Loyalty is a building block to strengthening and creating relationships. Sometimes, a friendship or romantic relationship is pursued with varying intentions, but regardless, the underlying groundwork is strongly supported by this concept, whether it’s emotional or wholly superficial. This becomes an interesting concept to explore in films, where it is central to a story. It becomes interesting to explore loyalty’s conceptualization when problems seem to arise as a result of undermining this concept. By analyzing a specific film that somewhat resembles reality, what can we take away with loyalty in mind?
Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna, translated as “Never say Goodbye”, is a 2006 Bollywood movie. The story follows Dev and Maya and their struggles with their respective spouses Rhea and Rishi, coupled with the prospect of burgeoning affection for one another. The climax of the film is Dev and Maya acting on their feelings while their spouses are out, beginning a controversial extramarital affair.
To dissect how loyalty is represented in this film, and how certain aspects can be investigated in real life, I reflected primarily on how each character was represented. Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna is interested in telling a story of complicated changes in life that impact one’s idea of love, and the characters indirectly decide how to define loyalty as a result of such circumstances.
Dev and Maya's eventual affair takes place largely in part to these circumstances, which makes sense. The two first bonded about life on Maya's wedding day (before the ceremony), the scene framing the interaction as organic and seamless. The movie fast-forwards a couple years to them being miserable with their respective married lives. Dev resents Rhea's steady success as he is crippled from a car accident, while Maya lives with Rishi, her arranged partner whom she can't seem be happy with. When the two reconnect to distract themselves from their unhappy marriages, the way they express loyalty to each other is framed as 'right'. Scenes with Rhea or Rishi contrast how happy Dev and Maya are with each other, moments of joy being fleeting. When Dev confesses to Maya that he is in love with her in an empty train station, his loyalty is with her and not his wife Rhea. Maya is more reserved and submissive, but expresses a similar sentiment when Rishi interrogates her after learning about the affair. Dev and Maya have more chemistry together as characters, and the idea of them being apart seems 'wrong'. Loyalty is ethically juggled often when reflecting on the fact that they are married, but the two get their happy ending while Rishi and Rhea don't.
It was interesting to see how these characterizations could be interpreted, and what messages were transferable to real life when considering the idea of loyalty. Who are we loyal to? Why are we loyal to them? What helps to determine who our allegiances lie with in life? This movie, from a conscientious standpoint, made me consider the why’s and how’s of loyalty in relationships. The penultimate scene of Dev confessing his love to Maya in the train station shows, as I mentioned earlier, the two alone in an empty space at night. I think this was an intentional choice from the creators to have them meet in a place so large and so empty, as the two are truly alone in this dilemma. Even as the movie seems to frame their romance as the one to support, this representation implies that they are alone in their own world, only considering themselves as they ascertain who they are loyal to through Dev’s confession. The two reunite at the end of the movie at the same train station, where they are no longer hiding, and daylight brightens the space. Their affair went from one that happened in secret, in the dark, to one filled with life, light, and in turn legitimizing their romance. That connection was an interesting symbolic observation (if intended), but did help when considering where loyalty takes form, and not just why or how. Does a certain location also impact the way loyalty is conveyed? If I had not built connections with friends in the locations those memories were made, would we be where we are now? The characters in this film don’t offer all the insights to interpersonal relations and perfect critiques on loyalty, but the way it juggled around loyalty between people did make me think. I enjoy seeing what case studies exist out there that depict more personal, intimate, human problems, and this movie is no exception.