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 Kal Ho Naa Ho
Director :
Music :
Lyrics :
Starring :
 Nikhil Advani
 Javed Akhtar
 Shahrukh Khan, Preity Zinta, Saif Ali Khan, Jaya Bachchan

By Kshama Rao

OK, so how is Kal Ho Na Ho, written and produced by Karan Johar and directed by one-time assistant to Johar and Aditya Chopra, Nikhil Advani? It's good. It's certainly better than Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. It has plenty of touching moments, a generous dose of humour (and most of the time it's at the expense of other people, spoofs of other films, fat people, eccentricities of certain communities etc etc), stunning cinematography (New York has never looked so awesome, George Bush is going to love it), great performances and good music. In short, it has all the sugarcoated ingredients of a typical Karan Johar film -despite all the cliches - suited largely for the palate of an NRI audience.

About the story: Naina (Preity Zinta) is a simple, bespectacled girl who leads a fairly boring life. In fact, she claims she leads a sad life. Why? Her mother Jennifer (Jaya Bachchan) runs a hotel, which is incurring losses. She has a younger brother who loves basketball but is physically disabled, a younger sister Gia adopted by her mother and the root cause of all problems according to her dadi (Sushma Seth), who in turn sings songs with two of her girlfriends in a bid to hook the neighbourhood old man (Dara Singh). Naina's father committed suicide and till half an hour before the film ends, we don't know why? She has a friend though, Rohit (Saif Ali Khan, doing his comic, Dil Chahta Hai number), with whom she attends her evening business management classes and who also thinks Naina can never be happy. But there is one man, Aman Mathur (Shah Rukh Khan) who turns up one fine sunny morning to change Naina's life. He's the neighbourhood oldie's nephew and has come to stay there with his mother (Reema Lagoo). Right from scene one of Aman's entry, Naina's life changes for the better. Aman befriends one and all but Naina of course thinks he interferes too much in her personal life. From getting himself invited for a dinner at Naina's house to addressing her mother as "Jenny", from helping her kid brother to play basketball to getting Naina drunk and 'disco' in a skimpy top, Aman makes Naina's life go topsy-turvy. He makes her to learn to smile, laugh and accept her life with all its follies. Naturally, the girl had to fall in love with Aman. But Rohit also has suddenly discovered he is in love with Naina. Who gets the girl?

OK, as we said earlier Kal Ho Na Ho is a complete entertainer but we do have a few bones to pick! For one we fail to understand why it was necessary to have New York as the backdrop. We mean, Naina could be one of the Bombay girls. Don't we have single mothers, sadder daughters in Bombay or for that matter in any other part of the country? But then, we think we know the answer. New York lends itself to great visuals, you can also have the Patels and the Punjabis settled there love your movie with funny tributes to their communities through song and dance. You can also have 'gay' jokes, which would be more acceptable to the overseas audience. So on and so forth.

Also, even after the film has gotten over, we are left with the feeling that Rohit is still not convinced about having had to marry Naina. We mean it's a little too much to marry a girl who you know is never going to get over her first love who she's even found out had sacrificed his feelings for her!

Last but not the least, Jennifer's very, with-it, progressive woman stance looks out of sync when she weeps in the church saying, "My husband was not bad, he just made a small mistake" which is by the way fathering an illegitimate child!

On the plus points is the music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy. Hummable! Director Nikhil Advani leaves his individual style of shot taking and handling certain key sequences with the requisite amount of candor and sensitivity. The way the film is edited is refreshing and over all it's a paisa vasool film largely for its key players. A jeans-clad Jaya B is as usual great as Naina's silent supporter who flares up occasionally. Saif as Rohit is expectedly good though we wish his character had evolved into a more sensitive, serious being. For instance, the audience hooted when a grey-at-the-sides Rohit appears in the '20 years later' climax scene. Like he says to Naina in one scene, "Tum mujhe kabhi seriously nahin leti". Exactly, Saif's problem. Preity comes into her own as Naina. She fits the character perfectly, making it strong and vulnerable in right measures. And above all, it's Shah Rukh Khan who gobbles down everyone in sight with his near-perfect performance. Charming and truly sexy, SRK's spirited performance really leaves you both smiling and misty-eyed!

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