Friday Classic (on Saturday): Kabhi Kabhi, All Love is True Love

I got sick, so things got a bit backed up and I had to move a few things around.  And therefore, Friday classics on Saturday!

This is just such a well-made movie.  There are 6 central couples, plus an extra couple characters.  And all of them have complex emotional backstories and conflicts and so on.  And all their conflicts inform the others.  Not like “this causes this”, but that we can see how their past experiences shaped who they are today, and therefore how they are reacting to what happens to others.

The problem with this film, or rather more like “challenge” I guess, is that none of these characters are exactly black and white.  We can’t say “this one is good, this one is bad”.  Because they are more complicated than that.  They are real people who got caught in difficult situations and have to react as best they can.  And they don’t always do the most well thought out thing, or the thing that will cause the least harm.

What makes it even more complicated is that a lot of the time what we are seeing the characters do is in conflict with what they are saying.  That is, the person who claims the most love is not in fact showing the most love.  The person who claims the greatest depth of feeling, does not display the greatest depth of feeling.  And the person who seems the most casual about everything might be the one who cares the most.

And so you come out of it discovering that our two clear “heroes” based on the explicit narrative have faded into shadow behind the one man who does nothing wrong through out the film, who is always open and loving and honest and generous.  Shashi, in other words.  And on the other hand Amitabh (who the other characters constantly refer to as worthy of pity and admiration), starts to appear more and more selfish, uncaring, and just plain dumb.  Essentially everyone’s overly dramatic college boyfriend that you are very grateful you didn’t end up marrying.

Which brings me to the plot!

 

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I casually mentioned months back in a different post that this is clearly the exception to the “just let the woman marry the man she loves” rule, since Raakhee was clearly much better off with Shashi.  And what I found surprising was that someone actually disagreed with me!  Because to me, it is just that obvious.

We open with Raakhee and Amitabh’s perfect love.  A magical first meeting, a smooth romantic line, dreamy walking through the woods, talk of spending their whole lives in love together.  And then BOOM! REALITY!  We cut straight to the titles, and Raakhee wedding to someone else.  All of that dreamy love talk, that’s all it was, dreaming.  It isn’t something that will turn into anything else.  It’s only after we see the wedding that we cut back to their discussion before the wedding.  Raakhee and Amitabh debating what she is going to do, and Amitabh finally saying that they can’t build their lives on her parents’ broken hearts, she has to marry the man they chose.

And then the rest of the film is a reflection on that “perfect love” at the opening.  How does it compare with Shashi’s cheerful easy happiness in marriage?  With Neetu and Rishi’s confident loud fall into love?  With Waheeda’s calm devotion to her husband?

And the answer is, not well!  There are all sorts of little moments about it.  Neetu runs off to find her birth mother, Rishi is unhappy, and Shashi challenges him, asking what kind of love he has if he isn’t willing to go after and fight for his love?  When Rishi is confronted with potentially being engaged to someone else, he and Neetu work through the situation together, and he never accepts the possibility of actually marrying someone else.  And all of this is building to that wonderful confrontation at the end, the two confrontations really, one where Waheeda questions Amitabh’s lack of forgiveness for her but forgiveness for himself, and the other where Shashi triumphally works through all his petty feelings to come out the other side having proven that his love is true.

You could of course watch it a different way.  You could say that all of these moments of “better” love simply increase the tragedy of Raakhee and Amitabh being separated.  That Rishi and Neetu, and Shashi, they all find their happiness so easily, partly thanks to Raakhee and Amitabh’s sacrifice.  You could also say that it is a statement on time passing, back when Amitabh and Raakhee fell in love, they had to separate.  But now things have moved forward and Rishi and Neetu can choose their own partners, with the full approval of their parents.  Or you could say that all those moments of passivity instead of action merely show how deep their feelings are buried, how far down they have to hide them.

But I reject those arguments!!!!  If Shashi’s love is “better” for Raakhee than Amitabh’s, then it means that Raakhee didn’t actually make a sacrifice, she won out in the end, there was no strange beauty in her love for Amitabh versus any other love.  It’s not a statement on time passing either, because nothing changes.  I mean, the clothes don’t change or the technology or even the way men and women interact, Amitabh and Raakhee fall in love in college just like Rishi and Neetu do.  And finally you could say that those moments of passivity show how deep their feelings are buried.  But in fact, I think, it is the opposite.  It is the loud proud out going types whose feelings are discounted.  We don’t think Shashi, or Rishi, or even Neetu, are capable of deeper emotions.  But in the end, it is these silly happy joking ones who reveal true devotion.

