Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna ** 1/2
There's some good news and some bad news.
The good news is that Karan Johar is growing up finally and thankfully, to show that he doesn't need to kill Shah Rukh Khan without giving him the girl.
The bad news is that he decides to kill Amitabh Bachchan merely eighty-three minutes into the movie. And in a film where the rest of the actors act like themselves (think Abhiskek Bachchan do a Dhai Akshar Prem Ke), we needed Amitabh till the end.The story revolves around two married couples, Dev Saran-Maya Talwar and Rhea Saran-Rishi Talwar. Sorry, make this Dev-Rhea and Maya-Rishi. The senior partner in each one of them (Shah Rukh Khan playing Dev Saran and Rani Mukherjee playing Maya Talwar) start falling in love with each other. Then, the couples fall into a web of lies and half-truths. Reminds you of Closer? No, not quite. As here, Amitabh Bachchan saves the day, using sophisticated weapon made of corny language.
Also, in Closer, the web was spun deftly by interesting characters (a stripper using a faux name, a writer writing obituaries for a living), living a life which was dangerous, violent and malicious.
Here, we have an injured retired football player and a woman who can't bear a child running around a few trees. The woman, Maya Talwar, is as big a cliche as any in Indian cinema.
The character is symptomatic of what is wrong with the movie. Karan Johar over his last two films, is trying to find India in New York and has turned the art into an assembly line production. While on the outside, these Indians are rich, urbane and designer-clad and speak in a modern diction, they have not been able to find a modern idiom of their own. Their values stay comfortably in the 1980s. They espouse respect for hoary traditions.
Hence, while Rishi (Abhishek) has no issues in referring to his father, Samarjit Singh Talwar, as Sam, he would listen when Sam tells him, "Saccha pyaar tyaag mein vishvaas zaroor karta hai, par pati-patni ka pyaar sachai ke liye tyaaga nahin ja sakta." (While true love believes in sacrifice, a husband and wife can't sacrifice their love for truth). Thus, he would go into the bad, bad world of people being true to their emotions to save his ill-fated marriage. And, he succeeds.
Similarly, after Rhea (Preity Zinta) walks out on her husband and does a dance called "Where's the party?" with Rishi, she soon realises her folly. Not because she wonders why she is doing a dance surrounded by extras, instead of drinking her sorrows away or doing a cathartic strip dance. But because she wants her husband back, so that she can throw herself into his arms and cry.
Scene after scene unfolds in a setting borrowed from American sitcoms and end with Saans Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi or Silsila. Where the film could have been the breakthrough "in which Karan grows up" film, it doesn't even try*.
Instead, what we are left with is a rehashed story which doesn't live upto its promotion. Or probably does, since Preity Zinta is appearing in Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi as part of the promotion.
The music is refreshing, though. Mitwa is probably going to end up as the "Kajra Re" of this year. Plus, Arjun Rampal, in a cameo, has the best dialogue of the film, "Don't be a football of other's opinion". Watch it if you must find out how New York looks like through the eyes of Karan Johar. Watch it if you have to see a movie that everyone else will see (which will happen inevitably).
Otherwise, read the reviews and hire out a copy of Closer.
Incidentally, since in case you want to read some speculation about the film, you can go here.
* I am not saying that Karan wanted to try. He probably is satisfied with making a lot of money, getting a few Filmfare awards.
Images from Wikipedia and Vluvshahrukh.com
Update: Sorry to do this, dear readers, but the review is a work of fiction. I have not seen the movie, nor intend to, at least till the reviews convince me.
2nd Update:Pratyush points out this IMDB thread which says that the movie is based on We Don't Live Here Anymore. Who knows? In any case, films on unfaithful couples has been made umpteen times.