Love Discussion Post, KHNH Based

Kal Ho Na Ho has come up remarkably often in the comments as we talk about our ideal version of a love story. So I want to use it as kind of a jumping off point for a greater discussion.


Preity and Saif are best friends. Preity has a difficult home life, her father killed himself and her mother and grandmother are constantly fighting. And her younger brother is disabled. Preity is grumpy and not interested in romance or happiness or anything, just getting through the day. Saif is cheerful and always flirting with woman while Preity roles her eyes.

Then, Shahrukh appears. He moves in next door to Preity’s family and falls in love with her at first sight. He teases her and makes her smile, gets her out of her shell and happy again. And finally she discovers she has woken up to love with him. But, it can never be. Shahrukh lies to her that he is already married, breaking her heart, but in reality he is dying and that is why he is pushing her away.

Meanwhile, Saif has come to love Preity. He is depressed because she loves Shahrukh, but Shahrukh convinces him that he can still win her over. He asks her to take dance lessons with him, she starts to smile, they laugh together, and finally he proposes, aware that her heart is still with Shahrukh but wanting to make her happy as best he can anyway.

Before the wedding, Preity learns the truth, that Shahrukh is dying. And she realizes that means he does love her, just as she loves him, but he is forcing her to marry someone else. Saif learns the truth too, and after at first considering calling off the wedding, decides to go through with it because he loves Preity enough to marry her knowing she is in love with another man. Ten years later, we find Preity and Saif still together and seemingly happily married, although they still think of Shahrukh.


So, the first time I watched this movie, when I was 19, I was HEARTBROKEN. Preity had her perfect magical wonderful love at first sight that she would never get over, and instead she was forced to marry boring weird funny friend guy. At the time, I desperately wanted Preity to marry Shahrukh and have a few months with him and then live with his memory for the rest of her life. One love, true love, nothing else is worth it.

As I got older, I had a different take on it. Yes, Shahrukh was Preity’s One True Love, but the rest of her life was built in such a way that she truly did HAVE to get married. Her family was horrible and she was trapped in their house. She needed to get out, find someone who could love and care for her, someone who could take care of her instead of her taking care of everyone else, start a new life. Maybe Shahrukh leaving her all his money and a charity school in India that she could run would have had the same effect, but marrying Saif isn’t bad. She gets to start a fresh life, she gets a clean escape from the complications of her family, Shahrukh is leaving her in a far better position than where he found her. At 19, I wasn’t able to fully appreciate what Preity’s life would have been like in that house as a widow, forever solving arguments between her mother and her grandmother, raising her sister, eventually becoming the sad poor relation living with her brother. She needed to get out and start fresh somehow, falling in love with a dying man wasn’t the only problem in her life and marrying a dying man wouldn’t have solved all those other things.

This is such an interesting movie, because it gives us the woman who is supposed to be miserable with a broken heart, but instead she picked herself up and has a job and a life and is doing fine. Only, I don’t think Preity in KHNH could have done that, not with the situation she was in, she needed some big change in order to start fresh.

And now I am very very old and I have come to a whole new level of understanding. Late in the film Jaya talks to Preity and tells her to marry Saif, because he is the better man. And she’s right! Shahrukh falls in love at first sight, sweeps into her life and makes her smile, makes her feel confused and happy and unhappy and all kinds of things. But Saif was there all along. Yes, he isn’t charming and confident like Shahrukh, but he is a really good friend. He makes her smile too, in his own way, and he has been making her smile for over a year while they are in class together. He knows her, and she knows him, and they still like each other even after knowing each other well. When she is embarrassed by her family, he is the one she turns to for support (inviting him over for family dinner to pretend to be her boyfriend). And he stands by her, all along, he is always her friend whether they are “just friends”, or he is in love with her and knows she doesn’t feel the same way, or he is in love with her and knows that she knows. He has many times to turn away, to say “this is too hard”, but his feelings are strong enough to keep him going through it all. Their love story isn’t about a magical love at first sight, and it isn’t about giving her a good enough option to rescue her from her life situation, it is about the best possible love and the best possible life.

