Neil in Kho Gaye Hum Kahan is quite literally every other millennial who wants to make it big and is struggling to respect the roots he comes from. In the introductory scene of the character, he is shown being questioned by his father for spending so much money on supplements and asked to be careful with his money. In return, Neil tells his father that he can take care of the household expenses as well if need be. While it is extremely arrogant, for a second, it makes us think that Neil may be earning a lot of money at his job. However, in another scene with Imaad, Neil says that he has less than Rs 30k in his account. That means that if Neil actually started taking care of the household, he wouldn’t be able to buy as many sneakers as he was investing in, which in turn means that Neil’s father was right.
Neil cared a lot about appearances, though that was not the impression he gave in the beginning. When a woman in his gym questions why she doesn’t look like a celebrity, Neil says that she should focus on looking her best self because that is what suits her. Right from the beginning, Neil has wanted to do something of his own. He has an idea for a gym that he wants to turn into a business, and he knows that he is up to the task. Even in his current workplace, Neil is the one whose exercises the celebrity’s trainer borrows for his client. Neil just doesn’t have the right access, but he is more than capable of doing the work. In fact, he has surprising integrity because he doesn’t ask the celebrity for a picture after their training session. She even mentions that if he had, she wouldn’t have given it to him.
For the longest time, Neil feels very underappreciated at work. He did not have enough money or the kind of clients that he felt he deserved. His friends were in a much more comfortable position than him, and whether we admit it or not, there had to be an element of comparison. Imaad had a sizable amount of money left behind by his mother as a financial cushion, which allowed him to do what he wanted. Ahana, on the other hand, was a hardworking girl, but she undeniably came from privilege, and from the brief appearance of her parents, it seemed like they were extremely progressive individuals. After all, it is not normal for a guy and a girl to be just roommates and for parents to be okay with that arrangement unless they are very progressive to begin with. All these differences must have been noted by Neil. He did not grudge that for his friends, but he certainly wondered why his parents lived the way they did.
It is a question most millennials grapple with. We are all aware that our parents had to make some sacrifices and compromise their quality of life so that they could fund their children’s futures. There is acknowledgement and respect for that, but there is also the question of why they continue to make those compromises when their children are earning more than enough to sustain themselves. Neil points out to his parents that they could go out to dinner once in a while or at least take a flight to travel. These are things that actually won’t create a dent in their savings but will simply ensure that they are enjoying some well-deserved comfort. We doubt there is a right answer to this. Maybe it is just a force of habit that doesn’t allow most parents to think differently about money. Or it could be the continuing fear for their kids, whose lives their parents don’t really understand and are scared for. We doubt we will have the answer, but our point is that instead of approaching the topic with empathy, Neil had a lot of derision for his parents because of their habits. He felt as if his status was a result of them being stingy in life, which is why he did not spare any expense on his personal grooming without a thought for its actual value.
In one of the scenes, Neil is reprimanded by one of his clients for using the society’s showers, which were banned for the staff. Neil was going to do business with this man, and just previously, the client had appreciated Neil’s sneakers that did not come at a small price. All of these were things that would technically have made Neil an equal to the man, but when the latter told Neil to ‘know his limits’, it taught him an important lesson: he could not escape people’s perceptions, which were shaped by where Neil came from and what he did for a living. It did not matter that Neil had more integrity than the others in his gym or that he was smarter or more enterprising. People like judging in a hierarchical manner, especially when they can show someone down.
Another major arc about Neil is his relationship with his girlfriend. We don’t believe for a minute that Neil was not aware that Lala was not serious about him. He had to know that, but he was hoping he was wrong. That is why he got so offended by Imaad’s jokes, because everyone else saw the truth that he was refusing to address. Neil was continuously suspicious of Lala, but he never confronted her openly because he was scared that she would call it off. When she did that anyway, that is when things became so clear that he couldn’t run from them.
Initially, Neil ran from his troubles by turning a blind eye to them, much like Imaad was doing. Neil and Imaad were right about each other when they called each other out, and that is why they both needed that break from their friendship. It is surprising how similar they are. Eventually, when Neil forgives Imaad, it is because he has himself done something really bad, which is hacking Lala’s account and posting such derogatory stuff about her. According to Neil, Imaad was a troll, and that is why they fought. But that is the exact thing that Neil ended up doing, and in much more harmful ways. The way he had called out Imaad’s flaws, he had to acknowledge his own insecurities and move on from them. That is when he posted the apology and agreed that all of it was his fault. Something very important to remember is that Lala had hurt Neil personally, but he had attacked her professionally for something that she had poured her blood, sweat, and tears into. Neil had no right to do that, and it is the exact thing that proves that he acted out of frustration and insecurity and not heartbreak.
Once Neil got past all that, he started appreciating what he had. Neil had his friends, and through thick and thin, they would always stand by each other. Neil also had his parents, who may disagree with him, but that came from a place of concern for his well-being. Perhaps they won’t go to a good restaurant for dinner or fly on a plane with their own money, but Neil could do it for them, which is what he is shown doing in the final moments of the film. Additionally, by this time, Neil has also understood and learned to forgive Imaad’s flaws, which is why their plan for the gym is back on track. Imaad is investing in the gym as he had planned to, and Neil no longer needs to work with people who don’t consider him good enough. It was a journey of acceptance and self-love for Neil, which he went through by giving in to the worst parts of himself.