writer who is considered as one of the finest writers of noir. The story is Death's Dark Abyss, whose plot synopsis is as follows. "A riveting drama of guilt, revenge, and justice, Massimo Carlotto's Death's Dark Abyss tells the story of two men and the savage crime that binds them. During a robbery, Raffaello Beggiato takes a young woman and her child hostage and later murders them. Beggiato is arrested, tried, and sentenced to life. The victims' father and husband, Silvano, is undone by his loss. He plunges into an ever-deepening abyss until the day, years later, when the murderer seeks his pardon, and the wounded Silvano turns predator as he ruthlessly plots his revenge." This is the perfect summary of Badlapur, too.

In addition, at two places in the film, we see that characters are reading Daphne Du Maurier's Don't Look Now. The book, which was also made into a thriller film of the same name by Nicolas Roeg in 1973, focuses "on the psychology of grief, and the effect the death of a child can have on a relationship," like Badlapur. Raghavan, thus, has adapted his story from some of the legends of writing and cinema. Interestingly, Daphne's other novels Rebecca and Jamaica Inn, and her short story The Birds were made into films directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Raghavan has spoken in numerous interviews about the influence Hitchcock has on his films. In Badlapur, he adapts other film of Daphne. In Johnny Gaddar, we saw characters reading James Headley Chase's The Whiff Of Money and R.K. Narayan's Guide, there is never a lack of interesting things to observe in his films. In fact, a Sriram Raghavan film without detailed references is like a computer without the Internet — boring and useless. It is the minute layers that accentuate his films and like his other films, Badlapur is full of references, too.  

The film beautifully shows us the similarities between Raghu and Liak. At a surface level, it is hard to imagine that there could be any but at many times, we see that their lives are remarkably alike but the differences come in their outlook towards life. The love that both of them have for their lovers can make them do anything. For instance, Raghu is heartbroken after Misha's death and for fifteen years, he has her memories locked within him. He does not move on. On the other hand, Liak loves Jhimli with the same intensity as Raghu loved Misha. When Raghu incites Liak by indicating that he slept with Jhimli, Liak is incensed and wants to punch Raghu at that time. When Liak comes back after fifteen years, he goes and meets Jhimli as he has not forgotten her all this while and still dreams of spending his last few days with her. In another instance, when Shobha (Divya Dutta) comes and asks for Raghu's pardon for Liak, she makes a poignant statement, "Tum to khud apni jail me kaid ho." If Liak was incarcerated in an actual prison, Raghu is trapped in his own mental prison. In fact, Raghu goes and books a lodge for himself and when he is asked for how long he will stay, he replied twenty years, the same time period for which Liak was sentenced again indicating that both of them are prisoners. Both of them had tremendous patience to wait for fifteen years to get to their aim. In another scene, Inspector Mishra when investiating the murder of Harman and his wife, he says that both Liak and Raghu liked food. In one of the best scenes in the movie, when Liak and Raghu fight with each other, Liak actually says that there is no difference between the two of them. He killed Misha and his son, but Raghu killed Harman and his wife, so how are they any different? Liak says, "Mera garam dimaag ho gaya tha, tera to toh thanda dimaag tha. Do logon ko maar diya hatode se. Aur vo bhi nirdosh. Kya farak hai tere aur mere me?" It was one of the most powerful scenes of the movie, and by the end of it, I had no sympathy for Raghu and his absolutely cold-hearted personality. Perhaps, that explains the film's poster where both of them are looking into each other. They are similar like images but yet they are different. The difference between them was in their spirit. Liak was an optimist, despite being in jail, he never gave up. He tried to take life as it came. He tried to escape jail many times, but Raghu was a pessimist. It is understandable about his grief but he was just focused only on getting revenge. At the risk of being called vulgar and cheap, I want to make a point. When having sex with Jhimli, Raghu penetrates her from the back, while in a later scene, Liak also has sex with a prostitute, but he penetrates from the front. Some reviews described the first instance as unnatural, but it is interesting to note this difference in terms of who is natural (Liak) and who is unnatural (Raghu). Though the film must be commended on the fact, unlike sterotypical portrayals in cinema, when hero's wife dies, he becomes celibate, Badlapur shows that the hero does have sexual needs even he if is not in love. Even Liak is in love with Jhimli, but that does not stop him from sleeping with another woman.