I suppose the meaning of the film closest to Yash’s pure intention, based on the message in the rest of his filmography and so on, is that all love is different.  Rishi and Neetu fall in love their way, Shashi in his, Amitabh in his.  Some people are capable of huge embracing love, Shashi who welcomes Raakhee, Rishi, Neetu, even Amitabh, into his heart equally.  And others only have deep seated love that they cannot shift, Amitabh and his narrow love for Raakhee and his daughter and no one else.  And some are almost ashamed of their love, Waheeda and Raakhee who bury it deep inside them, afraid to reveal it.  And then there’s Rishi, able to flirt with Naseem (Amitabh’s daughter), even kiss her, and suffer no pangs of guilt or feelings that he has been unfaithful, to be that confident in his love for Neetu and vice versa.  And there’s Neetu, able to put her love for her birth mother temporarily ahead of her love for Rishi.

There’s also just the flavors of love.  Parent for child, sister for sister, child for parent, everything represented.  And what happens when they conflict.

For Rishi and Shashi, it is simple.  Love can never conflict, because it is love.  Shashi can love his wife as his wife, as the mother of his child (one of his nicknames for her), and as herself.  He can love his son, and his wife, and his wife’s ex-lover.  And his son’s fiancee, and her parents, and her birth mother.  Rishi, he can love his girlfriend/fiancee, and his parents, and also this new girl he has just met, and his girlfriend’s birth mother and stepfather.  But the other characters, they struggle.  Neetu feels like she must choose between building a bond with her birth mother and Rishi.  Waheeda feels like she must choose between her husband and her secret daughter.  And so on and so on.  But the end of the film, it is a triumph for the Rishi and Shashi way of thinking.  That love is just love, and you shouldn’t try to limit it.

Which I guess is why it feels so clear to me that Amitabh is the villain of the film, if anyone is.  He fails to fight for his love in college.  He fails to commit and truly give love to his wife in the next 20 years, instead showering it on his daughter, the only place he feels like he is allowed to love.  And when this whole mess lands in his lap, his reaction is to run from it.  To run from his wife’s illegitimate daughter, his ex-girlfriend and her husband, even the young man he has come to hold in high regard as he stayed in their house, Rishi.  He sees love only in narrow limits, he let himself love Raakhee, but only so far, once she was married to someone else, he had to bury his feelings.  And then he had to punish himself for ever feeling love by cutting himself off from all love, symbolized by his poetry.  The wiser characters know that love matures, changes, just as people are supposed to.  Waheeda loved Neetu’s father, but now she loves Amitabh.  She loves Neetu, but she loves her other daughter too.  That is possible.  Raakhee loved Amitabh, but has a different kind of love and a different kind of life with Shashi.  Even Neetu knows that she can love two sets of parents.  It’s just Amitabh who is stunted and left back in that youthful backwards mindset.

Almost all of Yash Chopra’s work revolves around the contrast between “first love” and “settled love”.  Not “settling” love, that is something different.  But the love that is all passion and connection versus the love that is about building a life together.  The best love stories are of course a mixture of the two, that’s what Rishi and Sridevi have in Chandni, a passionate immediate connection that builds into shared jokes and plans and more than just that flush of love.  Or in Lamhe, Anil’s slow realization that he doesn’t just want Sridevi 2 because he has fun with her, but he is in fact also passionately in love with her.

In this film, Amitabh and Raakhee represent that passionate first love.  But it is a love that never really progresses beyond that passion.  He writes poetry, she watches him.  She asks about the future, he spins some gorgeous line about spending all their days and nights together.  And then there is her love with Shashi that never had that magical first love moment.  Raakhee was happy, we see her sincerely smiling on their honeymoon, and really every time she is with him, he always makes her happy.  But it’s not “magic”.  She doesn’t look up at him worshipfully.  He’s just there, her husband who is nice and (apparently) very very good in bed.

And Amitabh feels the same way about Waheeda.  She is just there, his wife.  He likes the life she has built for him, he likes her sewing on his buttons and raising his daughter and all of that.  But he doesn’t run to meet her, or smile when he sees her, or any of that.

