June 17, 2011
Ali Fazal, Zoa Morani, Satyajeet Dubey, Giselli Monteiro, Navneet Nishan, Lillette Dubey
That’s a word many teenagers use these days to suggest indifference. That’s the word I wish to use to describe my reaction to Always Kabhi Kabhi. Perhaps the concept sounded good on paper, but what explains the fact that once the film was done, not only did producer Shah Rukh Khan throw himself into its promotions, he further dinned his association with the film into the public mind by shooting an item song for it? Did he really think this is a good film?
The problem with Always Kabhi Kabhi is contained in its title – the film is trying to speak teenager-ese, but fails miserably. More on that later. First the story. This is a film about four friends in St Mark’s High School, Delhi. Sameer Khanna a.k.a. Shortcut Sam (Ali Fazal) is a bright kid with a wandering eye and a wandering mind. He falls in love with new girl Aishwarya Dhawan (Giselli Monteiro) whose former actress mother is now trying to pimp her beautiful daughter in a modelling and film career without quite caring whether the girl is interested. Tariq Naqvi (Satyajeet Dubey) – nicknamed Einstein because he’s a nerdy genius – is cracking under the pressure from his pushy father to get admission to MIT although his dreams lie elsewhere. And Nandini Oberoi ak.a. Nandy Bull is a girl with a heart of gold that she camouflages behind a brusque façade, because she doesn’t want the world to know how much she’s hurting from the neglect of her ambitious, career-obsessed parents.
In a sentence, this is a film about teenagers being forced to live their parents’ dreams while burying their own. But the message is lost under the combined weight of weak direction, weaker writing, uninspired choreography and ordinary music. There are passing references to teenage pregnancies, drug use and peer pressure which completely lack gravitas. There’s even one embarrassingly bad product placement that gets an entire scene.
Of the lead cast, Zoa Morani has a much stronger screen presence than her co-star Ali Fazal. I don’t know how old these actors are, but neither of them look like schoolkids to me. Giselli Monteiro is pretty but was better suited to the silent role she was given in her debut Hindi film Love Aaj Kal. Oddly enough, she is subjected to poor lighting in several shots in Always Kabhi Kabhi – since she’s supposed to be a professional model in the film, I’d have expected particular trouble to be taken over her makeup and lighting. Of the four, Satyajeet is the one I watched and wondered what he might be in a better film. Yes, I think I might like to see more of this boy.
The language the children speak doesn’t sound much like what you would hear among Delhi teenagers in a school like this one. This is a problem plaguing many Bollywood films these days (for a change, just last month there was Yash Raj Films’ Luv ka the End which managed to get the lingo right). There are three options before a film like Always Kabhi Kabhi: either be completely, 100 per cent faithful to the fact that you are a Hindi film and make your characters speak pure Hindi unadulterated by any other language; or go all the way in an effort to be realistic, and employ English peppered with Hindi in the style and with the accents that you are most likely to find among Delhi teenagers in a school like this one; or let your children be primarily Hindi speaking with some English thrown in at appropriate places. AKK chooses none of the above options. Its language doesn’t flow and too many lines given to the students sound like they’re aspiring to be cool. The adults sound far more natural. There’s a funny exchange when Sam’s mother chides his dad for getting on the boy’s case. Kitni der se nazrein jhuka baitha hai, she says sympathetically about her son. Dad shoots back: “SMS check kar raha hoga. Iss generation ki nazrein bas tabhi jhukte hai.” Wish there was more where that came from. Instead what we get is a scene in which Sam is about to kiss Aishwarya when the bell rings. She escapes, with the words, “Chemistry class,” to which he says, “And I’m history.” Oh jeez!
It’s been many years since I was a teenager, so I called up a 14-year-old friend for a second opinion. Would he ever say the words “undi the condi of my heart” in place of “understand the condition of my heart”, the way the students do in Always Kabhi Kabhi? “No no, that’s stooopid,” he laughed, before dismissing it (inexplicably to me) as “chillar party language” that nobody uses in schools. Well then, dear reader, undi the condi of my heart: I spent over two hours of my life watching this insipid film!
Rating (out of five): 1/2
CBFC Rating: U/A
Running time: 127 Minutes
Language: Hindi with English
Photograph courtesy: http://www.facebook.com/akkthemovie