kal ho naa ho (2003)

I don’t love this movie. I think it’s likable, the plot line kinda made me cry when I was a kid, but the depiction of Indian Americans has always made me feel empty and I don’t find the ending to be as emotional as something like Veer-Zaara (2004).

On the other hand, I think this is the Shah Rukh Khan movie I grew up with. Every Indian American has one. Not a movie that they saw a lot when they were young, but a movie that follows you through your life and you experience differently every time.

The first time I watched this movie, I was 6 and my mom took me to the theater with a friend she had recently met. I don’t think there were any subtitles and I didn’t understand Hindi, so I did whatever I could to make my mother’s life hell during that 3 hour runtime. It’s a wonder she liked it — I guess when you’re a parent, you have to tolerate your child constantly interrupting a movie.

I rewatched it a year or two later with subtitles and liked it. I think I cried at the ending, but I don’t think I truly loved it more than any other film of that era. However, the fact that I took the film so differently from the ages of 6 to 7 or 8 was an interesting treatise on my own rapidly developing maturity. We rewatched films a lot, but they were films we owned. We tended to own more comedic films, or if I had owned Kal Ho Na Ho, I probably would’ve only watched the more comedic parts and then turned it off before the end. Rewatching a serious film from start to finish twice in such a short span of time was interesting.

The third time I saw Kal Ho Naa Ho was in my early teens. I think it may have been 2012 or 2013. Netflix streaming had burst onto the scene and I think we were generally disappointed with the amount of Indian content on the platform, so I decided to one day rewatch Kal Ho Naa Ho. I was suspicious that I’d still like it and found it to be a total cheesefest.

I thought that would always be my final opinion on the movie — I had matured way past the cheese of the early 00s and liked my gritty American Beauty (1999) or my witty Band Baaja Baarat (2010). I yawned my way through the end and didn’t think of it much after.

It re-emerged on Netflix a few days ago, in a totally different world and a totally different era of my life. I decided to watch it because I’d been thinking about it a bit more now that I’ve been in my parents’ home for a month. And, well, things changed.

I still don’t love it. I found the first half of the movie to be charming. I no longer had that empty feeling that I felt when I was a kid. I think the biggest change in my relation to this movie is that I’ve grown to understand why an adult like my mom in 2003 would like this movie. I can’t put this into words too well, but I’ve grown to understand the cinematic sensibilities of the era. It’s a mix of Anand (1971) (find me one person over 50 who doesn’t say this movie is amazing) and new-school cinematography and storytelling like Dil Chahta Hai (2001). It’s an objectively good film… if you understand the zeitgeist and cultural sensitivities of that era in film.

I thought it was really depressing that Naina’s only friend was someone she met at night school and she ends up pity marrying this only friend. I thought being family friends with your neighbors was also pretty depressing, too.

Now, I don’t think it’s as depressing… I kind of envy it since I don’t have any particularly physically present friends. I can’t imagine having the kind of friendship where you meet almost every weekday, by choice. That’s sweet. But, there’s other things I noticed.

They cry constantly. The mixing of a raised-if-not-born Naina and a raised-if-not-born Rohit with a straight-from-India Aman as if there’s no friction between them is pretty weird. Sweetu seems more clearly raised-if-not-born than all of them. Why does Rohit have Kantaben in his apartment in Manhattan? Where does she live? Is she a slave?

I think the most important question of this movie is why does no one even give Naina a chance to get over Aman? Everyone looks at this 23 year old and is like “Oh, well, her one true love is married. She knew him for a few months. She needs to be forced into love again.” I know the premise of the movie centers around Aman and his limited time, but dude… a rebound marriage when you find out that your one true love is married is the premise of a comedic disaster.

I love the racial comedy in this movie. I love Indian racial comedy in general. I just love it more when I, a Gujarati, am mentioned. Satish Shah and Ketki Dave are hilarious, and I think their comedic genius could only ever truly be represented by Gujarati actors. Every single scene with Rohit and his parents is without a doubt the funniest part of the movie.

I need to take a moment to talk about the perfection of the GUJJU song in general. This is iconic, I mention it constantly. I am convinced that if I am ever able to officiate a sangeet, I will get every Gujarati uncle & aunty I can to sing and dance to this song.

