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20 years of Kal Ho Naa Ho! Saif Ali Khan as Rohit showed ‘ek tarfa pyaar ki takat hi kuch aur hoti hai’ in the most timeless way

As Kal Ho Naa Ho clocks 20 years, here’s a look at how Saif Ali Khan’s character Rohit Patel is the greenest flag we saw two decades ago

20 years of Kal Ho Naa Ho! Saif Ali Khan as Rohit showed ‘ek tarfa pyaar ki takat hi kuch aur hoti hai’ in the most timeless way
Saif Ali Khan in Kal Ho Naa Ho

Last Updated: 12.49 PM, Nov 28, 2023


In his book, An Unsuitable Boy, Karan Johar revealed the central idea of Kal Ho Naa Ho, which he gave to director Nikkhil Advani as, “A man dying. An angel who comes into people’s lives.” The filmmaker, who created the story and penned the screenplay, called it his best work. Well, it did! We got an ‘angel’ in the name of Aman Mathur, played beautifully by Shah Rukh Khan. Over the past two decades, people have talked about him as an unsung hero or a therapist until he actually donned the role of one in Dear Zindagi as Dr. Jehangir Khan. But Aman was incomplete without the life he passed on to Naina Katherine Kapur (Preity Zinta) as well as Rohit Patel (Saif Ali Khan).

Aman entered the existing world of Kapurs and Patels and created a symphony in the cacophony of their lives. In this process, as a viewer, we saw him healing Naina and making her realise that her life is good enough and she has the best people around. And the best of the lot was Rohit, who, like the previous two films of Karan Johar, was going on the path of unrequited love—Kajol in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Rani Mukerji in Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham. He doesn’t realise that Naina is the one meant for her until Aman ignites. But in this process, Naina falls for Aman, only to cause heartbreak.


Redefining masculinity and unrequited love

The pre-interval scene also shows that Naina, who is actually in love with Aman, actually goes to seek validation about it from her only friend, Rohit. Little did she know that he was there to confess his feelings for her. But he does give it up easily, knowing that the girl he has known for a couple of years has finally smiled, and even if the reason is not him, her happiness is what matters. He doesn’t even hesitate to let go and then get into a cocoon.

However, in the beautiful scene that comes after the interval, where he asks Naina if she will ever fall in love again, he realises that she answered in the best possible way by being silent. Even when Aman tries to make him realise the trope of ‘6 din, ladki in’, he is not ready for it.

Yes, but after rewatching the film, I realised this mission by Aman was to get a reaction from Naina, even if it was anger, to make her realise that life still hasn’t ended and will go on, and she has a best friend with whom she also shouldn’t maintain a distance. However, Rohit, being the ultra-cool guy that he is, readily agrees, secure in the knowledge that he will be there for Naina without question should she ever require a friend or fall in love again. As he says, Pyaar ka pehla kadam dosti hai, aur aakhri bhi. Bas beech ke kadam reh gaye hai.” (The first step of love is friendship, and so is the last. Only the steps in between are left).

If people feel Karan didn’t justify it well in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai - “Pyaar dosti hai," well, Kal Ho Naa Ho goes the best with this meaningful line, which has been on people’s minds for 20 years now.

Rohit’s character defies convention, providing audiences with an intriguing and complex representation of modern masculinity. While embracing vulnerability, his green flag waves proudly. Rohit stands out as a character who puts his heart on his sleeve in a society that associates strength with emotional reserve. Karan Johar, while writing both Aman and Rohit, challenged the age-old concept that male protagonists must conform to a predefined script of emotional stoicism. He openly expressed his affection for Naina while also negotiating the difficulties of unrequited love.

After Naina gets to know that it was Aman who made this plan to make Rohit fall in love with her, he assures her that he is indeed head over heels. Until then, even Rohit, in his innocence, felt that it was Aman who made Naina fall in love with him. But on hearing Naina’s outburst, he realised that Aman made him brave enough to acknowledge his feelings.

Rohit’s acceptance and respect for Naina

There’s a deleted scene in Kal Ho Naa Ho in which Aman actually reads out what Rohit actually wrote in his diary, and he did write that he was falling in love with his friend. What distinguishes Rohit is his ability to reimagine friendship and romance. Rather than falling victim to the tired cliché of the male companion secretly pining for the female lead, he handles his sentiments with grace and candour. His character growth takes the journey beyond the traditional boundaries of friendship, allowing for a more authentic exploration of emotions.

Well, like Jennifer Kapur (Jaya Bachchan) tells Naina, there’s nothing wrong with seeking help to win her heart, and he is not weak. He is in unrequited love and still ready to accept her wholly, which is a sign of strength. The bottom line is that their friendship is so strong, and he has the most respect for her, knowing what she went through and acknowledging it.

Before Shah Rukh Khan’s character Tahir Taliyar Khan in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil talks about the voluminous “Ek tarfa pyaar ki taakat hi kuch aur hoti hai," Saif Ali Khan as Rohit showed that strength in the coolest, deepest, and most heartfelt manner.

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