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Unhappy with the polarising response to his 2001 production, Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham..., Karan Johar decided to make what he called "a cool film" with "a different energy" from his previous projects. He began working on the script for a film that would later be titled Kal Ho Naa Ho.[15][16] Before the filming started, it was initially entitled Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, but Johar later changed it to Kal Ho Naa Ho (naming it after the song "Aisa Milan Kal Ho Naa Ho" from the 1997 film Hameshaa).[13] He used the former title Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna for his 2006 unnamed film.[17]

Around the same time, Nikhil Advani, who had served as an assistant director for Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin (1996),[18] Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998),[15] Mohabbatein (2000),[15] and Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham...,[15] had planned to direct a spy thriller set in Kashmir featuring Shah Rukh Khan.[19] Advani sent an initial draft to Johar and his father, Yash Johar. They felt it was controversial and did not want Advani to choose such a risky subject for his debut film. Johar described Kal Ho Naa Ho's script to Advani who agreed to direct the film if he could make it his way.[19] Johar agreed since he preferred not to direct the film to avoid repeating previous mistakes.[20][21] He later regretted the decision and thought about taking over from Advani but refrained from doing so out of courtesy.[22] Advani said that Johar "underestimated himself" thinking he could not "do justice to it."[23] In an interview with Sukanya Verma of, Advani described Kal Ho Naa Ho as "the story of a family which is bogged down with a lot of problems"; one man enters their lives "and solves all their problems and makes them realise how their problems are not as big as they are perceived to be."[19]

Neetu Singh was approached for the role of Naina's mother, Jennifer, but she turned it down. It was then offered to Bachchan, who was initially reluctant to take on the role.[30] After Advani told her he would make the film in the style of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Gulzar, both of whom were Bachchan's favourite directors, she changed her mind immediately and accepted the part.[25] Kajol and Rani Mukerji made special appearances in the song "Maahi Ve".[31] Vogue India fashion director Anaita Shroff Adajania made a cameo appearance as Geeta Parekh, Naina and Rohit's fellow MBA candidate.[14][17]

Kal Ho Naa Ho was the last film produced by Yash Johar before his death on 26 June 2004.[32][6] While Karan wrote the story and screenplay, the dialogue was written by Niranjan Iyengar. Anil Mehta and Sanjay Sankla were signed as cinematographer and editor, respectively;[6] Mehta also appeared briefly as Naina's father (Jennifer's husband) at the beginning of the film.[14] Sharmishta Roy was the film's production designer. Farah Khan choreographed the song scenes and appeared as a customer in Jennifer's café.[6][14] Actor Arjun Kapoor was an assistant director of the film.[33]

The film's costumes were designed by Manish Malhotra.[34] Zinta said in an interview with Subhash K. Jha that she preferred "a very 'preppy' look", similar to Ali MacGraw's in Love Story (1970), and wore glasses to indicate Naina's initially serious nature.[35][36] Johar wanted Bachchan to wear jeans, believing that "it would be nice" for the audience "to see her in something unusual" and "break new ground" giving her a "fresh" look. Bachchan accepted without hesitation telling Johar, "If you are making it, I'll do it".[37] Zinta designed and sewed the clothes for Gia's dolls in the film.[17]

Johar and Advani were fascinated with New York City and wanted to set Kal Ho Naa Ho there.[19][38] Johar went to New York City while he worked on the film's script and stayed at least one-and-a-half months[a] studying the people, their culture, how they commute and the lifestyle of Americans and the non-resident Indians (NRI) there.[37][38] He "sat in Central Park, stared at people, wrote the film, came back to Mumbai, narrated it to everybody, selected the cast."[38]

The city appealed to Advani, since he believed it mirrored Naina's personality. He summarised the similarity between the two: "You can be surrounded by millions of people right in the middle of Grand Central Station. And you can be extremely lonely." He had never been to New York City before, and used the films of Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Rob Reiner and Nora Ephron to learn about life there.[19] Like Johar, Advani analysed everything about the city:

The 80-person production unit then moved to New York City for additional filming in July 2003, when Shah Rukh Khan joined them.[23][41] Advani and Mehta wanted to capture the city's change of seasons from winter to summer to highlight the transformation of Naina's personality,[19][21] but were unable to do so due to Shah Rukh Khan's illness. As a result, they filmed the sequences set in New York City during the summer.[21][39]

