Clocking in at three and a half hours long, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham is a remarkably swift Bollywood experience. In fact, the 2001 film could be seen as the perfect introduction to the gloriously kitsch, melodramatic musical genre.
Watching it is one of my earliest and most significant memories of Indian cinema, shovelling down a bucketful of popcorn while shrill yet ineffably catchy musical numbers played out, outfits and locations were changed at will, and a deluge of onscreen tears fell. For an Indian born and brought up in London and surrounded largely by people who looked nothing like me, this was a window into a new, fantastical life. One which I couldn’t understand a word of, since I didn’t speak Hindi.
Like any Bollywood film worth its salt, Kabhi Khushi is really three films in one. Film one: the older, adopted son of the fabulously wealthy Raichand family, Rahul (played by the Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan at the height of his hair-swishing power) is the apple of his father Yash’s eye (played by the elder statesman Amitabh Bachchan, sporting a leathery toupee throughout). Yash has Rahul swanning around town in the family helicopter and he has his bride picked out – the high-society, docile beauty Naina (played by my childhood crush Rani Mukerji). So far so good, but a brush with the working class, bolshy Anjali (played by Kajol, Mukerji’s real-life cousin) in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk market soon spells trouble. Rahul falls in love with Anjali and tearfully confronts his powerful dad, who disapproves while foreboding thunder erupts in the background. Dad gives Rahul a choice: dump Anjali and remain part of the family, or leave forever. Rahul chooses Anjali, weepy goodbyes ensue and dad’s toupee remains.
Read the feature in the Guardian.
[This piece was published on 10/07/20]