Too bad real-life couple Aishwarya Rai and Vivek Oberoi fail to strike many special sparks in their first screen pairing, a generally pleasurable romantic comedy with sufficient good moments. After a strong opening Aug. 13, pic has performed below expectation in India and overseas.

Too bad real-life couple Aishwarya Rai and Vivek Oberoi fail to strike many special sparks in their first screen pairing, “Kyun! Ho gaya na …,” a generally pleasurable romantic comedy with sufficient good moments. After a strong opening Aug. 13, pic has performed below expectation in India and overseas, confirming that Rai’s pulling power is only as good as her material and co-star. However, Bollywatchers will want to check this one out.

Helmer Samir Karnik’s first feature, on which Oberoi had some input at screenplay level, is one of several recent Bollywood pics in which plot mechanics are secondary to characterization. Basically a series of riffs between a girl looking for love and a boy who won’t acknowledge love even when it stares him in the face, film is weakened by the leads’ so-so chemistry (largely down to Oberoi’s lack of screen heft) and Karnik’s inexperienced direction.

Rai plays Diya Malhotra, who works at an orphanage in the coffee plantation region of Coorg, where she’s been raised by her father (Tinnu Anand) since her mom’s death. Also in Coorg, taking part in a motor race, is spoiled rich kid Arjun Khanna (Oberoi). The two first meet by chance on a train to Mumbai, where Diya is going to take an exam and Arjun has been summoned by his folks. (Helmer Karnik pops up on the train in a cameo as an obnoxious film director.)

Surprise, surprise, Diya finds herself staying at the home of Arjun’s parents (reliable vets Om Puri and Rati Agnihotri), friends of her dad, and the elders on both sides would like to see the kids matched up. Alas, Diya’s philosophy is “no pyaar (love), no shaadi (marriage)” and Arjun’s oft-repeated mantra is “Love and defeat are not in Arjun’s vocabulary.”

In an unbelievable development, Diya finds herself actually warming to the superficial Arjun. However, in several clever tropes (which prefigure the climactic one), Arjun seems to be just a born prankster, and he’s stunned when she lets slip her love for him.

Thanks to Rai’s perf, this lead-up to the intermission has some emotional power. In part two, in a typical Bollywood maneuver, the main plot is left to cool for a while as the focus shifts to Diya’s kindly boss, orphanage head Raj Chauhan (Amitabh Bachchan, in comic mode). Central story regains momentum in the final half-hour, with the usual twists and setbacks.

Musical numbers are well staged (a cross-cut hoe-down intro’ing the leads, a techno-rock nightclub routine, a wet-sari number shot in a U.K. village) and some individual scenes carry weight (a drunk Arjun and Raj overheard by Diya). But too often Karnik’s direction is only adequate when it needs to be more shaped for such mercurial material.

Tech package and production values are fine, though not superslick, with considerable use of direct sound recording. Title roughly means “Look What’s Happened Now!”

Kyun! Ho Gaya Na. . .

India

Production

An Eros Intl. release (in U.K./U.S.) of a Surinder Kapoor presentation of a Narsimha Enterprises production. (International sales: Eros, London.) Produced by Boney Kapoor. Directed by Samir Karnik. Screenplay, Karnik, Rajesh Soni, Milap Zaveri, Tushar Hiranandani, Vivek Oberoi.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Sudeep Chatterjee; editors, Sanjay Sankla, Sanjib Dutta; music, Shankar, Ehsaan & Loy; lyrics, Javed Akhtar; production designer, Samir Chanda; associate art director, Sunil Nigvekar; costume designer, Vikram Phadnis; sound (Dolby Digital), Resul Pookutty, Anup Dev; choreographers, Raja Sundaram, Vaibhavi Merchant, Piyush Panchal; action director, Allan Amin; assistant director, Ajit Ahuja. Reviewed at Odeon Wimbledon 2, London, Aug. 19, 2004. Running time: 172 MIN. (I: 92 MIN.; II: 80 MIN.).

With

Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Vivek Oberoi, Om Puri, Rati Agnihotri, Tinnu Anand, Suniel Shetty, Diya Mirza, Samir Karnik. (Hindi dialogue)
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