Movie Review: Always Kabhi Kabhi (2011)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Buy the DVD at Amazon
Buy the soundtrack at Amazon

Always Kabhi Kabhi (“Always Sometimes Sometimes”) is one of the rare Hindi movies that specifically targets a teenage audience. Perhaps that rarity has something to do with the fact that most teen movies are pretty much the same, and Always Kabhi Kabhi is no different.

The many similarities in teen movies have to do with the similarities in the lives of teenagers — particularly middle-class teens — across the globe. Academic pressures, tested friendships, budding romances and family friction are universal.

Those are precisely the problems afflicting the students at St. Mark’s High School, a private school in Delhi. Slacker Sam (Ali Fazal) has the hots for the pretty new girl, Aishwarya (Giselli Monteiro), who’s threatening to steal the spotlight from stubborn Nandy (Zoa Morani). This interpersonal drama plays out to the amusement of Sam’s best bud and Nandy’s nemesis, nerdy Tariq (Satyajeet Dubey).

St. Mark’s hosts a Shakespeare festival, and Sam and Aishwarya land the lead roles in Romeo and Juliet. The whole setup is very High School Musical, complete with several song-and-dance routines. (Producer Shahrukh Khan adds his star power to a number during the closing credits.)

The young lead actors are generally competent, though none stands out as Bollywood’s next big star. Monteiro moved to India from Brazil to play Harleen Kaur in 2009’s Love Aaj Kal, a role with minimal dialog. She gets a few more lines as Ash, but her acting lacks conviction. Perhaps language is still an obstacle for Monteiro.

For American audiences, Always Kabhi Kabhi has some novel cultural differences that could make it more interesting than other teen fare. At a dance club, Sam smokes his first joint. Almost as if the joint were alarmed, the cops immediately swarm the club, and Sam gets busted. The cops bribe him in order to keep the matter from his parents. If only American teens had such an option.

Also, Ash’s mother pushes her to shoot some modeling photos wearing — gasp! — a bikini. Ash looks as though her mother has just sold her in to prostitution. Her reaction is understandable within its cultural context and seems positively quaint compared to the antics of the kids on Jersey Shore.

Every once in a while, it’s refreshing to see a movie that is truly friendly for all audiences. The characters aren’t especially wild (or realistic, for that matter), but their harmlessness shouldn’t be held against them. Always Kabhi Kabhi isn’t profound, but nothing says it has to be.

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