In Ki & Ka, directed by R Balki, Kareena Kapoor plays Kia, a successful marketing manager at an FMCG company who is unapologetically focused on her career. Arjun Kapoor is Kabir, an MBA grad and the son of a rich builder, who has no interest in becoming one of those corporate drones. They meet on a flight (in a scenario so contrived it made me cringe), and after a few dates, they decide to get married.

Watching the film, you’d be forgiven for thinking its makers were the first people in the world to invent the idea of a stay-at-home husband. Kabir, who is devoted to the memory of his housewife mother, insists that a homemaker is an artist, and aspires to be one himself. Evidently Balki is utterly and completely in awe of his own ‘great idea’. Doused in a vat of self-importance, the film practically screams out at you to notice how cool and progressive it is…which, as we know, are two entirely different things.

Nevertheless Ki & Ka coasts along smoothly as the couple becomes comfortable in what we’re repeatedly reminded are reversed roles. As Kia continues to climb the corporate ladder and provide for them financially, Kabir devotes himself to housework, cooking and cleaning and sprucing up their home, which they share with Kia’s mother (Swaroop Sampat). His taste in design, however, is questionable given that he redecorates the flat to resemble a railway museum, complete with a miniature train that ferries breakfast from the kitchen to the living room table.

Like the case with each of Balki’s previous films (Cheeni Kum, Paa, Shamitabh), the script of Ki & Ka derails in its second half when it becomes clear that there’s little to the plot besides that interesting central conceit. There is no real conflict in the couple’s lifestyle choices so Balki manufactures multiple obstacles to keep the characters on their toes, and to keep you invested in them.

But the film’s second half feels especially labored and reinforces many stereotypes. Way too much product placement, the slackening pace of the screenplay, and the contrived nature of the drama quickly reduce the film to a slog. The only bright spot here is a lovely two-scene cameo by Amitabh and Jaya Bachchan, who ponder on how things might have turned out had Mrs B not given up her career to be a homemaker.

Ki & Ka arrives with a curious premise, but Balki fails to flesh it out into an engaging film. I was especially pleased to see Kareena Kapoor sink her teeth into a solid role after what seems like an eternity. Arjun Kapoor deserves credit for taking a role that few male stars would, but both actors are let down by the inert writing.

I’m going with a generous two out of five for Ki & Ka. It feels longer than its two hours running time, and you won’t be able to shake off the feeling that it delivers very little in the end.

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