Shooting in New York City began on 15 July,[40] covering areas in and around the five boroughs and on Long Island. The street where Aman and Naina live was filmed in Brooklyn, where the unit camped for two weeks in local houses.[19] A body double was used for Zinta's jogging scene during the film's opening credits since she had injured herself while shooting it.[14] The Northeast blackout of 2003 forced the unit to cancel some filming.[13][19][37] The shooting schedule in New York City lasted for fifty-two days.[37] The final scenes, which included some songs, were filmed at the Filmistan Studios in Mumbai over about fifty days beginning in August 2003.[37][42][43] Shooting ended in October 2003, "Maahi Ve" being the last scene filmed.[43] According to Shah Rukh Khan, Kal Ho Naa Ho was made in sync sound as there were many indoor sequences in the film. He noted that sync sound "improved" his performance "considerably" describing it as "one of the biggest blessings for an actor."[44]

Johar had planned the film's climax differently, but Yash Johar persuaded him that Aman should die. Given Shah Rukh Khan's screen persona, he believed Aman's death would have a bigger impact on the audience.[45] In September 2015, Shah Rukh Khan revealed that Johar "made a special edit" of the film for his children as a favour to him; in this version, the film ends before his character dies.[46]

Kal Ho Naa Ho continued the trend set by Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) in which Indian family values are always upheld, regardless of the country of residence.[47] Social and cultural analysis professor Gayatri Gopinath (author of Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures) noted how the film asserts "the essential Indianness" of its characters, and the entry of Aman Mathur gives them a sense of pride in their identity as Indians. This is seen when Aman helps overcome Jennifer Kapur's financial constraints by turning her café into an Indian restaurant and replacing the American flag with the Indian tricolour.[48] In Postliberalization Indian Novels in English: Politics of Global Reception and Awards, Maria Ridda compares the film with Kuch Kuch Hota Hai because both films depict the internalisation of Western ideologies into Indian culture. Ridda agrees with Gopinath on the impact of Aman's transformation of Jennifer's café. She notes that all of Jennifer's friends and family work together on the renovation and it reinforces "a 'pan-Indian' sense of belonging."[49]

Many critics noted Aman's resemblance to Rajesh Khanna's character, Anand Saigal, in Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Anand (1971). In both films, the protagonist is diagnosed with a terminal illness but believes in living life to the fullest.[52][53][54] Despite accepting Aman and Anand's similar personalities, Mayank Shekhar of Mid-Day felt that the film had more in common with Farhan Akhtar's directorial debut, Dil Chahta Hai (2001), "in its look and lingos".[52] Film journalists and critic, Komal Nahta, in his review of Kal Ho Naa Ho for Outlook,[55] Ram Kamal Mukherjee of Stardust,[56] Jitesh Pillai of The Times of India, and Paresh C. Palicha of The Hindu all agreed that the film is thematically similar to Anand.[57][58] Each felt it shared common aspects with other films starring Khanna: 1970s Safar, where terminal illness is also a central motif,[55][57][58] and Bawarchi (1972), in which the protagonist mends relationships between families and friends.[56][58] Pillai also compared Shah Rukh Khan's death to Tom Hanks' in the 1993 legal drama, Philadelphia.[57]

Some reviewers and scholars believe that Kal Ho Naa Ho has indirect homosexual themes. Manjula Sen of The Telegraph and Mimansa Shekhar of The Indian Express feel there is homosexual innuendo, particularly in scenes where Rohit's servant Kantaben finds Rohit and Aman in what she thinks are compromising situations, leading her to believe they are a couple.[59][60] Dina Holtzman writes in her book, Bollywood and Globalization: Indian Popular Cinema, Nation, and Diaspora, that Aman's death was similar to the death of Jai (Amitabh Bachchan's character in the 1975 film, Sholay). According to Holtzman, their deaths broke the bond between the two male leads and were necessary to establish a normative heterosexual relationship between Rohit and Naina in Kal Ho Naa Ho, and Veeru and Basanti in Sholay.[61]

Unlike in many previous Bollywood films,[66] Johar complied with international copyright laws and obtained permission to rework Roy Orbison's 1964 song "Oh, Pretty Woman" for the film; the revised song was entitled "Pretty Woman".[14] The music for the title song, "Kal Ho Naa Ho", was composed by Loy Mendonsa, while he and Advani were at a German Bakery in Pune. Advani wanted a song thematically similar to Celine Dion's 1997 recording of "My Heart Will Go On", which he was humming at the time. When he heard it, Mendonsa came up with the tune and recorded it on his phone. After Shankar Mahadevan and Ehsaan Noorani listened to it, the trio composed the song.[23] 153554b96e


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