Monday, March 29, 2004

the strange case of karan johar

After an initial assessment, I managed to watch most of (thanks to a bad skipping DVD) the latest piece of exploitative corn from Dharma Productions, Kal Ho Naa Ho. At the end, the interesting elements (faux interviews, split screen, narrative closure) were things we had seen before. Saif Ali Khan deserved plaudits for his excellent timing and honest performance. The dialogue department scored a few aces (especially in the sequence when SRK coaches SAK to woo PZ back). The pitfalls were too numerous: SRK continues to fuel his "I am God" image at the expense of unsuspecting rich viewers (the North Indian/West-Indian/NRI market), the opening fragments of the film are hampered by clichéd cheap comedy and irritating hackneyed trite elements (both comic and tragic), Jaya Bachchan almost hits the bottom of the well with another turn as a mother exhausted by the weight of the world of sorrows, the usual tear-jerking devices (debt, unhappiness, unforgiving in-laws, imminent death, love and loss). The most shocking elements in the film were the mocking of the markets dear to the success of such productions: the North Indian market, the North Indian in America market, and the Gujarati community in America market. All the humour is playful. And it's also convenient (getting Satish Shah to play a self-and-flock mocking rich Gujarati? I can't believe this wasn't planned!). The "G-U-J-J-U" song isn't even on the soundtrack. And yet as soon as you step into the theatre, there's enough there that makes fun of the market, and also effortlessly sells this to the market in a clever way, so people go out satisfied (and glad to use several tissues weeping for the Khan who takes the longest time to die!). Karan Johar is laughing all the way to the bank. And will continue to do so. This is product. Exploitative product. Art becomes an artifice. And this is what the foreign lands will continue to use as an exemplar of Indian filmmaking: love, grand weddings, lots of song and dance, lots of mush and emotion, superficial characters. When will the market wake up? {I think I'm also trying to deal with the part of me that liked some parts of this flick. The horror. The horror}. Can't stop humming the title song. Great job, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, I guess.

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