Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Kismat Konnection: Fated to Bore!

Here is a re-post of a review I wrote last year. Since KK came out, Vidya Balan and Shahid Kapoor have both had critically acclaimed roles and their Bollywood stock (so to speak) has risen. I think people will look back on this and think... "Oh, yeah, that's that one film where Vidya and Shahid were paired together. How weird."



Before I get into things in detail, let me first state that
Kismat Konnection is a perfectly acceptable romantic-comedy. That said, it could have been a lot better if it had played to the strengths of the entire cast, rather than hanging the narrative purely on the (though adorable, yes) shoulders of Shahid Kapoor.

Let me also state for the record that I once performed in a community theatre production of
Kismet as one of the dancing princesses. The show features a lovely song called “Fate” which is sung by the poet hero at the towards the beginning of the show when his quick wit gets him into trouble.

"I sat down, feeling desolated, bowed my head and crossed my knees--Is fortune really predicated upon such tiny turns as these? Then Fate's a thing without a head. A puzzle never understood, and man proceeds where he is led, unguaranteed of bad or good.

Fate!
Fate can be a trap in our path,
The bitter cup of your tears,
Your wine of wrath!"


It’s not every day I get to say that a Broadway show has a more subtle approach to the idea of fate or “luck” than a Bollywood movie – today, I am saying it.

Kismat Konnection is the story of Raj, a struggling architect. Raj’s biggest problem, however, is that this is the first time he’s had to work for anything. He coasted through college with high honors only to realize that in the working world, konnections are more important than talent and it looks like the job building a mega-mall will be going to the boss’s nephew – although I’m not 100% sure if he was a nephew or a just family friend – instead of to him.

First of all, let me say that the idea of “luck” as shown in the narrative
could have been, potentially, a sharp and witty commentary on the meet-cute relationships that often develop in romantic-comedies. The potential to be a self-aware romantic-comedy, something like Jaan-e-Mann, was utterly squandered by the plodding narrative and dialogues. Raj’s situation, is not shown as something that all recent college graduates – unless they have filmi connections – go through as the closed universe of college and high school, with the firm set of rules and measurable standards for achievement give way to the murky and confusing world of adulthood. Rather than even hinting at this, that “luck” is really bullshit and it’s how you live your life that is what counts, the narrative plays it straight. Raj’s failure (or what he perceives as failure) now is "bad luck" – because he “deserves” to succeed because he did well in school. A moral right out of a *gasp* Hollywood playbook! (And this movie kind of read like it was ripped from Hollywood. I don't see enough rom-coms to know, so somebody will have to tell me!)

The key to turning Raj’s luck from bad to good is his One True Love – Priya (Vidya Balan, utterly wasted in this role). Let me address concerns that Vidya looked “too old” to be paired opposite Shahid Kapoor. Yes, Vidya did look mature but she appeared to be – get this – about the same age as Shahid in the film. The only way she looked “too old” for the role is if you believe that all heroines need to be approximately 10-20 years younger than the hero and if that’s the case, you better start getting some baby-faced 17-year olds to act opposite Shahid. As it was, they both appeared to be in their late 20s/early 30s, which seems an entirely reasonable match to me.

But poor, poor Vidya Balan was given almost nothing to do except act as the object of Shahid’s affection. Vidya, when given
anything to work with, charmed up the screen with some nice chemistry with Shahid. There are a couple of moments towards the end that are particularly nice – especially a tribute to a certain scene from Parineeta (which I think deserves a re-watch). And Shahid plays lovelorn with his own certain genius, but the script let them both down most of the time, with the romance falling flat.

The other female character is Juhi Chawla as a crazy gypsy woman and she is also used to poor effect. The clever deus-ex-machina of a mystical television-ad gypsy would have been much more cute and witty if the idea of Raj’s bad “luck” hadn’t been played so straight. I could see the glimmers of the film I wished it had been in Juhi’s character. Imagine, if you will, a guy who coasted through college with high honors only to find that the real world wasn’t giving him what he wanted. “This must just be my cursed fate because obviously, I deserve success.” He thinks. This leads him to a hocus-pocus television-gypsy who strings him along with predictions of his fate that come true, just not in the way that he wants! Along the way, he can discover that real “luck” is self-made and nothing comes for free. There are so many more plot twists and turns that can come from a bit more self-awareness in a narrative like this – or where the “bad luck” isn’t literal “bad luck” but coming from his own mind.

More free agency on the part of the characters can never be a bad thing… it makes their choices and “luck” all that much more interesting. Or even playing on the idea that good “luck” isn’t always the best thing that could happen. What if Raj’s “luck” had landed him with the daughter of the guy running the company and he decided to give her (and the nice job) up to be with Priya instead?! That would have made for both a more clever and more satisfying film.

As it was, like I said at the beginning,
Kismat Konnection is okay. The songs are good - especially the one with my girl Hard Kaur - and it has some cute Shahid moments but it never rises about the level of throw-away romantic-comedy.

2 comments:

Cindy said...

Too bad they didn't have you work on the script -- I think it would have been a much better movie that way. I liked it alright, but it could have been a lot better.

Bombay Talkies said...

I made it as far as the pool table scene, where Shahid excitedly (and Shahrukh-ly?--the monologue reminded me so much of many of SRK's way-too-long bits) describes the way the ball is going to end up in the pocket. As much as I love him, after that scene I just couldn't take any more.

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