Director: R. Balki
Cast: Kareena Kapoor Khan, Arjun Kapoor, Rajit Kapoor
Flipping gender stereotypes, even in a fictional scenario, can be a task easier said than done. Of course the idea sounds interesting on paper. But is challenging gender stereotypes only about reversing gender roles? Ki & Ka seems to think so and in that lies its major undoing. On the surface, R. Balki’s film appears to be a breezy romance between two chalk n’ cheese characters. But then this is a director who has always toyed with unusual storylines — he likes to make his audience think and ask questions.
After Cheeni Kum, Balki is back with another oddly paired couple. Ki & Ka’s Ki-a and Ka-bir are odd because of the roles they play in their marital life. The wife is the breadwinner — an unapologetically ambitious career woman — while husband is the homemaker who moves into her home and not the other way round. The former not so unusual, but in this case, the latter, who is an MBA topper and the eklauta beta of a builder scion, aspires to be a homemaker who doesn’t want any share of his baap ka paisa.
The setting is ripe for some very cleverly written lines and also (unfortunately) for some blatant product placements. Initially, it’s amusing to see the husband wake up before the wife, prepare breakfast for her and his saasuma, then keep an eye on the maid while both biwi and saasuma go out to work; he takes ghar ka kharcha from his wife, and even attends kitty parties with his neighbours. He also has an obsession for toy trains and turns their home into a very intricate looking train museum of sorts. Picturesque, yes. Practical? We don’t know, but that is not relevant. On the whole it is fun for a while to see Kia and Kabir play house.
But just like the honeymoon period in a marriage, the honeymoon period of Ki & Ka too fades away in no time. Once the playful bits are over, the conflicts begin, as they have to, and this is where the story falters. When the setting itself is so unnatural, it is indeed a task to make the troubles seem organic. Ki and Ka have their fights, but the situations seem forced into the narrative. The tone goes from playful to preachy and that ride is choppy. So the concept, a crackling one to begin with, soon crumbles like a house of cards.
It is by no means a dull film, R. Balki’s films never are. There are some bits that seem monotonous though. It’s refreshing to see Kareena Kapoor in a meaty role after a long time and she does a fine job of making her character seem livelier than it is. Arjun Kapoor of course had gold to work with — a man who aspires to be a housewife. What more could an actor want? He gives his all to the role and his chemistry with Kareena is crackling too. But at times his deadpan face begins to seem lifeless. However, his homemaker husband is given so much to do in terms of activity, that his expressions or the lack of it doesn’t matter. He also has some of the best lines in the film. Clearly Balki was more invested in his “Ka”.
The cameo by the Bachchans where both Amitabh and Jaya play themselves is one of the film’s most endearing and perhaps the most problematic sequences, because that is where the tone becomes blaringly didactic. We don’t know what would have made
Ki & Ka a perfect film given the story it chooses to tell. Stereotypes are so powerful and so ingrained into our consciousness that even in challenging them, we end up reinforcing them, albeit in a roundabout manner. The husband wears the mangalsutra and the wife dolls out the cash. But are we breaking free of the mangalsutra? These are complex questions and we don’t know if the film had set out to raise them or answer them. But that some question marks remain makes the overall story an unconvincing one and all the good work in the first half comes to naught as the film nosedives into hurried happy ending.