Raghavan also talks to us about opportunities and second chances. In an earlier scene, Misha says a famous quote by Shakespeare, "There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune." The quote is from Julius Caesar (which is also a revenge drama). The quote means that if you have a favorable opportunity to do something, do it, or you will lose your chance. Ride the tide of opportunity when it’s high, or at the flood, and you’ll be carried on to success; let it pass, and you’ll be stuck in the shallows of unfulfillment. Misha and Raghu decided to get married as they thought it was the best time for them as she was pregnant. Later, Jhimli comes and explains to Raghu the reason behind Liak turning himself into prison for a crime he did not commit. She says, "Tere ko dusra chance dene ke liye. Sabko nahi milta dusra chance."  And, that is why at the end of the story, Liak became the greater of a man. As compared to Raghu's cold-bloodedness, Liak atoned for his sins in prison and extracted his revenge by giving a chance to Raghu. He understood the futility of the battles they were fighting, and had the gumption to let go and give somebody a second chance because not everyone gets one. As they said in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, "Our lives are defined by opportunities, even the ones we miss." Liak gave a second chance to Raghu, where as Raghu was not willing to do that. So, who is the hero and the villain here? It is also worth noting that an earlier point in the film, we see a statue of Gandhi who talked about the same thing. "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Certainly, it ain't easy to forgive and forget, but if everyone indulged in revenge, there will no victors and the vicious cycle would continue. And, though the film begins by an African proverb, "The axe forgets but the tree remembers," by the end of the movie, there is again a badla in the film's message. Perhaps, to let the tree also forget and flourish again.


As if there were not enough revenge-based metaphors, Badlapur has another reference. Earlier in the film, we see that Raghu and his son are dressed as the famous duo Batman and Robin in a picture. The name of Raghu's son in the film is actually Robin. Batman is another superhero with a theme of revenge. Having witnessed the murder of his parents as a child, he swore revenge on criminals. Thus, Raghu in some ways had characteristics of Batman. Interestingly, during the song Badla Badla, the lyrics talks about the change in Raghu and during that song, we see a policeman asking Raghu his name. Then, the policeman says that he is a joker as if our Batman has turned into Joker, the most dangerous villain that Batman had to fight. It is a terrific insight on the theme of change. The hero has become the anti-hero. Who is Batman and who is Joker?

Batman and Robin

I was also intrigued by the religious references in the film. The biggest I felt was karma. Liak got stomach cancer while in jail. Perhaps, it was God's way of giving punishment for his sins. He is already dead so what will Raghu get by killing him? Religious might not the right term, but maybe spiritual references in the film. Of the many depictions of jails in Hindi films, I was surprised by the pictures of spiritual gurus in jails and police stations in the film. As India is a secular state, I am not sure that overt depictions of any religion are allowed but given the realism of the film, it came as something totally new to me. Also, this points to the deeper theme of the movie itself of forgiveness. There are Christian priests, Shirdi Sai Baba, and Buddha statues. At one point, we also see a Zen poster. It is really interesting. There is also a lovely Marathi bhajan in the film Ye Re Ghana composed by Hridyanath Mangeshkar that talks about calling the rain to come and purify the singer's mind and soul. 


