15 Years Later, We Remember The Best ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’ Characters

by Rishma Johal 

As a Brown Girl growing up in North America, the Bollywood’s multi-star composed, blockbuster “Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham” shaped my entire life. The music in this movie was phenomenal and probably added the Bollywood masala that made this film such a success. However, the music was one thing and the cast was another. Let’s just say the K3G characters hit eerily close to home, who doesn’t know people like them in their real lives?

In honor of the film’s 15th anniversary (who else feels old?!), it’s time to break down the major (and best) characters of K3G to their cores, and find out why we all related to them oh so very much.

[Read Related: 5 Bollywood Moms We Love]

1. Dhaijan, aka DJ

Played fantastically by Farida Jalal, DJ encapsulated the essence of a true “grandma-like figure” who raised the kids and protected them from their parents. She consistently ruined everyone’s attempts to get little Rohan to lose weight by feeding him ladoos and refused to stop a grown up Poo from wearing chotay chotay kapday. DJ was the boss, she knew what gender equality was about. Nevertheless, she was also wise and the first to recognize a grown, handsome, and much thinner Rohan.

2. The Transformation King: Rohan

Who else can we talk about next other than Rohan himself? A character who transforms from a young, meek, and easily bullied child to a strong, driven, and talented young man. He is literally the DREAM. The dashing heartthrob was not only good at everything but loved his family. In fact, he was determined to bring them back together. Moreover, he was a guy who cried openly and wasn’t afraid to show emotion. The cherry on top—he remembers his childhood crush and learns the tongue twisters that she used to tease him with. Well, he’s a keeper. Can I please have one of these?

3. The One & Only “Poo”

Of course, Rohan’s childhood crush had to have as much (if not more) personality than him. Poo goes from a feisty young girl who’s a bit of a bully to an opinionated, short-tempered, yet caring young woman. Although, many of her childhood qualities stuck with her, she was more than a Brown Girl with an attitude; she was a confident woman with flair. Her edge and style influenced how others dressed, which is impressive in its own way. Ugghh, I guess she could be a lot nicer and she’s still kind of a bully. But who couldn’t help but laugh at the way she turned Robbie down every time? I mean he reminds us of every f*ckboy on the planet.

4. Anjali: The Classic

Pooja’s sister, Anjali, was no less tempered than her sibling when it came to a matter of opinions. A sweet, clumsy, young woman who manages to do everything wrong becomes every immigrant child’s worst nightmare (and reality)—a patriotic Indian mother. From embarrassing her child in front of his friend to forcing him to learn Indian culture, Kajol nails the character by showering him with unwanted motherly love. She also plays Rahul’s love interest, which is basically the reason that the whole film exists. She is a hilarious and confused lover who fails to recognize that Rahul is hitting on her. Moreover, Rahul gets kicked out of the house for marrying her, which only makes us love Anjali more as a haphazard, unfortunate, and well-meaning daughter-in law. So many tears, sob.

5. The Romantic Rahul

Rahul is a sensible, mannered, well-educated, and career-oriented young man who has an unbreakable bond with his mother. He also follows in his father’s footsteps and looks up to him. Yet, he makes one mistake— he falls in love with the wrong girl. Nevertheless, he holds his own by challenging stereotypes and breaking barriers; standing up against his father’s prejudiced attitudes. He continues to hold the hand of the girl he married and moves abroad. He conveys the suspicion of every brown paternalistic figure as he sees the romance brew between Rohan and Poo. He is protective and humorous, making him more human than anything. Overall, he is a courageous, loving, and adorable character with many admirable qualities that wins us over immediately.

6. Nandini Raichand

Rahul’s mother is an absolute sweetheart. She adores her children and has an extremely strong bond with her first son who was actually adopted. Her special skills to sense Rahul’s arrival before he enters truly make us believe in the magic of motherhood. Her longing to see her daughter-in law and yearning for her son to return only make us want to give her a great, big hug. She is kind and caring but a bit too quiet. Nandini is afraid of telling her husband what’s on her mind and every time he says “kehdiya na, bass kehdiya,” she stops speaking. All we want to do the entire time is make her talk; stand up to him, please! We finally do get to see this at the end, and it is basically Nandini’s character development that leads things to fall in place.

