For the "Neetu Singh-along" - the weeklong blog tribute to Neetu Singh conceived by Beth - I decided to watch Kabhi Kabhie ("sometimes"), my second Yash Chopra multi-starrer in a row after Waqt. With respect to Neetu ji, I should have quit while I was ahead. Yash Chopra presumably tacked the "e" on the end of his film's title for favorable numerology - but in this case, "e" stands for "eh".
Amit (Amitabh Bachchan), a brooding, sensitive poet, falls in love with Pooja (Rakhee), a young student moved by his lyrical way with words. But Pooja's family has engaged her to a businessman called Vijay Khanna (Shashi Kapoor), and rather than challenge their wishes, Pooja tearfully parts with Amit and marries Vijay. Vijay is spirited, cheerful, and doting, and Pooja's life with him is not unhappy. They have a son, who grows up to be an equally energetic young man, Vicky (Rishi Kapoor). Vicky courts and wins his schoolmate Pinky (Neetu Singh). Upon their engagement, Pinky learns that the loving couple she thought of as her parents (Simi Garewal and Parikhat Sahni) are adoptive, and she sets off to find her biological mother (Waheeda Rehman). Vicky follows her, and the layered entanglements that ensue threaten to reopen ancient wounds for the older generation that Vicky and Pinky never imagined.
Beth summed up Kabhi kabhie in two words - hypocrisy and moping - and I almost feel I have nothing to add to that. The film plods along through acres and acres of people feeling sorry for themselves, especially Amitabh Bachchan, who is lethargic, inert, and thoroughly wasted in this role. The hypocrisy is saved for the very end, but is also borne on the shoulders of poor Amitabh, who seems to have been charged with the task of sucking all joy and entertainment value from the movie. Vijay is more forgiving than Amit, but Shashi does so much shouting in this movie that I stopped listening to anything he said halfway through, and barely registered his magnanimity at the end.
Thankfully the younger generation provides some much-needed spark, and Vicky and Pinky's early scenes (and songs) are charming enough to keep the audience awake through the film's middle section. But the loyal Vicky's arc takes a turn for the "WTF?" after he lovingly follows Pinky on her quest, as he inexplicably and insincerely courts Pinky's half-sister Sweety (Naseem), causing needless heartache to both girls.
In fact, it's the women who salvage whatever there is that makes Kabhi Kabhie worth watching - the indefatigable grace of Waheeda Rehman biting back secret sorrows; the poise of Rakhee torn between the memory of passionate love and the present kindness of a dear, doting husband; and Neetu Singh, who manages to keep the ingenuous Pinky charming and sympathetic despite her boneheaded insistence on marching unannounced into her birth-mother's life.
And so it is not a complete waste to have watched this film for the Neetu Singh-along, because its dull mediocrity throws into sharp relief just how much she brings to the table. In contrast to another of her multi-starrers, the magnificent Amar Akbar Anthony, which had so much going on that one is left wishing there were time for more Neetu (among other things), watching Kabhi Kabhie I wish there was more of Neetu and less of nearly everything else. I'll go back to listening to the lovely title song - one of the first film songs I ever heard and loved before I'd seen a single Hindi movie - and forget the rest of this largely forgettable movie.