Other than that, Lajo calling Kuwari Kudi to get Naina a Punjabi munda is hilarious. Rohit’s parents calling him a GCGC — Good Catch of the Guju Community, I love it. His first born will be named either Jignesh or Jigisha so the pet name is going to be Jiggy… sounds exactly like every Guju I know.

I generally prefer the NRI politics of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995), but I can’t deny this is the only significant NRI movie that’s in the US (movies about American terrorism aren’t NRI movies). It’s also the only significant NRI movie that has Gujaratis and inter-intra-racial marriage. Maybe it’s a little too close to home…

This movie is an interesting contrast to the films centered around the UK — and maybe a contrast between US and UK NRI culture in itself, because it feels far less conservative than any UK-centered NRI films. In DDLJ, Simran is arranged to marry a guy in India she’s never met, and the central conflict of the film can be said to revolve around her dad reconciling the fact that he’s not as traditional as his nostalgia held onto. In Namastey London (2007), Jaspreet is literally tricked into marrying an Indian guy to stabilize her “wildness” and the only way out is to beg her friend for help. Both movies involve Punjabis marrying Punjabis, although Namastey London brings up the interesting point of Indo-Pakistani friendships between NRIs.

There’s so many example of progressivism in this film. Naina’s already mixed race, or at least of a mixed religion, with her mom being Christian and her dad being Sikh. She doesn’t see a difference between different kinds of Indians, and although her Dadi wants her to marry a Punjabi boy, she’s indifferent. Her mom, already having a mixed marriage herself, doesn’t care at all.

Rohit also doesn’t seem to see a difference between Gujarati girls and other kinds of girls. One of the most interesting scenes in the film is the first time Rohit meets his dad. He’s been talking to Kantaben and she tells him that his son is in a gay relationship. He’s a little taken aback, but he eventually says “I wanted a bahu. Instead, I got a jamaai.” He’s a bit taken aback and disappointed, but he’s not as disappointed as you would expect. They chose not to include a comedic scene with his parents where they walk in on him and Aman and ask what the hell is going on. He’s just kind of chill about it, because it’s America, and whatever.

Rohit, Naina, and their parents also have a pretty accurate response to arranged marriages. Naina isn’t opposed to arranged marriage, she’s just opposed to marriage in general. Rohit isn’t opposed to arranged marriage (and he even gets arranged engaged), he’s just in love with Naina. Dadi and Rohit’s parents are just trying to set them up to speed up the process of meeting someone, and everyone is totally thrilled at Rohit and Naina’s engagement. No one really bats an eye at this interracialness. This isn’t 2 States (2014). How could it be? This is America. We’re all just Indians here. Plenty of NRIs even go as far as “We’re all just South Asians here.”

I guess this is a roundabout way of saying that I think Rohit is the most interesting character in the film. He’s rich, moderately good looking, silly, and a little dumb. He’s dated both non-Indian and Indian girls casually. I don’t think we ever really get to hear his politics on his own marriage. Would he ever marry a non-Indian girl? We know he doesn’t differentiate between Indians, and even dated a divorcee. But, would he have married her? I want to be in Rohit’s weirdly progressive rich Gujarati family. Who is he?

The racial differences pale in comparison to the actual family issues in this movie, including class differences. I find that to be pretty accurate.

I think in the end, the almost forced marriage Naina has is just super unappealing to me. She gets bullied into this marriage by her dying love, and Rohit knows he’ll never live up to the memory of what Naina and Aman could’ve been. In the future, they seem to have gotten past it, but I don’t believe it.

The love story is the weakest quotient in this movie. The true ship is Aman and Rohit. But, the family dynamics are interesting enough and the comedy is super memorable.

I don’t have any grand ending here. I can’t believe Kareena Kapoor turned down this role. Would she be married to Saif Ali Khan still if she took this role? Would Taimur Ali Khan, international treasure, ever be born if Preity Zinta wasn’t Naina? I guess we’ll never know.

i’d tell you i love you, but then i’d have to kill you

This series is a fascinating bit of personal history for me. My sister had read the series long before I had, and actually owned the first few books. I was just reaching that tenuous age of “pre-teen” where children’s books are a little too childish, and Young Adult books were a little too adult.

I wanted to read about roaring adventure and first romances, but a little less Twilight. One day, I think I found this book on my sister’s shelf and thought it was an annoying girly book about high school, but then it was about spies.

