Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (Never Say Goodbye)

Love and death come uninvited…”

That phrase is a direct quote from the film. In its way, that phrase gives you a some idea of what this movie is about. The line was spoken by Amitabh Bachchan who appeared in this film as the 5th lead of the 6 headliners. He played Sam, a 60 something, unrepentent womanizer/skirt chaser. He defended his activities by saying that he was only fulfilling a promise to his deceased wife which was to do everything now that he wasn’t allowed to do while they were married.

The film is entitled Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna which means Never Say Goodbye. This film was directed by Karan Johar and was released in August 2006 as one of the most highly anticipated films of that year, or any year. This was also the film Johar directed before My Name is Khan which I have recently reviewed.

In a nutshell, the film (called KANK for short) is about marital infidelity. There’s nothing new under the sun about that because we have had one or the other or even both parties of a marriage cheat on their partners for about as long as there have been marriages.

But Director Karan Johar & company, want us to buy into the fact he and his screenplay authors are going to take a new approach. Their idea of a new approach was to make a film about infidelity that was quite over-the-top in almost every category except sex. When the lovers check into a hotel for an afternoon tryst, what we get is a  fireside head and shoulders view of them without even as much as one kiss on the lips.

The film oozes beauty – from the sets, to the clothing, to the apartments, the furniture, and the mansions. The green-eyed goddess, Rani Mukerji, gets more screen time than any one else in the film, and she looks absolutely sensational throughout. Of course, as I said, everything about this film is so over-the-top, meaning that you will lose count of how many times Rani, as Maya, tears up and cries.

She is one of the star-crossed lovers. The other is Shahrukh Khan (SRK) as the former soccer star Dev. As the film begins he makes a successful penalty kick to win the game for his team, and to also earn a new $5 million dollar contract. But life often crushes dreams and takes us in a direction that is different from what we had expected. So following an unexpected event, Dev becomes a bitter and angry person.

He constantly chafes and gets angry, taking it out on his successful wife Rhea who is played by Preity Zinta (above) as well as his 5-year-old son, who as you might expect, is one of the cutest cinematic kids ever. Rhea is a big shot fashion magazine editor and is very successful at it. But Dev can’t handle it. Especially after she tells him that because of his circumstances, she is the one wearing the pants in this family.

Rani Mukerji stars as Maya Talwar. She’s married to Rishi Talwar played by Abhishek Bachchan (above) – actually she’s about to marry him near the beginning of the film, but she has some doubts – which are never made clear to us.

Dev and Maya meet as she sits on a park bench, dressed for her wedding ceremony, yet still contemplating whether or not go through with her wedding, which is due to start momentarily. Inexplicably, she is able to talk truthfully and honestly to Dev who is actually a complete stranger to her (his mother is the caterer of the wedding which explains why he is there). Seemingly the two of them hit it off. You can’t miss those double look backs made by each of them as they go their separate ways.

She goes through with the wedding. As for Dev, his life changes drastically moments after walking away from Maya.

Four years later they all meet accidentally, and we discover that both Dev and Maya are unhappy in their marriages. Dev is bitter, rude, and for the most part, a miserable person. His wife is the breadwinner, and Dev can’t get his mind around that fact.

Maya has a loving husband, Rishi, who is actually the most centered and positive character in the film. But for reasons still not made clear to us – Maya can’t get on the same page as Rishi. She can’t return his passion or love. Nor can she bear children.

So Karan has set us up for the inevitable marital infidelities. But things don’t go as expected. Ultimately they are discovered by Sam who is Rishi’s father and is played by Amitabh Bachchan (above), and Kamaljit who is Dev’s mother and is played by Kirron Kher. So they are required to make their confessions to their spouses. Instead of Maya and Dev strolling into the future, hand in hand, in a state of glorious love – they separate. And then find each other again. Then they separate again .. Johar keeps us guessing right up until then end of the film – which was fun, but also served to stretch the film out unnecessarily.

Is separating a punishment for breaking the sanctity of the marriage vows? Is this Karan’s way of deciding to tilt the playing field toward the more conservative Indian audience?

The film runs a bit more than three hours. It is a sumptuous visual feast. I wanted to see another Rani Mukerji film which is why I got my hands on this one. I was totally shocked to see that most of this film took place in New York. In fact, aside from the obvious landmarks like Grand Central Station, Central Park, Columbia University, the South Street Seaport, and the Supreme Courthouse steps on Foley Square, all of which become settings for either songs or a dialogue, the film also had a scene just one block from my former home in New York as well as a scene right outside of my former office. Those facts have nothing to do with the film – but seeing my former neighborhood and old workplace on-screen was indeed a pleasant surprise.

Since its release in ’06, the film has received a split decision from the viewers and the critics. Some folks love it, and others hated it. I’m going to give it a mixed review too. Nice to look at, hard to figure, too long, and not the least bit realistic. Johar has given us 4 lengthy and superb music videos and wrapped a story around them. The film is maybe 70 minutes too long, and they should have cut down on the number of scenes where Rani had to cry.

But despite all of that, I believe you should see it. It won’t give you much of an idea about the majority of films from India, or what life is like in India, or even what real life is like for the many folks from India who have moved to the USA and New York in particular.  But you will see a master of film-making at work even though this one won’t ever be called a masterpiece. For an idea of the marvelous beauty on display in a series of awesome shots, check the song in the music video below which also serves as a trailer. [edit – the m/v has been removed, look for it on youtube]

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3 thoughts on “Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (Never Say Goodbye)

  1. I’m a huge Rani fan, but this is the one movie where I spent more time screaming at her. I couldn’t really understand why she couldn’t make it work with Abhishek. However, like I say Karan knows best. This movie is interesting because its one of the very few times that the unethical person or persons are the ‘protagonists’. I remember the uproar when K Jo released it. I thought the end was weak. For a movie that was supposed to give you the ugly side of marriage, K Jo disappointed me by going for the happily ever after. Rishi’s marriage was weird. The movie is called never say goodbye, I don’t think they should have gotten their happily ever afters. I would have preferred an ambiguous maybe she did, maybe she didn’t ending to this one. But again Karan knows best. Actually I’m going to go watch it now. Good post!

    • Yes it was too long, and Rani’s character was too over-wrought, and KJo pulled out all the stops meaning he spared no expense- but it was such a glorious treat for the eyes.
      The colors, the sets, even the clothes – basically a visually unforgettable piece of movie making wrapped around a very forgettable story.

  2. Pingback: Who Thinks Before Marrying? KABHI ALVIDA NAA KEHNA | lovelyseasonscomeandgo

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