The last time they did this kind of triangle, Saif was the true love option. But it had the same ending, they fell in love at first sight and had all the magic, but the guy who sticks by through thick and thin is the better love.

Which isn’t to say that Shahrukh couldn’t have given her all those things too. They barely knew each other, but there was something there. If he hadn’t been dying, if they had been able to spend more time together, what they had could have grown into what she and Saif had. But what she and Saif had (in my current feeling of the movie) was far more valuable than what she and Shahrukh had already. The spark, the magic joy of love, that’s easy and quick. Having someone you can tell all your secrets too, you can always rely on, who will always be there for you, that is hard.

Indian film is big on the “magical love at first sight” kind of story, but it is also really good at the other kind of story. The love triangle where it is the safe sane marriage love that lasts, that is better. Whether that is because the marriage love promises a better happier life overall (Jeet, for instance, Karisma really really should not have married murdering thug Sunny Deol), or because the love at first sight didn’t have much more behind it (Manmarziyaan, where it was just chemistry between them and nothing else), or because the love with the safe sane person you know well is ultimately deeper than the quick passionate love with a stranger (my feeling about Silsila and Kabhi Kabhi).

They meet when he breaks into her house to beat up her father, but then sees her pretty eyes and stops. DON’T MARRY THIS MAN KARISMA!!!! THIS IS NOT HUSBAND MATERIAL!!!

Anyway, that’s where I am at. Where are you? Either using Kal Ho Na Ho, or some other film, what’s your feeling about the magical quick perfect love versus the sane love based on mutual interests and friendship?  Or do you have a totally different take on this sort of love triangle?


14 thoughts on “Love Discussion Post, KHNH Based

  1. When I was a teenager, I sort of believed in love at first sight, but also found the idea kind of scary. After all, who really wants to be so overwhelmed by emotions that they lose control or all common sense? After experiencing lots of crushes (that did feel the way I thought love at first sight would), meeting and falling (growing?) in love with my husband was so much better that it is hard for me to see the LAFS stories in the same way. If they are well- done, I can suspend disbelief and enjoy them as entertainment. But for really deep appreciation and enjoyment, give me a real, complicated, love story between two humans, any time,


    • I don’t think LAFS stories are ruining the world or anything, but it is a little bit playing into unhealthy relationship fantasies, isn’t it? That the crush euphoria is what we should be searching for, and then you end up missing or discounting the other kinds of love. And of course, they can also be super boring just from a narrative perspective, because there isn’t any push and pull in the story. Unless you have something AWESOME like Magadheera where they take the whole “love at first sight” idea and just turn it on its head in a crazy way.

      On Fri, Feb 15, 2019 at 1:02 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  2. I’m not sure I think there are such things as different kinds of romantic love. Unless we say there are as many ways to fall in love and be in love as there are people. Like Shah Rukh with his co-stars, I fall in love every once in a while. That didn’t stop when I got married. Also like him (or at least as he says) I don’t act on it. That’s one reason I can’t get into DTPH–the whole “one lid ONLY for every pot” thing. That’s just not how humans work. Or maybe I’m just a floozy. 🙂

    I think Aman falls into the “too good to be true” sort of character. He is an angel, after all. So of course he falls in true love with Naina and she with him. It’s hard to know how he’d be in a longer term relationship because we don’t really ever see him do anything for himself. Pretty sure that would lead to a psychotic break eventually.

    Rohit is not a shy person at all–he’s very outgoing, flirty, and sure of himself. But only til his feelings are on the line, then he gets scared. And of course Aman is there to help him through that–encouraging, cajoling, and finally yelling at him. 🙂

    Such an odd parallel with Naina’s father committing suicide, then her first love dying. What was that about? At any rate I hope Rohit outlives her. And kudos to Preity for convincing us of so many different and complicated emotions, with her family, and both of the men she loves.