We all know how I feel about spies.

I really liked this series, but I found it a little disjointed and hard to keep up with. I don’t think I ever finished it. I have some really vivid memories of it, though. I’m the exact opposite of a visual thinker, but I distinctly remember a visual image of Cammie in a sweatshirt meeting wavy-haired Josh for the first time. I saw the carnival, I saw the sweatshirt, and I remember it being so real in my head.

There was one other instant of that in these books, when Cammie is on a train and meets Zach on a train while on a mission. I remember that was so sexy, the tension was on high.

I think these left such an impression on me because they were the first books… ever… where I felt invested in the romance. I read Twilight shortly after, but I was more invested in the world than the exciting thrill of the romance.

So, I finally reread it because it’s absurdly short. It’s shorter than any children’s books I’ve been reading thus far, (For reference, the second book in this series is about half the length of the third book in the Vampire Academy series, which I’m also going through right now.) I finished it in one day by mixing between the ebook and the audiobook, although I did have to stay up late to do so.

It really is a page turner, and it’s been a while since I read a book that genuinely made me just flip & flip & flip without thinking about it. You know how you get into this state with reading where you start to forget you’re reading each individual word and it starts to just surround you? “Getting lost in the book?” That happened to me while I was reading this book, and that’s a really tall order for someone who struggles to read like me.

At the same time, don’t get me wrong, it’s really bad. I’m not an idiot for not getting it when I was a kid, the length meant that there are major parts of the books that just skip. The world really isn’t very fleshed out. The characters are flat. It’s just objectively not a very good book.

But, I’m invested in figuring out which boy she gets with in the end since I never finished the series. There’s other plot points I care about… I guess… but mostly which boy she chooses. According to Goodreads, the last book came out in 2013 — when I was 16, so I definitely wasn’t reading the same books I was reading when I was 10.

I’ll talk more about my thoughts on the two boys when I write my post about the second book since we technically don’t even know Zach exists yet here.

I love me some easy breezy reads. No shame, no guilty pleasures. I’m reading whatever I want.

frostbite

I’ve been half-heartedly reading the Vampire Academy series for ~2 years now. I like it… sort of. It’s a bit odd. The world is interesting, though, and I’m attracted to the best friendship between Rose & Lissa.

I apparently already finished Frostbite, which I found out when I skimmed the entire book again. Oh well.

Let’s see, some thoughts:

  • I don’t like Rose and Dimitri together. I think it’s inappropriate and not romantic at all. Maybe this is just the adult in me.
  • I love Adrian. I love that someone finally knows about Rose and Dimitri’s relationship and finds it as inappropriate as I do. I want this love triangle to ramp up.
  • Lissa feels more and more like a side character.
  • I’m excited to see the pettiness of high school drama / the beef with Mia turning a new leaf.
  • Christian is a great complement to Rose.
  • I’m …hmm about Mason leaving. I never really cared for him, but I did really expect him and Mia to date.
  • I still find Rose to be an extremely likable and relatable protagonist compared to a goody-goody like Lissa. Rose is a badass and hot and smart and she knows all of that. I’m here for confident, but complicated protagonists.

I’m going to be starting Shadow Kiss almost immediately, but I think I prefer the series via audiobook. Most Young Adult novels are better in audio. It almost feels like a movie you’re listening to, while reading the book just feels like some of the details are missing.

you’re so secretly extroverted. your extrovert got all fucking screwed up from trauma but you need people all the time

meghan, march 20th, 2020

Keep thinking about this because it’s so true and I hate that it’s so true.

percy jackson: the sea of monsters

I’ve been rereading the Percy Jackson series as an easy, breezy adventure story. It’s not very good, but it’s paced quickly and the world is vaguely interesting.

I’m going to finish the series to see where it ends up. I remember the series quite well from when I was a kid, but I’ve forgotten a lot about tertiary characters like Nico. I’ve forgotten a lot about the politics of the world.

It’s good escapism.

the duff

I just rewatched The Duff (2015) for the first time since release. I originally saw it semi-ironically, going to a midnight show on a weeknight, not expecting to absolutely fall in love with Mae Whitman & Robbie Amell.

I have no idea how they have some of the best chemistry I’ve ever seen in a romcom — teen or not. I’ve seen them both in countless other movies & TV shows, but in this movie, they just are their characters.

