Thursday, August 10, 2006

Killing the 'suspense'

[For an on-off rant-ish column]

In today's ultra-sophisticated Bollywood, where every second film gets its title from a 30-year-old song (or, in the case of Koi Mil Gaya, from a five-year-old song), here’s the latest trend: the obsession with "spoilers". A few weeks ago a friend sent me an email forward that supposedly revealed the plot of Karan Johar's latest opus Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna (or KANK, which coincidentally is also the sound made by the proverbial dropped pin when Shah Rukh Khan and Amitabh Bachchan find themselves in an elevator together in real life). The email went something like this:

Boy 1 loves Girl 1, Boy 2 loves Girl 2.
Parents make the decision.
Boy 1 marries Girl 2, Boy 2 marries Girl 1.
Both couples unhappy.
Parents come to know, decision revised.
Boy 1 marries Girl 1, Boy 2 marries Girl 2.
Happy ending!!!
Pass it on, let everyone know the plot of this forthcoming hit movie!

Even as I sat dumbfounded by this insight, the reply-alls commenced. Replying en masse to a joint email regardless of whether you know any of the other people on the list is among the most annoying of tech-chimp proclivities anyway, but the content of these mails made it worse. "Noooo!" squealed one replier, "You've ruined the film for me! Now there's no point in seeing it!" At the other end of the spectrum sat learned smugness: "Relax, guyzz," wrote another correspondent, "it's a publicity stunt. This isn't the real plot of the movie."

These reactions were mirrored in the office talk I subsequently overheard, though not one person said what I'd been wanting to scream out to the universe right from my first glimpse of the email: "Who the hell cares what the bloody plot of this film is?!"

This doesn't mean I'm not looking forward to watching KANK. I'll probably see it this weekend, even enjoy it at various levels by channeling the primal instincts honed over years of watching Bolly-trash in childhood. Decent music, attractive and likable young stars, sleek cinematography, good Hindu traditional values dressed up in sexy outfits, all the faux-stylishness and posturing one associates with modern-day Hindi cinema …what's not to like, especially if you allow your brain cells to flicker dimly like the disco lights in the "Where's the Party Tonight?" song. But even if I enjoy the film immensely, I doubt that its plot twists will keep me on the edge of my seat.

All this disclosure-drama was understandable to an extent when it happened with Kaante (a Reservoir Dogs remake, where one of the uber-cool hitmen had ratted on his brethren) or with Gupt (a part-murder mystery, with the leading lady revealed as a psychopath). But Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna? Really? This is a Karan Johar movie, people! Meaningful suspense in his work usually hinges on the question: will the cancer-stricken mother's death scene be five minutes long or fifteen? So wake up and smell the denouement.

I have a nasty memory of watching M Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense in a movie-hall when a chap sitting one row ahead turned to his friend in the intermission and said conversationally, "Ayy, you know what? Bruce Willis is dead himself but he doesn't know it." Years later, this is my chance for revenge by proxy. At some point during the KANK screening I'll chuckle loudly and go, "You know what? Shah Rukh and Rani will get together in the end", prompting others in the hall to gasp and groan and hurl nachos at me.


  1. I odn't know about plots and spoilers - but am still reeling from the understanding that there is a wiki page devoted to kank (heh, loved the bit about the sound of the sound of the pin dropping - by the way, is that actually kkkkkkank?) but in that, Kjo says this among other things - "There are three kinds of married people in the world" -

    and then, watch this carefully, there is a,link leading to a wiki page on "arranged marriage"

    man, my reading list for the weekend looks full - and interesting. *claps hands with glee and alt-tabs to wiki*

  2. stand up and take a bow fr u hav removed all the layers of glitter put by "KJO" and come down to the dhadakta hua dil of the matter!!! im still shocked at the fact that some ppl actually liked his last movie!! im just gonna watch it for aby's baby ... im just gonna drool and slobber!!

  3. nooooo
    when I read spoiler kabhi alwida na kehna i continued reading thinking how bad the suspense could be. but I haven't watched 6th sense. and one horrible spoiler is planted there in the post :(

  4. Kank :

    To masturbate in someones presence with out them knowing.


  5. [...] good Hindu traditional values dressed up in sexy outfits [...]
    We have to give it to the Chopras and Johars when it come to this.
    Be it the young widow of a young-but-dead-for-the-country's-good, or the you-know-what-I-am-a-tomboy female, they always know how to insert the much necessary revelations in repeatedly throughout the film. Worth an insightful research on film and Indian values, I say!

  6. Hey, brilliant post dude! And talking about spoilers, no one has suffered the kind of trauma that I have. While in school, I had this film-buff friend of mine who took it upon himself to give me a frame-by-frame narration of Psycho and Vertigo! Years later, when I actually got to see the films I felt like doing a Norman Bates on him as punishment. That's not all. While watching Dial M for Murder for the first time, I realised I had seen a ditto version of it in Hindi as a child. Three Hitchcocks ruined for life! (Yet to watch To Catch A Thief, and I am fervently hoping I have forgotten my grandpa's bedtime-story version of it.)

  7. Jai, I think whether the spoiler *knows* the ending for a fact or is just speculating may be important.

    It also matters a bit whether one is watching a hyper-formulaic genre film like KANK or something more complex (The Sixth Sense). With the Sixth Sense, the suspense was spoiled for you midway because what the spoiler said in the row ahead of you was obviously true. With KANK, nothing is really spoiled, since romantic melodrama almost requires a certain ending occur (the true lovers must be united!). There is no real suspense, just an expectation that is frustrated and then fulfilled.

  8. No No no, but you're ALL wrong! You don't have the measure of K Jo at all. You think he will let the wayward couple unite? Of course not. In the end Rani Mukherjee will recall the tug of mangalsootra and sindoor and saat phere, true love be damned. Haven't you guys seen Woh Saat Din? Just wait and watch.

  9. What or who is KJO? I'm sure all of you know and this sounds stupid, but seriously, what is it?

  10. KJo is the overhyped, overblown director of hindi "masterpieces" which are nothing but sorry exercises at wanting to sound cool but which interestingly contain some really regressive ideas. His films are pure escapist works of cinema, but what pisses people is that they are hailed as the best that India can offer.
    As far as suspense goes, the only suspense for me in this film to watch out for is whether he makes Aby's baby run in super slo mo like he will do to SRK (which is a given).

  11. Length of Abhishek Bachchan's histrionics towards the end: 9 min 45 seconds.

    Number of stills of Rani Mukherjee looking tearful: 29.

    Pass it on.


    Errr...btw - I think spoiler warning for Sixth Sense warranted, no?

  12. Looks like KANK STANK..........

  13. It's confirmed, people.. just read this.