In the penultimate sequence of the film, it all comes out.  Shashi overhears Raakhee and Amitabh talking and realizes that Raakhee was Amitabh’s lost love in college.  He doesn’t say anything at once, acts smiley and friendly while the audience waits for the explosion.  And it seems like there will be an explosion as he starts to fully unravel the nightmare, that he even made Raakhee recite Amitabh’s poems on their wedding night and starts laughing hysterically.  But after that scene, that’s when it takes a turn.  You see, Shashi doesn’t care.  He addresses it head on, this conflict, and dismisses it.  Raakhee has been a wonderful wife to him, why should he care what she did before?  And besides, it’s a compliment, his wife is so beautiful that another man loved her.  Shashi has revealed his amazing open-mindedness, that his happiness wasn’t just because he had never faced conflict in his life, but because he had a healthy ability to always see the lightest side and hold on to it.

And then Amitabh brings out his dreary insistence on the dark side.  Declares that Waheeda and Shashi have no idea of the pain he and Raakhee suffered, burying love with in them, trying to go on with their lives, etc. etc.  And Shashi’s reaction to all of this, rather than trying to argue in anyway, is simply to say “wah!” in appreciation and embrace Amitabh as his friend.  And it is this which gets Raakhee, finally, to look at him with love and worship and declare him a God.

Amitabh, still, is blind.  Not until the next day when the ridiculous action sequence happens (clearly Yashji wasn’t sure how to end this thing) does he see the truth.  All of these people are willing to risk themselves to save someone they love.  But at the end of it, it turns out, they all love everyone.  Rishi, Neetu, Naseem (Amitabh’s daughter), they aren’t rescued by the person who rode in there to save them, but by someone else entirely.  And, finally, Amitabh loosens his self-control, his standards, and realizes that he can let himself love his wife without taking anything away from his love for his first girlfriend.  And he can believe that she loves both him and her dead lover, each in their own way.  He was wrong.

Everyone in this movie has to change, to realize they were wrong in their first love.  Raakhee and Amitabh, obviously.  Also Waheeda, with her finding new happiness in marriage after the death of her first boyfriend.  And Shashi, who comes to a new understanding of his marriage.  Even Naseem, she loses Rishi and gains a sister.  Rishi and Neetu, they are the only ones with triumphant first love.  But that is because they fought through their own changes.  Going from happy easy romance, to sad angry fighting romance, with Rishi insisting that he is not going anywhere without her, and Neetu torn between conflicting loyalties.  Until they finally fight through to the other side, together.  The fight that our couple from the beginning, our dreamy romantic couple, was never a strong enough team to attempt.

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30 thoughts on “Friday Classic (on Saturday): Kabhi Kabhi, All Love is True Love

  1. Pingback: Film Reviews | dontcallitbollywood

    • Well, this is a bad example of that, because I just put up a post about it!

      The news items don’t necessarily get “missed”. I don’t want to talk about every item, sometimes it’s a conscious decision to not bring it up, because I don’t think it is worth talking about, or I don’t believe it. Part of the reason I like controlling content. If you mention it in a comment, I will research it and decide if I want to do a post on it, or if it is something that should be ignored.

      If you want me to talk about something, put a comment in “Wednesday Watching”, that’s what it is there for. People check the recent comments feed and will see it, certainly I will see it because I see everything.

      On Sat, Dec 16, 2017 at 10:29 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

  2. Having a crush on a recently deceased movie star isn’t creepy at all is it? 😆 Because I’m so all about Shashi at the moment. I watched the wedding night song where he’s beside himself with happiness and his wife is weeping because she’s still in love with Amitabh and it gave me all the feels 😭

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are not alone, I think we are all a little in love with Shashi right now! Definitely watch Kabhi Kabhi, it is such fun, and then you can decide if you agree with me that Shashi is the clear hero and Amitabh is the villain.

      On Sat, Dec 16, 2017 at 11:36 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I am sure there must have been others before, but at the moment this is the only one I can think of:

        On Sat, Dec 16, 2017 at 11:43 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • Mother India opening song. Nargis traveling as a bride, then arriving in her new home, finally hot hot Raajkumar unveiling her and sexiness implied.

            On Sat, Dec 16, 2017 at 12:36 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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          • More like horny horny! 😂

            Gosh no, this doesn’t even compare!!

            Kabhi Kabhi launched the suhaagraat song genre. I think many movies were made specifically to have a song like that which would make the soundtrack a hit and make lazy makers a lot of money!