7. The Complication: Yashvardhan Raichand

Rahul’s father, Yashvardhan, is one of those proud, dominating Bollywood fathers that tend to scare the living hell out of you without speaking—an angry look is enough to make you pee in your pants. Nonetheless, he is a well-meaning father who is trying to look out for his son’s best interest. That being said, he never lets his wife speak and even his mother is scared of talking sense into him. He is also prejudiced and looks down upon Anjali for being from a lower class family. Completely sexist, classist, and too proud to see his mistakes, Yashvardhan becomes the villain of K3G by tearing his family apart. However, in the conclusion he melts down and shows that he isn’t a heartless fiend but someone with a lot of love hidden deep beneath his shell.

8. Last But Not Least: SPRITELY

Now, how can we end without mentioning the unbearable Mrs. Spritely? Sure she’s not a main character, she’s always getting on Anjali’s nerves, and she’s just a little too friendly with Rahul for Anjali’s liking. But Mrs. Spritely shows significant character development for a supporting role. Early in K3G, she comes off as a touch racist and reeks of prejudice as she brags about her table being at the front, complains about Anjali’s loud speaking, and consistently demeans her. I think we’ve all known that kind of “gori” mom growing up. But then Mrs. Spritely surprises you when she rises for the national anthem of India, and shows respect for Anjali’s culture for the first time. It’s kind of impossible not to like her after that.

[Read Related: We Remind You Of The Greatest ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’ Quotes]

As a whole, K3G was an amazing film with numerous characters who each possessed significant qualities that have to be admired. Even the characters left out of this list, both grandmothers, Naina, Rukhsaar, Bauji, and Haldiram had defined traits that made the film so easy to watch and heartwarming. This melodrama not only entertained audiences but captured their hearts, which is why we will always remember this film. Or maybe because we watched it over 100 times. Anyhow, Happy Anniversary K3G!

[Images: Yash Raj Films; Giphy]

IMG_0005Rishma Johal graduated from Simon Fraser University with an M.A. in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies, and B.A. in History. Rishma is an anti-racist feminist as well as an advocate for intersectionality and social justice. Her research is aimed at enacting social change as is her photography and video work. Rishma has also hosted television programs, radio shows, live events, and presented at numerous conferences. She loves dancing, has a knack for acting and is a complete Bollywood fanatic!

By Brown Girl Magazine

Brown Girl Magazine was created by and for South Asian womxn who believe in the power of storytelling as a … Read more ›

‘The Queen Of My Dreams’: A Heartening Montage of the Complexities That Make up a Mother-Daughter Relationship

The Queen of My Dreams
Image Courtesy: TIFF

There’s often an element of dysfunctionality that exists within South Asian families. Especially immigrant families, who are carrying with them the burden of intergenerational trauma, shame and guilt; holding onto the last straw of cultural traditions that they have forever known to be the convention, in order to avoid the obliteration of these said values to “Western” ideologies. But what the older generation tends to forget is that they, too, may have been the rebels of their time; misplaced, misfits for the standards of their predecessors. They, too, with their big, ‘American’ dreams (Canadian, in this case) quite possibly left their elders grappling with the loss of their legacy to the unknown. Fawzia Mirza’s “The Queen of My Dreams,” which premiered at the 48th annual Toronto International Film Festival, probes into this disparity, drawing on the complexities of a strained mother-daughter relationship in what is an endearing and emotional tale of loss, love, and nostalgia. 

[Read Related: ‘Thank You For Coming’ Unapologetically Begs the Answer to a Very Important Question]

Azra (Amrit Kaur) — a Muslim Canadian teenager — is met with the sudden news of her father’s untimely demise. Her father (Hamza Haq) was the only mediator and one of the two shared loves (the other being the ’60s iconic Bollywood song, “Mere Sapnon Ki Rani”) between Azra and her devout mother, Mariam (Nimra Bucha), who rarely see eye-to-eye otherwise. A grieving Azra hops on a plane to Pakistan to attend her father’s funeral and from here on, through fragmented images, viewers are taken on a dramatic yet poignant journey across generations, cultures, and continents, all contrasting each other, but very much in tandem in the telling of the story. 

For those who’ve seen Bucha’s talent unfold on Pakistani television can probably vouch for her versatility as an actor. She may have “not fit into the industry” that loves itself a damsel in distress, but seldom has she failed to prove her acting prowess. She is now living this title of a ‘Rising International Star’ to watch out for and deservingly so. She adds a welcome eccentricity and flamboyance to the role of an aspirational, immigrant wife trying to add to the household income by selling Tupperware to white folks. And, at the same time, lends this relatable humanism, fragility, and desperation to her character of an immigrant mother reconnecting with her faith at the sight of losing control over her life and her daughter’s. She allows viewers to recognize what her character cannot see in herself. 

