Original release: January 27th 1976
Running time: 178 minutes
Original language: Hindi and Urdu
Director: Yash Chopra
Writers: Pamela Chopra, Sagar Sarhadi
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Shashi Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman, Raakhee Gulzar, Neetu Singh, Naseem, Rishi Kapoor
From as far back as I can remember, the house in Trinidad where I was born and grew up in was filled with music. Before I could walk, I danced and before I could speak I could hum the words to some of Bollywood’s most timeless film songs.
One of them was “Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein” (in English, “Sometimes, I Think in My Heart”), written by Sahir Ludhianvi and sung by Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar, two of India’s most famous playback singers. It was from the film Kabhi Kabhie which my mother and sister both loved, and still do.
I never knew the English translation, neither did anyone else in my family, and it never mattered. They arrive immediately in your heart and soul with no translations necessary. They’re understood because, much like poetry, it’s not about meaning but more about the feeling.
We moved to England in 1988 when I was 9 years old and the music and movies stopped. It’s taken me over 20 years to start rediscovering what I felt in those early years at my parents’ house, first with the one I remembered most vividly.
Kabhi Kabhie begins not with a song or a dance, but with a love poem recited by Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) at university. Fellow student Pooja (Raakhee Gulzar) is in the audience listening and afterwards she asks for his autograph. They fall in love and he writes more love poems but Pooja’s parents arrange for her to marry an architect, Vijay (Shashi Kapoor).
With his heart broken, Amit turns away from writing poems in an attempt to forget Pooja, and later marries Anjali (Waheeda Rehman). From there, Kabhi Kabhie is a story about two families whose fate becomes intertwined many years later.
Pooja and Vijay’s son, Vicky (Rishi Kapoor), falls in love with Pinky (Neetu Singh) while at college. Later on Pinky learns that she’s adopted and her birth mother is Anjali from a relationship before she met Amit. Anjali introduces Pinky as her niece although at first she refuses to publicly acknowledge that she’s her daughter for fear of Amit’s reaction.
Their own daughter Sweety (Naseem) becomes jealous of the affection that’s showered on Pinky. Things get further complicated when Vicky starts to take an interest in Sweety and that’s even before Amit realises who Vicky’s mother is or that his wife has another child.
As the first Indian movie I have watched in over 20 years, it was like recalling a past life. I remembered fervently the faces and voices of aunts and uncles who long ago passed away. I remembered weddings, birthdays and Diwali. I remembered songs, music and dancing…everything I had known in that early life. I realised then that being denied these movies for so long had denied not only my enjoyment of them, but also a deep connection to my past and the place my great grand-parents came from, Bombay (now Mumbai).
Kabhie Kabhie takes the classic “boy-meets-girl” story and weaves an emotionally stirring family saga which delivers it all; tears, laughter, romance and of course one of the most beautiful Indian songs to be featured in a film. The scene where Pooja sings “Kabhi Kabhie Mere Dil Mein” on her wedding night with Vijay is soulful and heartbreaking, recalling at once the pain of first love before the healing act of letting go can begin.
The performances all round are great. Rishi Kapoor is more of a comedic character but Waheeda Rehman balances this with her strong portrayal of a mother and wife who tries her best under difficult circumstances. The passing of time is beautifully reflected in the cinematography; as the seasons change, so too does the Kashmir landscape with winter and spring in rotation.
Watching Kabhi Kabhie again after so many years brings it all back and I regret a little it has taken me so long to do it.
The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is a composer and music producer with a philosophy degree. Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and World Cinema, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.
You can find his music on Soundcloud .