    • I hadn’t thought about Naina’s father and Shahrukh together before. Maybe it was just a narrative coincidence? Because I think we were supposed to get the message that Naina’s life as a young widow would not be great, and we can look to her mother to see that. Not in the usual way where it is all about society making the widow miserable, but in the basic reality of the situation. Jaya is lonely and sad all the time, and she is left with responsibilities from her marriage and no one to help her with them. If Preity had married Shahrukh and then been widowed, maybe she would be left with a child, maybe she would be left with debts, maybe she would be left responsible for his mother for the rest of her life. It’s just a hard thing to survive. And we had her mother saying to her “marry the other man, don’t wait for the man who is dying” as the one character who would really know what it is like to marry the man you love and then be heartbroken.

      I think I agree with your version of falling in love. I think there are many people in the world who can spark a feeling of attraction and happiness and connection and so on from us. But the real test is if you can stick it out and stay together day after day. One thing I’ve seen in long term (good) couples is that, at the start there may have been many people for you, but after 10-20-30 years together you have grown around each other, you fill each others’ gaps, and the versions of yourselves that you are now truly may not be able to find happiness with anyone else. Or at least not the same depth of happiness, you can still fall in love/lust with anyone, but you will have to wait 10 years before you build up the same sort of connection you have with the person you already know. Or of course the opposite, the couples who grow into different people and the versions of themselves they are now truly cannot find happiness any more with the person they are with. But that first “good” version, that’s why it is worth while to work at the long term relationships and not run after falling in love every five minutes, because you can end up with something so much deeper at the end of it.

      When I watch Indian movies, I often translate their “magic of love” moments into “in a society where men and women are never allowed to be romantic, this is the first time these people might have been thrown together in a way that allows for romance”. You know? And it is read as “one and only” love because there just aren’t enough opportunities to ever feel it again, or even feel it more than that one time. And if the couple feels that love and elopes and builds and marriage and so on, that’s great! But I can also believe that they might never get to act on it, move on in life, and 2 years later discover they have just as strong feelings for someone else. Or never get to act on it, and then never end up with the proper propinquity to someone of the opposite sex to have the chance to feel these feelings again. Does that make sense? Your college romance is your one true romance, just because after college you never got to spend time with age mates of the opposite sex again and discover that you can have those feelings for multiple people.

      In Indian movies, too often it feels like the message is “the magic of the nuptial fire made them fall in love and she forgot the other man”. But if you remove that part of it, it’s really a very sensible view of things. Kabhi Kabhi, Manmarziyaan, Jeet, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, there is a little back and forth at the start, but it ends in a place of falling in love with someone else just like humans do and moving on from the first love. Jeet is really interesting, she is in love with someone completely inappropriate but the film shows them as passionately in love swearing to be together forever. And then her father gets sick, and the very appropriate and familiar family friend Salman shows up and her father guilts them into getting married. She goes on the honeymoon with him and decides she needs to forget the first love, and then she does! By the end of the honeymoon, she is as in love with her husband as she ever was with the other guy, and when she sees the other guy again, she feels sympathy and kindness for him, but the love is just completely gone. It’s not the magic of the nuptial fire, it’s that she decided to move on and then did and fell just as much in love with someone else.

      In Kal Ho Na Ho, I feel like the title song is showing us Preity beginning to catch feelings for Saif, but without having let go of her feelings for Shahrukh yet. She really does love both men, she just romantically loved Shahrukh longer, and platonicly loved Saif longer.

      On Fri, Feb 15, 2019 at 1:28 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • All very well said. The love of long time partners is a very special thing, for sure. Hopefully romantic love stays in the mix, but it is just one element of a much more complex bouquet. Or that’s how it feels to me.

        I never really gave much thought to what might happen to Naina if she married Aman or didn’t marry either. I’m pretty passive in a way, I just go with the story as they tell it. (Unless there is a terrible injustice like the ending of JTHJ, and then I just ignore the parts I don’t like!) Interesting points though about her mom being a widow giving her lots to think about in terms of marrying Aman.


