Coming of age college flicks are a theme that’s been explored at extremes in Bollywood. ‘Youth’ being the newly targeted group by most production houses of late, it isn’t surprising that everyone’s hoping to cash in on the new trend by dissecting varied levels of the bubblegummy culture, which explains the spate of recent releases all focusing on lives of generation-Y. A man of many talents, Roshan Abbas, had directed a musical years back for stage then titled Graffiti. The play was reportedly very well received, and like most formulaic ventures of recent times, it was decided to transform it on celluloid ‘with necessary alterations to suit the masses as asserted by the filmmaker.
Supposedly set in India’s buzzing metropolis, Delhi, postcard-perfect acres of landscaped campus, St. Marks is abode to blazer-clad 12th grade students, including Nandini (Zoa Morani), Tariq (Satyajeet Dubey), Sameer (Ali Fazal), and Aishwarya (Giselle Monteiro) who play with paper rockets when the teacher leaves the class, break into a song-and-dance upon being punished in the blazing sun or are wiling time enacting Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet for an inter-school competition. The common thread running between them is that they’ve ALL got parental problems – they are either ignored or pressurized academically or professionally or simply misunderstood. As they crave the love, attention, they decide to give the adults a moral lecture on generation gap. But before they do that; they hang around at pool parties, attend raves, and make impromptu weekend trips while indulging in love, heartbreak plus a whole series of coffee, soft-drinks, energy drinks owing to the film’s product placements.
Roshan’s gamble of taking a fresh cast pays off as performance is the only selling point of the movie. Among the four leads, the one that shines is Ali Fazal (last seen in a cameo in 3 Idiots as Jay lobo) as Shortcut Sam. With good screen presence, he has a reasonably strong dialogue-delivery, emotes well and attempts to connect with the audience. Zoa Morani manages a confident debut while Satyajeet Dubey puts in an easy effortless act. Giselle ‘my fair lady’ Monteiro, would have had my sympathy for her bad-dubbing plus gawky body language, if I had got just a fraction of an emotion; apart from a continual blank stare. Ashwin Mushran, Vijay Raaz, Satish Shah are dreadfully wasted with the weakest character sketches I have seen in a long time.
Since the theme of parent-children relationship is a highly engaging albeit sensitive, the scope to portray it on celluloid, if done correctly, is immense. The screenplay by Roshan Abbas, Ranjit Raina and Ishita Moitra must have probably looked good on paper but is not translated lucratively on screen. The first half is as slow as slow can be. Post-interval as things begin to stack up, you hope the momentum is building, but the narrative nose-dives, hurriedly accumulating all the odd situations one associates with teenagers – pregnancy, drugs, stealing, rejection, suicide, lovers-tiffs, etc. You name an issue; the film has a take on it. Effective or not, no one’s really paying attention. Any attempt to resurrect the film by a good scene, is immediately smothered with haphazardly scribbled scenes one after another. The conflicts between the pairs, the situations that each arrive at, the troubles they land into, the misunderstandings between the foursome, all seem very contrived, thus stealing the film of its overall appeal. Songs intercept at completely wrong points in the storyline which makes the viewing doubly cumbersome.
Always Kabhi Kabhi is a badly spread collage of multiple adolescent issues that have been dealt with in Bollywood in the past. It looks pretty in bits but fails miserably to invoke any emotions, impart any social message or at its very least entertain.