KANK generates hysterical response in media
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KANK generates hysterical response in media

While some call it a "morally corrupt plot", others are surprised as to why the audiences could not stomach it.

india Updated: Aug 25, 2006 18:24 IST

In the Technicolour world of Bollywood, Indian women and men lip-sync to mushy music, dance in lush locales, and endure a few painful moments before finding undying love.

Film director Karan Johar has mastered this formula of bubblegum romance so well that his films generate near-hysteria when they open.

His latest offering Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna opened last weekend to record collections and is set to be the biggest hit of the year so far, according to trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

The film raked in 720 million rupees ($15.5 million) in its first week worldwide, to beat this year's other top hits super hero romp Krrish and youth cult movie Rang de Basanti (Paint Me Saffron).

This time, however, not many in the audience appear happy with Johar straying from the familiar; his characters do walk into the sunset, but not before walking out on their marriages.

The hysteria has spilled over from the theatres and into television news studios, drawing rooms, and Internet weblogs with middle class, urban Indians shocked.

"It is a flawed and morally corrupt film," wrote Sanjeev on CNN-IBN television network's website.

"I just hope that vulnerable minds do not take the movie seriously and leave the marriage just because they are not 'feeling good'," he added.

The blockbuster offers all the trappings of the Johar trademark: nifty designer clothes, leading Bollywood stars playing Indian immigrants in New York City, extravagant dance sequences and lavish sets.

It's the story that many in the audience have found unpalatable.

The main character played by superstar Shah Rukh Khan is a bitter man in a loveless marriage with a glamorous magazine editor played by the dimple-faced Preity Zinta.

Rani Mukherjee, a Johar favourite, is married to an understanding man but their love lacks spark, which is rekindled when she gets drawn to Khan.

The two struggle to make their failing marriages work for three years, before striking up an affair and separating from their spouses.

Johar's latest outing is not the first Indian film to deal with infidelity. Arthouse films often have adulterous characters, and of late, many commercial films have explored the subject.

"But in other commercial films, the woman strayed and got back to her husband. Here, the film is seen as trivialising marriage," said Indu Mirani, editor of film website www.thirtymm.com.

"Women just can't understand why the leading woman left an adapting husband who gave her all she asked for."

Others such as celebrated writer Shobhaa De, who has written "Spouse: The Truth About Marriage" among other racy relationship bestsellers, said she was shocked that Indians could not stomach the story.

"People who are in marriages not as perfect as they would want are in fact the ones who have reacted with hostility. Everyone has seen a bit of their marriage in the film. We are a society in denial, clinging on to our values."

There are no official statistics to suggest that more urban Indian marriages are ending in failure. But marriage counsellors, normally unheard of in a country where families sort out relationships in-house, have sprouted in the past few years as couples breakaway from old patterns.

"People are articulating it (unhappiness in marriage) more these days, but it would be wrong to conclude that infidelity is on the rise," De says.

"Marriages are breaking up everywhere. It will happen here too, and it will hit India much harder because it is a deeply traditional society."

First Published: Aug 23, 2006 13:38 IST