On a stage stands a boy in school uniform, his hands poised over an electronic keyboard, playing at nothing. He's in the background, you see, and any tinkling of the keys would interrupt the lead actors' conversation. His job is merely to make it look like there are other kids in this school and that they do other things. And so he stands marooned from the scene around him, a breathing prop hesitating to honky-tonk. I don't know the young man's name, but I would like to gratefully applaud his moment of restraint, however absurd.
Because nobody else in Roshan Abbas' Always Kabhi Kabhi is EVER quiet. Yes, I used caps. Just like the film does as it screams at the eardrums , with a moronic background score that never stops overselling the moment. One of the many clumsy product-placement stops in this film really ought have been for earplugs. So yeah, Casio boy, you did good.
Like Glee but without (the incredible Jane Lynch or) kids who can actually sing, the only thing authentically high-school about this film is how amateurishly it comes together. Potentially interesting ideas -- taking the narrative forward through status updates, for example, as a character goes from 'heading to a club' to posting party pics to saying 'hangovers are hell', in a matter of seconds -- appear but are instantly smothered by the next scene.
In this particular case, while the girl in class nurses her hangover, the teacher leaves the classroom and students of Class XI, at the very least, start throwing chalk at one another. Several of them look uncomfortable doing so, tossing it casually and without motive, just because that's what school kids do, right?
Um, no. And therein lies the bigger
problem here, the inherent condescension towards the target audience. Teen films almost invariably dial themselves down into bubblegummy pap, predictable and plastic. Maybe that's good business sense, since any teenager with half a brain never ever watches a teen flick, but this neglect towards intelligence is criminal. Plus, it programs pre-teens directly, grooming them into candyfloss. It's the Stepford genre, really.
The story? A boy who presumably wants to be Vivek Oberoi when he grows up, is smitten by the pretty new girl. Meanwhile his geeky best friend constantly swaps barbs with the resident firebrand. Oh, and everyone's parents are kinda evil. (The kids seem pretty villainous to me too, though, pointing and giggling when one of their classmates fails to get into MIT.)
Nobody's worth talking about except Zoa Mirani, playing the feisty one with significant charm. There's confidence and presence here, and this girl -- who nabs the only genuinely good shot in this film, a quick and wonderful visual flourish involving lipstick and suicide -- is the only positive takeaway.
The first half is dull as can be, merely loud, and while the emotionally-laden second half begins to mildly resemble something sweet, it explodes into a flashy climax that ruins everything.
And then the producer's husband comes and ruins it all over again.
Right after the climax we see the promotional music video for the film, a DJ'd up version of the song we JUST saw a minute ago (whoa), a 'you grownups don't understand us kids' song mouthed by a megastar in his 40s. Double whoa. And that isn't even the worst part. In this video, as kids wriggle around a weird jail kinda setup, a gigantic metal crate is lowered from the ceiling, ushered in by fireworks and dazzling lights. Inside is Shah Rukh Khan, the only surprise being the man footing the bill for the movie suddenly showing off his starriness, on a stage he's bought himself. Awk-warrrd. And say it with me, WHOA.