Kia (Kareena Kapoor Khan) is a marketing pro who dreams of becoming the CEO of her firm someday (soon) whereas Kabir (Arjun Kapoor) is a B-school topper who dreams of becoming a housewife, or more appropriately a househusband. What happens when their paths cross? Sparks fly, and both decide that they are ideal for each other. Kabir is content to let Kia pursue her "corporate robot" ambitions, while Kia is happy to let him become an "artist" who builds a home like his dear, departed mum did. Can Ki's and Ka's unconventional relationship survive resistance, ridicule, and, ultimately, personal insecurities?
Balki comes up with a thought-provoking concept, but in his zeal to market it as hip and trendy, he hands you a ball of fluff.
For all purposes, it seems Balki's intention was to challenge deeply entrenched gender roles and social stereotypes. Why do driven and ambitious women threaten people? Why should women automatically assume domestic responsibility? Why is a househusband's masculinity immediately called into question? Pertinent questions, certainly, but answered perfunctorily.
There is a real hesitation to go for the jugular, and so the film's solution is to offer band-aids that cover the issue temporarily without offering a real cure, as opposed to lancing it, which would reveal the festering ugliness inside.
After all, what would be the use of all that carefully manufactured prettiness then? The leads are impeccably styled, especially Kareena Kapoor Khan, who looks like the million bucks that she's pursuing. Arjun Kapoor zooms around on a Segway, and since his character loves trains, cinematographer P C Sreeram gets to showcase his skills in some quaint locations like the National Rail Museum. Ki and Ka live in a gorgeous apartment, where dinner chugs its way from the kitchen to the dining table on a toy train. And let's not forget the blatant product placement. Throw in some catchy songs, and music-video-like visuals, and you've got a nice little urban product ready for the multiplexes.
Perhaps the makers did wonder if the central message might get lost in the midst of all that design. Or maybe they just think we're dumb, because the film is quite heavy-handed with the preaching, and has an ingenuous way of bombarding us with platitudes for all 2 hours and 6 minutes of its runtime. The male protagonist, by a welcome twist of fate, becomes an overnight celebrity, which requires him to participate in countless interviews and speaking engagements. So, Kabir goes from TedX to Grihlakshmi (we're not kidding) pontificating about gender equality, and enlightening us primates about prejudices that we are not even aware of (ahem).
That would be fine, except that in an ironic twist, Ki and Ka perpetuates some of the very stereotypes it seeks to criticize. Kabir, the househusband, cooks like a chef, cleans better than the "bai", looks after Kia's mom with infinite tenderness, charms the neighbourhood aunties, is unflinchingly supportive of Kia's professional ambitions, and is a dream between the sheets. So, all the makers have succeeded in doing is switching genders, but preserving the stereotype of the "perfect spouse". Why don't we see this couple squabbling over joint accounts? Or, what if Ka was kaka (Hebrew for crap) in bed? Would Kia make a compromise in order to maintain their unique arrangement?
Ki and Ka doesn't venture anywhere near such uncomfortable territory. It's too busy eliciting laughs with obvious jokes, and maintaining it's tinsel veneer of coolth. Sample this - Kia's mother asks the young couple if they have consummated their relationship before marriage, but she isn't nearly as polite about it as us. The exact dialogue is on the lines of, "Sex ho gaya? It's important before marriage." Apparently, that's how liberal moms talk to their kids. Really? Eww.
The leads do most of the salvaging here. Kabir's character affords Arjun Kapoor the opportunity to use his slightly boorish aura to his advantage in the portrayal of a supremely confident and secure man. His act is mostly endearing and natural, but the lack of chemistry with his leading lady is quite the dampener, despite the countless smooches. Kareena Kapoor Khan does her absolute best with Balki's limited script, and turns in a spontaneous and effortless performance. There a few scenes in the film where she rises above the narrow writing, and you realize that she would have turned a meaty script into the best butter chicken you ever had - pity that she was saddled with a chicken-hearted director who wasn't ready to dive deep.
Ultimately, the writer-director Balki must take responsibility for the disappointing result of a very promising idea. But his mistake is all too human. Haven't you ever ordered a large pizza with the works - extra cheese, extra toppings - and then asked for a whole-wheat base just to allay your guilt? Obviously, the director wanted to try his hand at a typical Bollywood rom-com, but moved forward with a pertinent concept in keeping with his reputation for making topical films. This kind of straddling has been successful in the past, but sadly, is not in this case. So grab a slice only if you're in the mood for mildly entertaining, escapist fare. Otherwise, skip it.