It was strictly a theatrical version of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai last night. Twenty years later. The stage being the grand ballroom of the JW Marriott in Mumbai. Not some picturesque Bollywood set in Mauritius, the lochs and glens of Scotland, or Ooty which is where all Dharma Productions shot its iconic love story that released on October 16, 1998.
The players – Shahrukh Khan, Kajol and Rani Mukerji now 20 years older – still looked like they were on screen in KKHH. Age cannot wither them nor custom stale their infinite variety. It was like picking up the latest edition of an Archie comic and finding the cartoon characters still retained their zesty youthfulness and continued to study in Riverdale High.
But you knew they had moved on because the little girl from the film, child artiste Sana Saeed who was then 10 and played Shah Rukh’s and Rani’s daughter, is now a gorgeous woman of 30 who does modelling, works in films and TV serials. Also, the film’s debutant director, the fashionable and exciting Karan Johar, was then awkward, podgy and easily moved to tears at narrations by his own story.
They all came together at the Marriott to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the film at a stylish red carpet event last night. Salman Khan, who played a gallant bit part in KKHH, was absent. But he sent a video message wishing the team love and luck and detailing how he approached KJo and volunteered to do the role that no other Bollywood actor accepted in 1998.
The glitzy and fun evening was kicked off by Dharma girl Alia Bhatt. Not in person, but again by a breezy video message in which she said how she was six when the film released and she was so impressed by it that she got her hair cut short in the style adapted by Kajol for the first half of the film.
Alia was followed (in person) by her Student of The Year co-stars Siddharth Malhotra (in gym wear, keds and blazer on top at a formal event) and Varun Dhawan. They talked about how the film influenced them. Varun recalled that KKHH released on the same day as his father’s Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan and he drove David Dhawan mad by repeatedly asking at his premiere when they were going for KJo’s film.
Other Bollywood stars took the stage to heap praises on the film, its director and actors, all of whom have been associated with Dharma Productions at some point in their careers. Abhishek Bachchan came with sister Shweta, Kareena Kapoor Khan left hubby Saif on their wedding anniversary to be here, and Twinkle Khanna who famously rejected the role Rani accepted and which made her a star. And then it was time to rewind the camera and get Karan Johar himself on stage with his lead actors Shah Rukh Khan, Kajol and Rani Mukerji.
They talked about their experiences, how they each came on board KKHH, what were their favourite memories of the shoot, what they thought of their roles and the costumes that came with them, how they acted out the songs, and they doubled up with laughter as the years went flashing by and they were their old-young selves playing Rahul, Anjali and Tina again, keeping a standing-room-only audience enthralled. Sitting in the front row was the debonair and modest fashion designer Manish Malhotra who brought swag to Bollywood with DKNY and Polo in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, but was too shy to take a bow.