R Balki is sort of an enigma. The seasoned adman has so far directed 4 Hindi films – all of them beaming with exceptional ideas but somehow the end product does not have the finesse that it should have or rather could have achieved. No, don’t be offended because I have referred to films as ‘products’ – Balki’s sensibilities and ideas are resplendent with his advertising background and product is not exactly a term repulsive to ad-makers.
Coming back to Balki and his films – Cheeni Kum, Paa, Shamitabh and now Ki & Ka, they all have great ideas – in fact all these ideas had the potential to turn into landmark films but sadly none of them are. Cheeni Kum, thanks to that whacky chemistry between Tabu and Big B, is my favorite and perhaps the best of the lot, Paa was the most emotional of all the Balki films – the film that was both a box office and awards favorite. With Ki & Ka, the writer-director again comes up with an excellent notion but falls short of transforming it into a smooth, loveable cinematic experience. Have no doubt that Ki & Ka does have its moments but overall the film looks rather inconsistent and patchy.
Kia (Kareena Kapoor) is successful, independent and single – skeptical of marriage, extremely ambitious in her profession, lives with her single mother (Swaroop Sampat). Kabir (Arjun Kapoor) is your affable man child of sorts – we are told he has a filthy rich father (Rajit Kapoor), an IIM topper tag yet our boy does not want to walk the well-trodden path. He does not want to take over his family business, have any career of sorts – he just wants to be a homemaker, like his mom – an ‘artist’.
It is a tempting premise to be honest. Gender stereotyping is a reality of not just India but the world, and to swap these conventional roles and see how two sides cope with it, is an incredible and brave though to have. But, Ki & Ka is pulled down by its inconsistent writing that does not allow the film to realize its full potential. Ironically, the film while trying to challenge gender stereotypes ends up caricaturing genders to a great extent. All of this would have been fine if Balki would have treated the film like an out and out rom-com or comedy, but every now and then, he is tempted to give us his piece of mind, a small little preaching about how our samaaj views and treats its Kis and Kas. It is here that the film’s shortcomings start to show.
But there are positives as well. Arjun Kapoor is brave and endearing as Kabir as he seamlessly takes up a challenging role that could have potentially jeopardized his ‘image’ to say so. He is goofy, charming and cute as a man who wants to be a househusband and handles even the ‘stretched’ gender role reversals with ease and grace – yes, the guy insists on wearing a Mangalsutra post marriage and still ends up looking cool. This is a welcome return to the big screen for the actor after a hiatus and it should go down as a worthy performance in his short career. Kareena Kapoor is in form as well as the sprightly corporate ‘robot’. She excels in the emotional scenes, looks ravishing, and wonderfully carries the burden of being the ‘man’ of a relationship. Her turn as Kia reminds us of the talented actor that she is and why we need to see more of her. More of these roles, I mean, and less of Singham and Bajrangi Bhaijaan, please?
Ki & Ka is best in its breezy, light moments. Arjun and Kareena share an unusual but sparkling chemistry. The conversations over cheap whiskey, loitering around in a train junkyard, dining table antics post marriage – all these are suitably mushy and cute. The holes in writing start to show up when the conversations get serious or preachy, centering around Kis and Kas. There are monologues reserved for most characters in the film – each of it designed to convey the director’s penchant for gender equality and liberal thoughts. Again, nothing wrong with these ideas but the execution via monologues looks a little advertising-like (and puts you off a bit).
The film also has a pleasant cameo by Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan who together try to put all the loose ends together and help us reach a conclusion. Yes, Ki & Ka is that type of film that struggles to come up with a worthy ‘conflict’ between its characters and the road to climax starts to get unexciting, if not monotonous.
In the music department, Ki & Ka has a hidden gem in the form of ‘Ji Huzoori’ – you will end up humming it for some time after watching the film. P.C. Sreeram’s camera is way too up, close and personal at times – the close-up frames hurting your eyes on some occasions. The film’s well-edited at little over 2 hours and only if writing would have held up, Ki & Ka would have come out with all guns blazing.
Overall, Ki & Ka is not a great film but it hinges on a brave idea – like every R Balki film. Watch it for the affable Arjun Kapoor, some light-hearted, breezy romance but be ready to come out of the theater thinking – ‘if only…’
Rating: **1/2 (Average to Good)