Ye Re Ghana

There are some historical inaccuracies in the film. I have no problem with these but if a film is trying to be authentic, then, it is worth pointing out. One minute into the film and we hear the song Main Nikla Gaddi Leke from Gadar. Immediately, after that, the first scene shows a poster of Lagaan. The film tells us that Misha and Robin were killed on May 27, 2000. But what is interesting is both Gadar and Lagaan were released on the same day in 2001  15th June. It is unlikely that film posters and songs were released more than one year before the film released. Also, during the first few scenes, we see SUVs; there were no SUVs at that time. It is worth pointing out because in a later scene, Raghu uses Yellow Pages to find a detective and has a Nokia phone. Nothing incriminating but again, just for the sake of completeness, so if a film wants to be authentic, everything should be, no? Now, fifteen years later, we see a poster of another Aamir Khan film  PK which released in 2014.



There are other references as well. In jail, Liak watches Sholay and gets inspired by Gabbar to escape jail. At another point, prisoners in the jail call Liak as Kaalia and sing the iconic song Kaun Kisi Ko Badh Saka from Kaalia. There is also a reference to Charles Shobhraj who escaped from prison fourteen times. In a hilarious scene, when being asked to describe the sketch of his accomplice, he describes Ranjeet. Liak was awesome. 


There are references to other songs, too. At one point, we hear Aa Chal Ke Tujhe from Door Gagan Ki Chhaon Me. Later, we hear Ek Ajnabi Hasina Se from Ajnabee. There is also a reference to Tum Hi Ho Bandhu from Cocktail. The Bhojpuri film playing in the theatre is Nirhua Mail with the song Kamar Hilela (its YouTube video has over a million views!). 

There is a lot of emphasis that the film puts on its beginning that even its tag line and certificate includes the tag line "Don't miss the beginning" which is actually wonderfully shot and executed. Watch the bone chilling scene of Robin's blood being washed from the knife, and his lifeless hand. 

In the title credits, Raghavan pays tribute to Don Siegel. Don was an American filmmaker and director known for his exceptional and stylish thriller films. Never ending references!

There is one repeating metaphor of food that I did not fully comprehend. Still thinking about it. There is a theme of food being talked about and shown, such as mutton, sandwich, Chines, Mexican, etc. There is definitely some link, which needs to be elaborated. 

The performance by each cast member is wonderful. Nawazuddin Siddiqui, like always, steals the show. I loved Pratima Kannan and Radhika Apte, too. There is immense strength in their characters that they will do anything for love. Nawazuddin's scenes with Huma Quereshi are charming. Their relationship is one of the most beautiful things in the film, their love survived all odds. Varun Dhawan is excellent. He is a terrific romantic actor. I loved him in the scene with Yami Gautam when he grabs her arm and says that he wants her and he won't let her go. 

While watching the film, I could not stop thinking of the similarities between Badlapur and Talaash. Both films are based on the theme of grief of a parent losing a child. In Talaash, Taimur (Nawazzuddin Siddiqui) had a splendid relationship with a prostitute Nirmala (Sheeba Chaddha), like in Badlapur, his relationship with Jhimli. In Talaash, there was a theme of revenge, too, where Rosie (Kareena Kapoor) wanted to avenge her death, like the theme of revenge here. There are also similar instances of using dogs as well in both the films :)


Books In Films:-

Dukh Me Khush Kyon Aur Kaise Rahein

Tribulation Force — Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins

Notes From A Small Island — Bill Bryson

This is just for the paintings which I like :)

Badlapur is a fantastic film. It gives one so much to think about, and so much to research. As Anupama Chopra wrote in her review of Johnny Gaddar, "When you get bored, you can always play spot-the-reference." That is true for Badlapur, too.

Dialogue of the Day:
Raajhan dhoondan main chaliya,
Raajhan mileya naa ye,
Jigra vichh agan lagaa ke Rabba,
Lakeera vichh likhdi judaai.
— Judaai, Badlapur

P.S. — I still remember eleven years ago in January 2004, I first watched Sriram Raghavan's first film Ek Hasina Tha at Chanakya—my favorite theater. I was in Class 11th and before that, it was very rarely I used to go theater to watch films; used to watch movies only at home and the big ones in a theater. But it was the first movie that I started watching on the big screen that was not a big one, and after that I did not stop. It helped me develop my love for the movies, so that movie will always be special :)