16 Years of Kal Ho Naa Ho: A memorable love triangle that came out at the right time
Shah Rukh Khan, Preity Zinta and Saif Ali Khan made Kal Ho Naa Ho a truly unforgettable cinematic experience
It's appropriate that Nikkhil Advani's Kal Ho Naa Ho came out in 2003, when the language of cinema began to change and transform towards style and scale. Farhan Akhtar's Dil Chahta Hai became an immediate trendsetter and aspiring filmmakers wanted to narrate similar stories about friendship and love. Three weeks before Rajkummar Hirani made his directorial debut with Munna Bhai M.B.B.S., Advani made his in what remains one of his most accomplished films yet.
2003 also happens to be the right time for the existence of Kal Ho Naa Ho due to the relevance of its leads. Shah Rukh Khan was the infallible charmer, both on and off the celluloid, Preity Zinta's dimples dominated the marquee, and Saif Ali Khan rediscovered his aura post the Dil Chahta Hai cult. It's impossible for the story of Aman, Naina, and Rohit to exist with the same actors in 2019.
We can surely imagine the retelling of the same narrative with a newer bunch of actors. Ranbir Kapoor seems to be the best bet to portray the role of Aman, the mysterious protagonist who magically arrives in the lives of an emotionally broken family and transforms Naina into a chirpy soul. Ranveer Singh could be Rohit, whose existence at first seems to be merely for comic relief, but turns dramatic when he realises he's in love with the same girl he always mocked for her lack of appeal.
And Deepika Padukone is the only actress who could be Naina, and it has to do a lot with her drastic similarities to the Naina she essayed in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. And after seeing her in Tamasha as Tara, there are only few like her who can make pain and anguish palpable. But this casting coup would take time to turn into a reality or might not. Let's go back to the whimsical world Advani created in New York 16 years ago.
Kal Ho Naa Ho could be gazed with a critical lens in today's changing times, when the portrayal of romance has to be dealt with caution and care, the "6 Din Ladki In" gag would elicit as much criticism as laugher, having said that, it also remains a formidable take on love and passion largely due to the performances and direction. This is what the film will be remembered for:
1. The Heartbreaking Confession
In one of the film's most important and moving scenes, Aman reads out the blank pages of Rohit's diary to soothe a furious Naina. His pretense fails as we sense this is his heart talking to the woman he passionately loves. His tears reflect the heartbreaking reality that his illness will never allow him to embrace her for a lifetime. The speech ends with this line- I'll love you till death and even after death. Who but Shah Rukh Khan could have made this believable?
2. The Jolting Reality
We are told about Aman's illness at the interval point, but Naina and Rohit discover this horror right towards the end. Aman never wanted Naina to know his brutal truth, but fate and Hindi cinema tropes would have never allowed that. They both meet in emotionally broken states and hug each other one last time. Naina may be getting married to Rohit, but somewhere deep down, you wanted this to be the film's end, and that too a happy one.
3. The Last Encounter
Aman is about to wave goodbye very soon, and Naina comes to see him. He cracks a joke, she smiles, and then goes out to weep uncontrollably. You, sitting in the cinemas, despite knowing the intention of emotional manipulation, cannot help but weep with and for her too. Aman tells Rohit Naina will be his in all his next births, and again, you cannot help but agree.
4. The Title Song
All the songs of Kal Ho Naa Ho are refreshing even today, but it's the title song that continues to resonate with the Millennial. Sonu Nigam's vocals, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy's music, and Javed Akhtar's lyrics turned this melody into an anthem for all the broken hearts. The magic was further fueled by its leading man's magnetic charisma that pierced straight into the heart. This is one track from the bygone days that is best left untouched for a remix.
5. The Misunderstanding
Kal Ho Naa Ho was one of the earlier Bollywood films to portray homosexuality, albeit in a comical tone. Rohit's domestic help Kanta Ben misunderstands his friendship with Aman as love due to her multiple encounters with their accidental physical intimacy. It was an uproarious gag that's even remembered today for how hilariously it was staged and performed.
6. The Jilted Lover
Not Aman, Rohit was the actual jilted lover of this romantic triangle. Aman and Naina were madly in love with each other, and Rohit was just a friend. His was the case of what we today recognise as one-sided love. Had it not been for Aman's terminal illness, Naina and Rohit were one Twain that would have never met.
The film ended with a montage of Rohit, Naina and Jiyah their daughter walking towards their home as Naina still continues to weep while talking about Aman. The innocence in the scene and the performance is seldom seen today. If this film had to exist in 2019, Naina would be busy posting Aman's pictures on social media, and counting how many likes and comments she got! Thank god it came in 2003!
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