            This is still what tv suhaagraat scenes aspire to be. We watched the film just the other day and I understood why I never liked it liked it. It was a grown up film. They literally go from just married early 20-somethings to being aunties and uncles. Yikes!! Beautiful film but I’ve been scarred by it when I was a kid!

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          • But such interesting aunties and uncles! I was so much more interested in their drama, than in the childish love triangle.

            On Sat, Dec 16, 2017 at 12:49 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  3. OMG SHASHI WAS AMAZING IN THIS MOVIE.
    OMG AMITABH WAS A SELF-PITYING PRICK IN THIS MOVIE.

    The scene at the end where Pooja is crying with gratitude and Shashi just smiles and embraces her, as in love and happy as ever, gah 😭😭😭

    Like

    • Amitabh is playing Everyone’s Terrible Self-Pitying Poet College Boyfriend That You Dump After He Forgets to Come to Dinner With Your Parents and Then Tries to Make Up for it by Writing You a Poem, while tragically Shashi is playing Husband So Wonderful He Doesn’t Exist in Reality We Just Wish He Did.

      On top of everything else, did you catch that while Amitabh’s reaction to Neetu is “Oh yuch, illegitimate”, Shashi’s was “oh, she’s adopted? Wonderful! How lucky that we were all able to have this happy presence in our lives!”

      On Sat, Dec 16, 2017 at 5:49 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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      • I did catch that! Shashi was all “Welcome to the family!” and didn’t care a bit about her background. But Amitabh was an unwelcoming jerk to Neetu even when he thought she was just a niece. Amitabh was just a jerk period and that reconciliation at the end didn’t redeem him 😒

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        • It seemed kind of unbelievable at first that Waheedaji could just invent this random niece that Amitabh had never heard of. But then you get to know Amitabh and you realize he probably never bothered to learn anything about any of Waheeda’s family, or really anything to do with her life besides her ability to sew on buttons and bear his child.

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    • Oh, and if you feel the need to see Amitabh as a self-pitying playwrite instead of poet, you can watch Silsila. Or self-pitying singer, there’s Abhimaan.

      Or if you want to see him slowly sink into sadness and pointlessness after a lifetime of being the patriarch, you can watch Baghban.

      If you feel the need to watch Shashi being AWESOME, you can watch any Shashi movie except for Satyam Shivam Sundaram. He did it as a favor to his brother, and it’s really not his kind of role, it’s more of a “superficial jerkface” kind of role.

      On Sat, Dec 16, 2017 at 5:49 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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        • You will have to forget Kabhi Kabhi a bit for it, watch out! The character’s are very similar, only Shashi’s love interest is Neetu (his daughter-in-law in Kabhi Kabhi and niece by marriage in real life). And Amitabh’s self-pity is justified instead of put on.

          But it’s brilliant and Shashi wears a police uniform!

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  4. Pingback: Honeymoon Songs, Just For Fun | dontcallitbollywood

  5. Thank you for reviewing this!! I love Shashi Kapoor and you’re right -this was one time when the heroine was better off for not marrying her lover. What angers me more about Amitabh’s character is how lovingly he looks at Rakhee even when they meet after so many years. And he can’t summon up half that warmth for his wife. Also, from the very first time he sees Neetu, he has an instant dislike for her. Rishi’s character did leave me confused though, he was misleading Naseem right? Or maybe that was the point. Also climax was so bizarre! 😀

    Either way Shashi makes everything all right!

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    • What really killed me was how loving he was towards Rishi! First because he saw himself in Rishi, another aggressive ambitious male who might marry his daughter. And then there is that moment when he finds out that Rishi is Raakhee’s son and suddenly gets all warm towards him. Unlike Neetu, daughter of his own wife, who he sees as an enemy.

      I think Rishi’s character was cheerfully misleading Naseem, but didn’t really care because he was just doing whatever he needed to stay close to Neetu. More importantly, he didn’t really realize how seriously she was taking it until Neetu warned him. He thought he was just flirting with her a little so she would make her father keep him around, he didn’t realize she was picturing marriage. And once he found out, he started backing off.

      On Mon, Dec 18, 2017 at 3:39 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:

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  6. Pingback: Biggest Filmi Death of 2017: Editor’s Choice, Have to Go With Shashiji | dontcallitbollywood

  7. Pingback: Happy Birthday Waheedaji! A Dozen Reasons I Love You | dontcallitbollywood

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