'Super-cool stud' Rahul Khanna (Shah Rukh Khan) and hyperactive tomboy Anjali Sharma (Kajol) are best friends at St. Xaviers college. Tiring of his constant flirting with short-skirted, air-headed girls in class, Anjali urges Rahul to seek out a lady with both beauty and brains. As luck would have it, the glamorous Tina Malhotra (Rani Mukerji) fits that description perfectly and has just returned from Oxford University to stay with her father, the principal, and finish her studies at St. Xaviers. When Rahul lays eyes on her, he falls head over heels in love and Tina eventually warms to the cocky-but-charming lad as well. As the two get closer however, Anjali discovers she herself has feelings for Rahul. Upon realising Anjali's sentiments, Tina fears Rahul's love may only be a crush and that his heart really belongs to his best friend. She decides to back off, but before she can, a heartbroken Anjali drops out of college, packs her bags and catches the first train out of town never to return.
Eight years later, Rahul is a widower after Tina has tragically died giving birth to their daughter, whom they named Anjali at Tina's request. Little Anjali is now seven years old and about to celebrate her eighth birthday. Realising there would be complications in her childbirth, Tina had written eight letters for her daughter to read on each of her first eight birthdays. Opening her final letter, young Anjali discovers the truth about her father's past and reads a request from her mother to find Anjali Sharma and reunite her with Rahul. Teaming up with Tina's father and Rahul's mother, little Anjali eventually manages to track her namesake down, but discovers that she is engaged to be married to the suave-but-slimy Aman Mathur (Salman Khan). Will everything work out in the end? Well, what do you think?
Released in 1998 and directed by the debuting Karan Johar, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai ('Something is Happening') is one of the most delightful romantic comedies ever made in Bollywood. Although its premise sounds normal enough on paper, its performances, script, direction and music all serve to make it a magical experience. Though it is filled to the brim with cheese and unbelievable coincidences, its unpretentiousness and sheer self-belief allow it to overcome any shortcomings and ensures that all characters are impossible not to care about. Filmed predominantly in a soft focus and with a colour palette made up of bright, primary colours, it has a dream-like quality and, for newcomers to Bollywood, perhaps even a psychedelic feel at times. To Asian audiences though, this is as commercial as it gets, but it is still a highly unique movie. One reason being is that it was and still is unusual in Indian cinema for a film to be almost completely centred around its female characters. Usually, it is always the men who move the story forward, but here it is the women who make things happen while the boys are just along for the ride. Standard Bollywood plot devices such as poor boy/girl meets rich girl/boy and evil parents have also been jettisoned in favour of mature themes of single parenthood and male/female friendships, albeit depicted in a totally make-believe world.
The film undoubtedly belongs to Kajol, who gives a career-best performance. She is funny, goofy and sprightly in the first half and mature, confident and elegant in the second as her character evolves, but entirely loveable throughout. Shah Rukh Khan also impresses as he gives a reserved, sympathetic performance. Khan is often criticised for hamming it up and letting his superstar persona interfere with his character, but there is little of that here as he never lets Rahul lose his vulnerabilty. Rani Mukerji, in just her third screen appearance, looks to have been acting for years as she exudes poise and class, though sadly an overzealous make-up job robs her of her natural beauty at times. The supporting cast all contribute wonderfully as well. Anupam Kher (best known to Western audiences as Jess's father in Bend It Like Beckham) is hilarious as the bumbling principal Mr. Malhotra in love with Ms. Briganza, played with equal comedic flare by Archana Puransingh. Sana Saeed is unhealthily cute as the young Anjali and even Salman Khan and Johnny Lever don't annoy for once in their respective roles as Aman, the creepy fiancé and Almeida, the summer camp manager and lover of all things English.
The music by Jatin-Lalit is another high-point. Among the eight songs featured, there is something for everyone – from the synth-pop cheese of 'Yeh Ladka Hai Deewana' ('This Boy is Crazy') to the hauntingly beautiful 'Tujhe Yaad Na Meri Ayee' ('You Didn't Remember Me'). For the uninitiated, songs can seem intrusive in a Hindi movie, but here they are all integrated seamlessly with the plot and feature some superb dancing thanks to Bombay Dreams choreographer Farah Khan. Although the look and sound of 'KKHH' may have dated somewhat in the seven years since it was made, it still delights thanks to the exuberance of it all. The film was a blockbuster hit when it opened, but has unfortunately had its thunder stolen somewhat since the release of Karan Johar's bloated, inferior follow-up Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham (also starring Shah Rukh and Kajol). 'K3G', as it was called, remains the highest-grossing Bollywood movie of all time, but if you’re looking for the ideal introduction to commercial Hindi cinema at its finest, then Kuch Kuch Hota Hai remains the perfect choice. It's a fun-filled ride from start to finish.
Presented in a slightly cropped aspect ratio of approximately 2.30:1 and anamorphically enhanced, the video is in NTSC with progressive encoding. The transfer is quite pleasing with a steady image, mostly vibrant colours and acceptable detail, although contrast and brightness levels are less well rendered with some scenes appearing dark and murky. The print itself is mainly clean, though a fair amount of dirt and speckles crop up during certain parts (mainly edit points), but never does it become obtrusive. Finally, there is a moderate amount of MPEG compression artifacts present, but considering the film is three hours long with over an hour of extra material, it's amazing this wasn't a much bigger problem. All in all, this can't hold a candle to reference-quality Hollywood DVD transfers, but it is still one of the nicer-looking Bollywood discs from this late 90s filmmaking period. The Hindi 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track featured is equally as decent with everything sounding clear and distortion-free for the most part with just the occasional crackle spoiling matters slightly.
Supplimental features are plentiful with a 22-minute promotional documentary included made up of comments from the cast and crew. Nothing too groundbreaking here as you'd expect – everyone is full of praise for everyone else – although there are a few enjoyable moments, such as Shah Rukh Khan recalling his embarrassment at having to wear spandex and Kajol recounting the day she fell off her bike, knocking herself unconscious (cringe-worthy visual evidence included). Eight deleted scenes with poor picture and sound are introduced by director Karan Johar, who doesn't hold back in giving his reasons for cutting them. Johar also sits down for a conversation with Shah Rukh and Kajol in a 20-minute piece filmed for the DVD. Khan does most of the talking here as he speaks frankly about the film as well as the camaraderie between himself, Kajol and Johar. It's an interesting watch and the best extra on the disc. Highlights of 'KKHH' sweeping the board at the 1999 Filmfare Awards (India's Oscars) are shown, with Shah Rukh Khan giving the best speech of the lot while accepting his 'Best Actor' trophy. Finally, from the file marked 'Does what it says on the tin', four TV promos are included as well as the original theatrical trailer. Subtitles for the main feature are provided in an abundance of languages; the English subs are generally well translated and accurate with only the odd spelling and grammar mistake here and there. Much of the English dialogue is unnecessary subtitled as well, which I found distracting at times though it may not bother some viewers. No subtitles are included for any of the special features, though this won't be a major problem for most as they are primarily in English.
With a fine transfer for the movie and a decent array of extras, Yash Raj Films have put together a satisfying DVD package for Kuch Kuch Hota Hai that should entertain both Bolly fans and newcomers alike.