Wah, kya family hai!

Turns stars into real people who are having real conversations about real problems in a real movie

  • Published 19.03.16
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Kapoor & Sons (U/A)

Director: Shakun Batra

Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Ratna Pathak Shah, Rajat Kapoor, Fawad Khan, Sidharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt

Running time: 140 minutes

If Karan Johar ran a contest of making a mainstream family film that is most unlike Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, Kapoor & Sons would come out first. Writer-director Shakun Batra, who had impressed immensely with his highly underrated first film Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, unlocks that rare achievement of turning stars into real people who are having real conversations about real problems in a real movie.

Baked with the same yeast as Monsoon Wedding and Rachel Getting Married, Kapoor & Sons is a bittersweet portrait of a dysfunctional family with the nuts and bolts of the unit coming off one by one, as it goes along. This one too is all about loving your parents, but the parents are flawed and so are the kids and sometimes their love.

Unlike those two films where a wedding brought the family together with disturbing consequences, here the grandfather’s (Rishi Kapoor) heart attack brings back the two grandsons from two parts of the globe — Rahul (Fawad Khan), the successful novelist in London, and Arjun (Sidharth Malhotra), the wannabe novelist part-timing as a bartender in New Jersey.

Don’t go by their Bollywoody names — and good looks — Rahul and Arjun are very unlike the stock Hindi film heroes. And not just because they are shown as writers. For starters, they don’t start wooing the neighbourhood stunner Tia (Alia Bhatt) just because she is always around and seemingly available.

Plus their ideas of dating include a quiet walk in a graveyard and discussing nose poop in a shady bar. Yes, those novels the boys write would be interesting to read.

Also at their beautiful Coonoor cottage home are Dad (Rajat Kapoor) and Mom (Ratna Pathak Shah), who are constantly fighting over finances and sleeping in different rooms. They share a few secrets and lies and so do the boys. At least one of the boys does. Completely unruffled, though, is the nonagenarian Dadu who still lusts over Mandakini-in-a-wet-white-sari, loves smoking a J and wants to watch “rangeen picture” on the tablet he calls iPapad.

The mastery of Kapoor & Sons is in the writing (Batra and Ayesha DeVitre) which never lets the heaviness of the film get to you. Always overlapping the chaos and the conflicts are scenes — and songs — of mirth and madness. And because you have seen the bond, you ache that much more for the broken. Still the film could have done away with one of the subplots, cutting down on its little-too-long running time.

It’s the ensemble cast that really steers the film. Rishi Kapoor latches on to good writing like a child would grab an ice cream on a hot summer day and makes every line count. The make-up and its associated marketing blitz aside, he is so much fun to watch that you wish there could be a standalone movie just on Dadu.

Rajat Kapoor and Ratna Pathak Shah are so, so good as the middle-aged couple who’ve grown tired of each other. It is their casting — Dharma could have easily afforded starrier names — that really gives Kapoor & Sons the organic texture it thrives on.

Fawad is just right as the older brother who’s always labelled the “perfect beta” and is struggling to be himself under the heap of his responsibilities. If his looks don’t distract you from his performance, you’ll see that his manic moments are as effective and as effortless as the charm he exudes in the lighter scenes.

Barring the air of familiarity, Alia is as delightful as ever. But then if you play the chic young city girl in every film, it will get difficult to tell one character from another, no matter how good a performer you are. Alia does have one very powerful scene here where she recalls the day her parents died in an accident.

Sidharth is the weakest of the lot but not unwatchable. At the very outset, it’s difficult to imagine him as a writer and nothing he does in those two hours helps. Also everyone else around him is so good, that this bit of box-office casting gets caught red-handed.

Cinematographer Jeffery Bierman with his frenetic handheld photography and editor Shivkumar Panicker with his sharp dialogue cuts keep the film alive and kicking right through.

Kapoor & Sons is two thumbs up to the changing character of mainstream Bollywood, where formulaic ingredients are being tossed and turned for a refreshing cinematic experience. It’s been 15 years since the parents and the sons cried buckets holding on to each other in K3G and it’s time to acknowledge that there’s many a slip between the handshake and the hug. Let’s welcome this new ‘dharma’.

Pratim D. Gupta

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