Bucha is matched, if not completely outshone, by Kaur, who seamlessly switches between the roles of an adventurous and ambitious young Mariam and a grieving Azra. The latter is frustrated with the cultural and religious norms set out to restrict women around her; she’s also a queer Muslim teen struggling to gain her mother’s acceptance after she abandoned their once-thriving bond at the time of her coming-of-age awakening. Kaur portrays the many layers of her character with sheer nuance, depth, and sincerity. Her dexterity as an actor is evident in how tightly she grips onto the idiosyncracies of each character as if it’s not the same, but two different individuals enacting them. 

The Queen of My Dreams
Film Still Courtesy: Organic PR


It is delightful to see Gul-e-Rana play something other than a loud, overbearing, or vengeful matriarch, while still very much being in the same category. The particular scene where Rana whispers to her daughter Mariam on her wedding stage, commending her for truly being the great actor she hopes to become by hiding her groom’s plans of migration all the while, almost makes you sympathize with her character. Unfortunately, there isn’t much to do for the talented Haq who plays the father and the husband, but he sure exudes the perfect charm of a romantic Bollywood hero if he ever chooses to pursue that path. 

[Read Related: Joyland: A Film Rising Above Unacceptability With a Story of Acceptance]

Mirza weaves and explores a multitude of challenging social issues such as immigration, identity, and sexuality around the intricacies of an intense mother-daughter relationship, without leaving any loose threads. What you are left with is the possibility of Mariam and Azra showing each other some grace, having dived into their past that boils down to the fact that even though they stand at odds with each other — estranged and unforgiving — they have more in common than they’d admit. Queer or not, “The Queen of My Dreams” will offer some relatability to every immigrant mother and her multi-hyphenated daughter. It is like gazing at a self-portrait that persuades you to reflect on the past and its impact on your present and to rethink the trajectory of your future. It also reminds you that all battles — be they of epic proportions or marked by petty grievances — should and must come to an end because life is just too short.

By Nida Hasan

Managing Editor at Brown Girl Magazine, Nida has worked and written for several publications in a journalism career spanning almost … Read more ›

Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History — A Review of Sundance’s ‘Polite Society’

Polite Society

For any of us who have siblings, the relationship with them can be one of the most fulfilling ones. And also one of the most bloody frustrating. No one can quite stroke the fire like someone who knows you extremely well, or sometimes not, but have a familial bond with that neither one of you chose. In “Polite Society,“directed by Nida Manzoor, sisters Ria Khan and Lena Khan’s loving, sweet, and sometimes tumultuous relationship takes center stage. 

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Played delightfully by Priya Kansara and Ritu Arya, respectively, the evolution of their relationship is one of the film’s greatest and simultaneously weakest points. It’s also pretty cool to see two South Asian actresses in an action-comedy movie — how refreshing it is to mention the art of choreography and praise it in regards to fight sequences vs. dance sequences for a film centered on two South Asian women — that itself shows progress. 

Set in London, Ria is an aspiring stunt woman who already shows massive talent in martial arts. She looks up to her older sister Lena, who is enrolled in art school and, also holds remarkable potential in a somewhat less traditionally acceptable field. Their relationship starts off as supportive and sweet with no inclinations of jealousy or resentment that sometimes plagues sisterly bonds. But this also means that they are quite protective of one another, almost to the detriment of their well wishes for each other. 

This all happens when Lena gets engaged after dropping out of art school. Ria feels betrayed. They were supposed to be on this journey together in fighting for their dreams. Ria decides that she knows what’s best for her sister and enlists the help of her friends to rescue the damsel in distress from her own wedding. Her deep animosity towards the prospect of Lena getting married is also fueled by Lena’s fiancé and his mother acting extremely suspiciously. The twist that ultimately brings the two sisters back together is both shocking and weirdly somewhat progressive in the motive behind the villain’s origin story. But the twist, unfortunately, is too ambitious for the movie as it tacks on another genre and theme earnestly, but still clunkily. 

“Polite Society” tackles not only what it means to fight for one’s dreams but also what it means to have just one ardent supporter. As Lady Gaga famously said, “There can be 100 people in a room and 99 of them don’t believe in you but all it takes is one and it just changes your whole life.” Well, Ria’s Bradley Cooper was her very own sister who seemed to abandon her, and her faith in her, when she chose a different path. For Lena, the film opened up the question of marriage and the weight it bears in the life of a South Asian woman. Ria’s lack of understanding of the pressure it places on Lena is the start of the change in their relationship — the start of Ria’s coming of age and the start of Lena settling firmly into her adulthood. 