        • I started thinking about Preity’s life marrying Aman just because all the characters in the film seemed to look at the idea of marriage as impossible, not just Aman but his mother and Preity’s mother and everyone never even suggested it once they knew he was sick. At 19, I was picturing their marriage as happy-happy for as long as they had and not worrying about tomorrow. But as I got older and watched the movie again, I started seeing the little things showing why her young widowhood would not have been the best for her. He doesn’t have any family around to help her (compared to Saif’s big loving family). His mother is struggling to take care of his healthcare and it is hurting their relationship, why put Preity through the same heartbreak? And she is already living in a household of widows who are miserable and trapped, why make her yet another widow in misery?

          On Fri, Feb 15, 2019 at 2:49 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  3. I don’t think that romantic love has to lead to marriage…and yes, why not falling in love with others, after the first love?
    Why should Naina marry Aman? To have him in her heart is fine and she can also love Rohit.
    It pained me for Aman who simply could not marry Naina knowing that he would not be able to support her in her further life. The only thing he could have done is asking Rohit if he would care for Naina (and a possible kid) after his death…and then Rohit and Naina could have married. He did not because Rohit first had to learn to love Naina, so Aman had to push him hence he couldn’t ask for such a favour.
    Well, in the next life they’ll meet, it will be Aman who gets Naina.

    And we know now that Anushka is rewarded in getting ShahRukh in Zero…


    • Now that I think about it, poor Preity NEVER gets Shahrukh! He dies, or ends up in jail for 20 years!!!! Hopefully they will be cast together again sometime and actually get a happy ending.

      If Preity married Shahrukh and then Saif, there is also the issue of time. They marry, Shahrukh dies, she grieves, it’s another 2-5 years before Preity and Saif can start their lives together and be happy. That’s a lot to ask of Saif, to sit around waiting for two years. And a lot to risk, that Saif might fall in love with someone else, or Preity might get sucked into her family responsibilities and refuse to marry. This was the right time for her to marry, there was a man who loved her who would make her a wonderful husband, why not?

      I think that’s something else that has changed as I have gotten older. When I was 19, I thought time was endless. What difference did it make if Preity and Shahrukh married, he died, she grieved, and maybe she and Saif got together 5 years later? Everything will always stay the same and life is endless. But now, that 5 years feels like a lot to lose and a lot to risk. A lot can change in 5 years which might make Saif and Preity marrying no longer viable, and 5 years is a long time to be lonely and miserable waiting to marry the man you will end up with anyway.

      On Fri, Feb 15, 2019 at 3:37 PM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



  4. I hate when people refer to KHNH as the movie where the “loser” of the love triangle finally gets the girl. Rohit was such a sweet character and as much as I love Aman, I do think that Naina & Rohit really were the best couple in the movie. Like you said, it’s important to recognize stable, loving relationships over simple highs of passion and excitement. Can you think of any other films that show the best friend to lovers trope well ( Ik Niram, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, and KKHH -although I don’t love the romance of this movie- fall into that category)?


    • Good question! Hum-Tum kind of does that, only we see the whole journey from strangers to friendly acquintances to close friends only at the end. Hmm, what else? Too often it seems like the trope is rejected, things like KANK that say “marrying your best friend doesn’t work”. Bunty Aur Babli is kind of the same thing I guess, they are certainly friendly before falling in love.

      Maybe it is just that those are hard plots to write? You don’t have the usual structure of meeting-conflict-fall in love. You have to somehow transition from best friends to lovers without the usual plot movements. Oh! I thought of another one!!! A classic one, Prem Rog. They handle the conflict there by making them best friends who like each other, but different caste/class positions so they don’t seriously consider romance until a bunch of other stuff happens.


      • Thanks I’ll look into your recommendations! I think I started Hum-Tum and never finished it earlier. I also like the plots where they just have an established friendship before it changes romance like Jab We Met?


        • Socha Na Tha! If you haven’t watched it, you should. It’s the first draft for Jab We Met, kind of, and it’s delightful. Two people meet and don’t think they are falling in love, but they are. It was a bit of a sleeper hit when I was in college, but you don’t hear it talked about much any more.

          On Thu, Apr 18, 2019 at 10:06 AM dontcallitbollywood wrote:



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.