It’s a bit odd because the rest of the cast is painfully mediocre. When the movie came out, I was 17, and I knew Bella Thorne was 17 at the time, so it was definitely disappointing to have someone my age be so much prettier than me.

The Duff clocks in as my third favorite teen movie of all time, behind Heathers and Mean Girls. It’s just a wonderful little romp through a likable duo’s time together and how they’re so casually complementary.

wfh, now from home

My biggest goal with the 2-4 weeks here is to be less of a …workaholic really isn’t the right word because my work isn’t pressuring me to do any of this, but careeraholic, I guess. My career choice has pressured me into feeling this way all the time.

I want to be on the computer as little as humanly possible outside of 9-5 now. I am writing this, on a Saturday night, from a computer. My commitments are going way down now.

I hope this is a good reset that allows me to really re-evaluate what I want to focus on… hyperfocus on to reach my goals.

wfh

It’s possible that we have to work from home for well over a month due to COVID19.

I used to work from home when I was freelancing in my late teens. I couldn’t find the separation between work and play.

I get really restless when I have to sit at a desk for 8+ hours Not even moving around to talk to people or go to meetings is basically my hell. With video calling being more prevalent, you can’t really walk and take a phone call anymore.

The hardest thing for me is that I have to set working hours for myself. I have to stick to this. No breaks except for lunch. If I don’t do that, I will never stop half-working, half-playing.

This also cuts into my study schedule. It is basically impossible to look at a code editor after working remotely for 8 hours. I think I can still continue reading books (but I had a very ambitious schedule that I may cut in half now), but all studying relating to direct coding (ie Java) is called off until further notice. I need distance.

Let’s hope this is over quickly, for more reasons than this whining. It’s been a really dour 2 weeks.

favorite song of 2012

2012 was the first full year where I watched films knowing Hindi. I no longer needed subtitles, although I really struggled with Hindi still. The first time I watched Ishaqzaade, I really didn’t understand it very well. I rewatched it a few months later, and really liked it.

The most important part of Ishaqzaade is the soundtrack.

This was the first film where I had solidified who two of my favorites of the decade were — Amit Trivedi as the best composer of the 2010s and Vishal Dadlani as my favorite male singer of the 2010s.

I’d been familiar with other Amit soundtracks before, but you only notice who a composer is when they make a song that really gets to you. For the first time in my life, if I listened to a song enough, I understood the lyrics of a song. This led to a few of my absolute favorite songs of all time coming out this year.

Understanding the exchange in the song really set a new precedent in my life. I always loved duets, but oh man, I love back & forths in songs.

It’s worth noting that Habib Faisal, the director of Ishaqzaade, penned the brilliant lyrics. He’s also, most important to me, the writer of Band Baaja Baarat which I think has the most brilliant dialogue/screenplay of any movie from this decade.

Mere munna, baat sun na (My boy, listen to this)
Ye jawaani nahi koi khilona (This youth is not some toy)

Pehle jao, seekh ke aao (First go and learn)
Pyaase naino ki pyaas ko bhujaana (To quench the thirst of thirsty eyes)

Chokra Jawaan (Female part, as sung by Sunidhi Chauhan)

Oh Chand baby, jo chance degi (Oh Chand baby, if you give me a chance)
Pyaas kya hai, main bhookh bhi mita doon (What’s thirst? I’ll even conquer hunger)

Oh hum hai seekhe, aur sikhaye (I’ve learned, and taught)
Nain kya hai, poori tann main bhiga doon (What’s eyes? I’ll drench your whole body)

Chokra Jawaan (Male part, as sung by Vishal Dadlani)

This is my favorite part of the song and I think my relationship to music has changed drastically since I learned Hindi.

I’d also like to take a moment to note a song that isn’t my favorite song of 2012 but is one of the most beautiful songs of all time. It’s hard to put beautiful songs as one’s favorite though. It’s not necessarily the most loopable song.

Raabta is an interesting song because there’s 3 different versions that are all very different. I remember that I downloaded all 3 versions to my iPod Nano and spent hours trying to figure out which version I liked best.

I finally decided that I absolutely adore the Kehte Hain Khuda Ne version best, which features a pre-Aashiqui 2 Arijit Singh and Shreya Ghoshal, two of the best romantic singers of all time.