If someone were to ask me when my love affair with Bollywood started, I’d say it was shortly after the release of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) aka KKHH. In my hometown in South Africa, we have a small desi community and had no cinemas showing Indian films. We had to wait months after a film’s release to watch it on VHS (not even DVD back then!)
I regard KKHH as ‘the’ film to put Bollywood on a global map. I’ve seen it a dozen times and to this day, it still pulls at my heart strings – 11 years later!
Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan) and Anjali (Kajol) are best friends in college. Anjali is very tomboy-ish, wearing sporting gear and no make-up, while Rahul is a smooth talking college Romeo. Tina (Rani Mukerjee) transfers to the college from London. She’s beautiful, feminine and graceful…everything Anjali isn’t.
In typical Bollywood fashion, Rahul falls in love with Tina. Anjali misunderstands one of Rahul’s monologues about friendship being love and she is led to believe that her best buddy is in love with her. Of course, the viewer knows he’s gushing about Tina. Anjali realizes that she has feelings for Rahul, but when the truth surfaces and she realizes that she’s not the object of Rahul’s affection, she leaves college very suddenly… heartbroken.
Tina and Rahul marry and have a daughter – also named Anjali. Due to complications, Tina dies during childbirth. She writes a series of letters for her daughter which must be read on every birthday. On her eighth birthday, Ajanli learns about her namesake. Apparently, Tina was aware of the older Anjali’s feelings towards Rahul back in college and in her letter to her daughter, Anjali Jr decides to reunite her father with his college friend in hopes that romance will spark between the two.
Rahul forbids his daughter to go to a summer camp, but after he leaves for a conference, little Anjali (with the help of her loving grandmother) enrolls at a camp in Simla where her namesake is a counselor.
Anjali calls Rahul pretending to be sick and being the over-protective father that he is, he drops everything and rushes to his darling daughter in Simla. (Cue Song – ‘Raghupati Raghav’)
In true Bollywood style, the events leading up to Rahul’s arrival at the camp are super-dramatic. Of course, his car breaks down and he has to catch a ride at the back of a truck with a group of young happy-clappy hippies. We even see him wading through a flock of sheep on his way to the camp.
Rahul’s journey to Camp Sunshine is juxtaposed with the children and counselors at the camp, singing ‘Raghupati Raghav’. He finally arrives at the red gates of Camp Sunshine.
As if by magic, the gates open, Rahul throws his arms into the air and starts running. Of course, he could have just walked, but that would go against Bollywood to be over the top! In slow motion, his trench coat flying behind him, he runs over the bridge to where he will soon be reunited with his Anjali (senior and junior!) Meanwhile, the song picks up speed and is about to climax. The camera movement circles Anjali making aarti (looking beautiful and feminine in a soft green sari). At this point, of course – only the viewer knows what is about to happen, but still we sit at the edge of our seat, palms sweaty and wait with bated breath.
The song ends, and all we hear is Rahul’s footsteps as he arrives at the door and yells out, “Anjali!” (Of course there’s an echo for added effect!) The next shot frames the two Anjali’s profiles and as they hear (both) their names, they look up. The sudden change in Rahul’s facial expression just two seconds after his eyes fall on Anjali is done with Shah Rukh Khan perfection. The only sound we hear is Rahul’s breathing as he tries to catch his breath from running.
The camera zooms into Anjali who stares at Rahul in disbelief. Looking back at him, he’s visibly shocked and in a broken voice, he manages to utter, “Hi!” Rahul’s mother takes the aarti tray from Anjali and she and Rahul start walking towards each other. And so the sad version of the title song, ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’ starts to play. Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol are magnificent in this scene, and I get goose bumps just writing about it!
When the two finally come together there is an awkwardness of how to greet each other. Hug? Handshake? It’s clumsy and so innocent which adds to the characters vulnerability in this moment of the film. It is Rahul who catches her hand and for a few seconds they fumble around not looking straight into each other’s eyes. The next thing he says to her is, “Sari?!” Of course, the last he’d seen her was in sporting gear, trainers and short hair. And now, he stands before a beautiful woman with long dark hair in a sari. Who wouldn’t be blown away?
WHY IT’S SO SPECIAL:
We remember anything that we can relate to. Whether it is a song, a book or a quote. It sticks in our minds for months and years because we can identify with the message it’s trying to portray. I think one of the main reasons for KKHH’s great success was the authenticity of the characters. It appealed to people across race and generations. Whether we saw ourselves as a tomboyish Anjali or the new girl at school like Tina, or the Casanova which was Rahul, everyone who watched film took something away from it.
How many of us have had friends of the opposite sex who were “just friends”? After a while, feelings may change but it may be too late to confess the feeling to the other person. This particular scene where Rahul and Anjali meet after years is something else many people can identify with. Don’t we often imagine what it would be like to meet people we once knew again? I often do. People who were in my life before and who I’ve lost contact with… will I ever see them again? Where will we meet? Will we shake hands or hug? Will I be standing or sitting? What will I be wearing?
At this point in the film, both Rahul and Anjali have grown up and matured. Rahul’s a widowed father and businessman. Anjali is engaged to be married. They’ve both come a fairly long way from when they were in college. They seem to be very confident, but at this moment when they come face to face, they are unsure of what to do and what to say. I always imagine that if there was a voice over on this scene, it would be interesting – what would Rahul and Anjali be thinking? “What must I say?” “Who’s going to speak first?” “She’s gorgeous!” “Wow, he hasn’t changed a bit!”
I don’t have a particular favourite scene from any given film. I have several, but if there’s one film that always chokes me up with tears, it’s definitely KKHH. And if any actor can provoke teary eyes in a theater, it’s Shah Rukh Khan and no one does it better. And when it comes to the best on-screen couple with amazing chemistry, no one delivers better than SRK and Kajol!
The scene itself is shorter than I’ve described it here, but it leaves you with a bunch of emotions as you wait to see what will happen next!