Polite Society
Director Nida Manzoor, cinematographer Ashley Connor and actor Priya Kansara on the set of their film “Polite Society.”

Standouts from the cast include Ria’s best friends, played by Seraphina Beh and Ella Bruccoleri, who commit to the story and characters with such hilarity and conviction. They add the lightheartedness and playfulness the film needs, and it is refreshing that never once do they use Ria’s cultural background as a way to make fun of her or dismiss her.

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It is also heartening to see Lena and Ria’s parents being some of the most supportive South Asian parents seen on screen. At the end of the day, it is not the external family pressure that impacts the decisions made by the sisters but rather their own satisfaction, or lack thereof, with their own lives that become the driving force of their actions. 

“Polite Society” is written and directed by a South Asian woman for South Asian women, and is definitely worth a watch when it releases in theaters this April. 

Photo Credits: Focus Features LLC

By Nimarta Narang

Born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand, Nimarta grew up devouring Hindi movies, coming-of-age novels and one too many psychology textbooks. … Read more ›

Anita Verma-Lallian Talks Camelback Productions and the Need for Greater South Asian Representation

Camelback Productions

Award-winning commercial real estate and land consultant in Arizona, Anita Verma-Lallian, is venturing into the world of entertainment with her newfound production house, Camelback Productions, making her the first South Asian female in the state to do so. Verma-Lallian is a woman used to paving her own way, and now she’s committed to doing it for future generations.

[Read Related: Anita Verma-Lallian Launches Arizona’s First South Asian-owned Film Production and Entertainment Company ]

Through her production company, she aims to contribute towards greater South Asian representation in mainstream media with a focus on storytelling that’s relevant to the community. In a conversation with Brown Girl Magazine, the real estate maven spoke about what inspired her to shift from investing in land to investing in creative dreams.

Tell us more about Camelback Productions and what your hopes are for the company?

The intention is to help communities that are not being represented in the media. As you know, there are a lot more streamers looking for content so that presents an interesting opportunity for people to tell stories that are otherwise not being told.

For us it’s important to tell these stories that aren’t being told, and tell them in the way that we want them to be told. With South Asians, for instance, the roles typically given are stereotypical. There are only four or five roles we are playing repeatedly. I want to show the South Asian community and culture in a different way. 

You come from a business and investor background. I am curious to know what catapulted your interest towards establishing a production company?

Good question. There were a few things that inspired my interest. I was looking to diversify the different opportunities we offered our investors. We’ve done a lot of real estate, so we were overall looking for different investment opportunities.  And then, at the time when I started exploring this, the real estate market was in this wait-and-see for many people. 

Everyone was sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what happens next. There was a slowdown at the end of 2022 which is when I started looking into this more. Film seemed like it was kind of recession-proof and not really tied to what’s happening in the economy, which I thought was refreshing and exciting.

Also, overall, I observed what was happening in the industry with there being a push to see more South Asians in the media. The timing felt right, and I think we’re moving in the right direction.

What kind of content are you looking to create?

Good stories and good quality scripts. We are looking at all types of content — movies, docu-series, comedy shows, and reality shows. We’re open to anything that has a good message. 

On a personal level, what hits home for you with this production company?

Growing up I always loved film and TV. We watched a lot of Bollywood movies because that’s what we related to and I always loved that. But I did feel there wasn’t a lot of representation of people that looked like me. Being able to change that — especially after having kids, and a daughter who wants to go into film — is important for. It’s a contribution for future generations. It’s important to me that as they grow up, they see people that look just like them.  

Is there a significance to the name Camelback?

Yes! Camelback Mountain is a very iconic mountain in Phoenix. It’s one of the most famous hikes we have here and a relatively challenging one.

The significance is being able to overcome challenges and barriers. I have a nice view of Camelback Mountain and it’s something I look at every day, when I’m stressed and overwhelmed. It has a very calming and grounding presence.

To me the mountains signify being grounded and not being able to be moved by external factors. That’s what I want this production company to be!

What would you advise people interested in entering the entertainment industry?

The best advice I would give someone is to align yourself with people that you know are experts in the industry; that have a good track record. Learn from as many people as you can. I learn as much as I can, talk to as many people as I can, and I study different things to understand what was and wasn’t successful.

Photo Credit: Claudia Johnstone

By Rasha Goel

Rasha Goel is a 2X Emmy-nominated television host/producer and international correspondent. Her talent has led to opportunities such as giving … Read more ›