Kal Ho Naa Ho: Shah Rukh Khan's film was as much about living in the moment as it was about letting go
In Kal Ho Naa Ho, Shah Rukh Khan's character Aman believed in milking the most out of life, but that did not come in the way of him ensuring a better tomorrow for Naina (Preity Zinta).
Shah Rukh Khan played one of the most memorable characters of his career in Nikkhil Advani's directorial debut Kal Ho Naa Ho, that released 15 years ago on 27 November, 2003.
Aman was a livewire who lived his life one day at a time. Not that he had any choice, since he was battling a terminal illness. "Suno! Jiyo! Muskurao! Kya pata kal ho naa ho," he said, making it clear that he lives only in the present. However, his belief in living a full life did not come in the way of his pragmatic far-sightedness and his concern for the tomorrow of his loved ones, a tomorrow he would not be a part of.
After Naina (Preity Zinta) fell in love with him, Aman tried to tell himself that she only thinks that she loves him. He used that self-defense mechanism not because he was unwilling to reciprocate her feelings (he loved her more!), but because he realised she would not be able to bounce back from the grief of losing him, after having lost her father at an early age. The initial loss had transformed her into a temperamental chashmish (nerd) who curbed her inclination towards love. It took her the unconditional love of Aman (and hours of rehearsing *one, two, three ting*) to regain her long lost smile.
Aman could have conveniently entered into a relationship with Naina and savoured it for as long as his health would allow it. Instead, he tricked her into believing that he is married to Priya (Sonali Bendre), who is actually his friend-cum-doctor. Additionally, he left no stone unturned to set her up (remember 6 din, ladki in?) with her longtime friend Rohit (Saif Ali Khan), who has been in love with her for years. He tried in every was possible to leave behind a comfortable life that can help her sustain her newfound zest for living.
This pragmatism and the ability to let go also stemmed from his will to live life optimally every second. Since he made the most of every moment, he could derive more from life much quickly than others. It allowed him to hoard all the immaterial wealth that he could mine from life, enough to sustain him beyond death. As the tagline of the film suggests, his was a "story of a lifetime in a heartbeat."
The heartbeat is a character in the Karan Johar film. The writer-producer ensured that the thumping echoes of an electronic heartbeat are interwoven into the crucial junctures of the narrative to provide a sense of urgency. The heartbeat was not only a reminder of the inevitable end to one's life but also a constant nudge to live one's life. This relentless pressure could have proven to be a burden, had it not been for the tone of the film. Dollops of humour were peppered all over the narrative. Even the music was equally uplifting. Besides the title track, which has evolved into an anthem for many, songs like 'It's The Time To Disco,' 'Maahi Ve,' 'Kuchh Toh Hua Hai' and 'Pretty Woman' were also feel-good.
All the hums and hearty laughs could be heard over and above the intimidating heartbeat. But as soon as these subsided, one would be reminded of how fruitfully consequential a limited life could prove to be. Kal Ho Naa Ho demonstrated how ensuring a better tomorrow for others only enriches one's today.
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