Back in 2000, Kya Kehna was hailed as a bold film that attempted to break societal norms. It dealt with the subject of premarital sex and had Preity Zinta playing a single teenage mother. It was also supposed to be Preity Zinta’s Bollywood debut, but, delay after delay kept the film four years in the making. Nonetheless, this Kundan Shah directorial venture turned out to be a sleeper hit, despite the backlash over the tabooed storyline.

In the film, Saif Ali Khan played a casanova who jumped from one girl to another, as he did on his bike, from one cliff to another. But the dangerous way his character, Rahul Modi, lived in the film, actually put Saif in the hospital for days. The actor was performing a stunt and met with what he later described as ‘the worst accident’ of his life. It’s been 21 years since Kya Kehna released. Today, we revisit some of the lesser-known facts about the film.

In 2004, Saif Ali Khan and Preity Zinta appeared on the first season of Koffee With Karan and talked about how they became close friends after Kya Kehna. This was after Saif’s horrific accident on the film’s sets. Recalling the incident, Saif Ali Khan said, “I rehearsed the motorcycle jump on Juhu beach on a ramp every day. We went to Khandala to shoot this sequence and it was raining, it was muddy. It wasn’t the same kind of ground.”

He joked that he was trying to impress Preity with the sequence. Saif said, “I thought, ‘let me try and impress her.’ The first time was okay, but I wanted to do it another time with josh. The bike skidded before I hit the ramp and I went flying. There was one rock in the middle of this field and I tumbled over about 30 times very quickly and then smack! I hit it. I felt some wetness, there was lots of blood, I was hurt. We went to the hospital and I would’ve looked like Frankenstein once they stitched me up. Preity said we can arrange a plastic surgeon and organised everything.”

In the end, it was just Preity who was with Saif as he was getting the treatment since the actor’s then-wife Amrita Singh was out of town. Preity recalled about the time, “I am the only girl who knows what’s inside Saif’s head. It was just him and me in the end. His wife was not in town. His friend was rude on the phone as he thought it was a joke. The director got very ill and had to leave. I was asked to sign the medical form. I got paranoid as Saif had a big bump on his head and was looking like an alien. He was also a bit delirious. I kept thinking, ‘What if he dies?’”

Saif Ali Khan got more than a hundred stitches and described the accident as scary and his worst till then.

In Kya Kehna, Preity plays Priya, a spirited girl in the first year of college. She has a loving family. Her world turns upside down when she gets involved with playboy Rahul (Saif) and ends up pregnant. She is left alone and defenceless after being shunned by her family and a ruthless society constantly attacking her. She still decides to have the baby. Not the usual Bollywood story, is it? Especially not at the turn of the century.

Preity Zinta revealed on social media that many people were shocked with her film choice when Kya Kehna turned 20 last year. They even warned her that her ‘career will be over before it starts’ if she plays an unwed teenage mom so early on. She tweeted, “I remember everyone was shocked that I chose to play an unwed teenage mom in my first film. ‘Your career will be over before it starts. Have you gone mad?’ That’s what everyone said. This film is a constant reminder to follow your heart and gut and not worry about what ‘everyone’ says (sic).”

Now, there are issues in Kya Kehna that become even more glaring when rewatched in 2021. There are some problematic dialogues and overly dramatic performances. For example, a college play that narrates the life of a girl having a baby out of wedlock and concludes with her suicide. Of course, it resembled Preity’s character’s struggles. But she stands up for herself and embraces motherhood in the form life has presented it to her. The climax is also unchartered territory for Bollywood where she rejects the biological father of her child Saif, and goes for her childhood friend Ajay (Chandrachur Singh), who has always loved her.

Bonus trivia: The title song Kya Kehna was inspired by Oh! Carol, a hit 1958 song by Neil Sedaka.

Saif Ali Khan and Preity Zinta again addressed the topics of pre-marital sex and pregnancy in their 2005 film, Salaam Namaste, this time around the dynamics of a live-in relationship. But in retrospect, Kya Kehna was their benchmark film which, despite failing to make a massive impact during its time, became a good reminder of change in the cinematic world, of the reinvention of our Hindi film industry.

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