When you grow up watching something you don’t realise when or how it becomes an intrinsic part of you. You don’t see it inconspicuously find a way into your heart, offering you warmth and comfort when you need it the most. It exists, just the way you do, and you can’t imagine otherwise. Until one day, you wake up and find yourself in the tragic world of adulthood and are forced to re-examine this little corner of comfort you had so carefully carved out for yourself.
Kuch Kuch Hota Hai is a cliché like no other but it’s also an indelible part of Bollywood. Rahul, Tina and Anjali, whether you like them or hate them, are permanently seared into your memory. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’s legacy endures, despite how polarising it can often be. I can’t quite remember the first time I watched it nor can I remember the moment I decided that this was going to be the film that I would relentlessly reference and defend to death much to the embarrassment of my friends and family.
What makes it so special? I ask myself this question every time I decide to re-watch it. As someone who’s harboured a life-long love for all kinds of cinema, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai fails miserably when analysed critically. But nostalgia is tricky, nostalgia pushes you to build defences for things you shouldn’t be defending, it makes you passionately break down Rahul’s irrational behaviour in an attempt to create some form of meaning. I fail repeatedly, but I never give up. We all know how problematic the film is with its stereotypical gender roles and the uncritical lens through which it looks at marriage and love. Rahul is selfish, Tina is more of an idea than an actual person and Anjali … Anjali should have just known better. It’s not a great film and it’s perhaps inadvertently propagated an endless number of stereotypes about who the ‘right kind of girl’ is and why she deserves a happy ending. Any rational person would know better than to call Kuch Kuch Hota Hai one of their favourite films of all time.
And yet here I am, declaring my love for my life-long guilty pleasure.
For all its glaring shortcomings and its general disregard for subtlety, it is also the ultimate Bollywood experience. It has a way of drawing you into its bizarre world of unrealistic colleges, kooky characters and its single-minded devotion to … fun. You can’t help but smile at the world this film builds, at its cloying sentimentality that eventually grows on you. Karan Johar wanted to make a point about friendship and love, he wanted us to re-examine our definitions of what it meant to love someone and if it was possible for that love to endure, despite circumstances beyond our control. The humour, the delightful music and the iconic dialogues make Kuch Kuch Hota Hai the equivalent of a warm hug. On your worst days, you can fall back on ‘Koi Mil Gaya’ and watch Rahul and Anjali wish on a shooting star, as you sigh at how oblivious they are to what awaits them. There’s a familiarity that the film carries within itself, a familiarity that is reminiscent of an enduring friendship. The world around us continues to spin, our tastes evolve, we learn to love and hate new things, but Kuch Kuch Hota Hai stays. For better or for worse, the film has grown to become my best friend and you know what someone great once said? Pyaar dosti hai.
Disclaimer: This article has not been written by Film Companion’s editorial team.