Will 'Kabhi Alvida...' give NRIs their due?Aug 7, 2006 Priyanka Khanna
New Delhi, Aug 6 (IANS) The bourgeoning Indian Diaspora around the world is finally set to get a better representation in a Hindi film after decades of stereotypes.
It is hoped that ace Bollywood filmmaker Karan Johar in his yet another attempt at portraying non-resident Indians (NRIs) on 70-MM with "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" (KANK) will break the mould.
Starting from "Pardes", to "Mujhse Dosti Karoge", to "Ramji Londonwaley", and even so-called art house films, dream merchants of Mumbai studios have depicted most NRIs as not so good compared to Indians.
Invariably, they are shown as people who get cleansed when they return to their roots and once here they never leave.
New Yorker Anitha Venkataramani put it aptly in her observation that in Bollywood the Indian-American guy is always one of two types.
Either the boy is a rich, amoral and a womaniser whose parents are looking for a girl from India to fix him - for instance Apurva Agnihotri's character in 'Pardes', or a rich MBA who only wants a girl from India - like Hrithik Roshan's character in "Mujhse Dosti Karoge" or Abhishek Bachchan in "Kuch Naa Kaho".
The Indian-American girl also comes in two types - rich and amoral with a serious alcohol problem - for instance Suman Ranganathan's character in "Aa Ab Laut Chalen" and skimpily-dressed Kareena Kapoor in "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" and Rani Mukerji in "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" - or rich and beautiful with a wardrobe comprising entirely of salwar-kameezes and an affinity towards India - like Kajol's character in "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge".
Additionally, more often than not, it takes a hardcore character from India to teach 'these Americans' what the true values of life are and how only Indians understand them.
In "Pardes," the goody two-shoes character of Arjun, played by Shah Rukh Khan, is characterised as the 'pure desi' at heart who is so moral he does not smoke or drink like the other immoral Indian-Americans around him.
In "Kal Ho Naa Ho," we witness Aman Mathur (Shah Rukh again) coming from India and teaching Naina Kapur how to 'have fun' in her life. Which consists of drinking shot after shot of hard liquor, stripping her clothes off and dancing provocatively with several men at once.
Of course, this is what every Indian-American must consider 'fun' in the confused and stereotyped world of Yash Raj Films and Mukta Arts.
"So these Indian filmmakers need to make up their mind: Are 'cool' Indian-Americans supposed to be more like Arjun or like Aman? Also, time and again, Indians living abroad (specifically in the US and Britain) speak typically Indian-accented English and wear clothes that do not reflect styles in Europe or the (United) States in any way," says Venkataramani.
Johar's mega-budget "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna" is set entirely in New York. Starring Bollywood's A-list actors - Shah Rukh, Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukerji, Abhishek, Preity Zinta - the film is set for release Friday.
Hopefully, the film that deals with infidelity will give us a view of people living there who don't all drink and go wild at parties with barely any clothes on. Who don't all look down upon the Indian culture and are not all amoral. Also, bring out a lot of aspects of the American culture that are wholesome.
Johar has always tasted success with all his films - right from his assistant director days in "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" to his directorial ventures "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" and "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham" to his productions "Kal Ho Naa Ho".
This would be the first time that a Johar film takes up a topic like extramarital affair. Tellingly, Johar had to base the story out of India.
Apparently, he still believes that Indian married men do not betray their wives and had to make an NRI do it. Nonetheless, the promos of the film seem to suggest that he has got some other aspects of NRIs in New York right. Can't wait to see.
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Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna