Tejas Nair | October 19, 2018
Rating – 7/10
If I said that Bollywood has played it right for most of the part in 2018 then you wouldn’t disagree with me. There are at least a dozen examples in recent times where Bollywood has shed its usual formula of masala and cheesy romance and turned to narrative storytelling about social issues. All of which has reignited my faith in Bollywood, and thanks to director Amit Sharma, Badhaai Ho can be added to that list of films which helped in that feat. It is a perfect example of an entertaining family drama with one major conflict that is as novel as the storytelling itself.
The masterful Gajraj Rao and the queen of nuances Neena Gupta are the heads of a Delhiite family – the Kaushiks – who bear the embarrassment of being preggers at an the age when others prefer (or rather give in to the society-accepted job) to play with their grandchildren (which Surekha Sikri tries to do in the film as the paternal grandmother). The cultural stigmatization when being pregnant at a late age when you have two boys themselves active enough to bear children acts as a source of ridicule and contempt in Badhaai Ho. Gupta’s character struggles from start to end, even receiving a “do you really want to?” from her own husband, which prepares you for the ulterior question of pro-choice that is in the mind of others who put tradition and cultural indifference on the top. Ayushmann Khurrana plays one of her sons – an adult working-class man – who finds himself in a situation that usually demands happiness but which instead has created some distance between him and her, especially from the eyes of his girlfriend (Sanya Malhotra) and her mother (Sheeba Chaddha). Badhaai Ho is not a celebration of a birth but instead a narration of how the world perceives a product of love when it shifts from the routine or expected.
The almost pedantic attention to details in Badhaai Ho appeals to my OCD and it also tells me that director Sharma does not believe in cinematic liberty. The entire film has been carved with honesty and by giving due reverence to reality. Why else would a character make a silly act of pointing out the missing apostrophe in the word “Kaushiks” that has been inscribed on the backside of their red Wagon R with a typeface that will make a designer quit his field? It may not be a big deal for the casual cinema-goer but it does show where the makers are coming from. This type of attention to tiny details – whether it is in the selection of the soundtrack or the usage of the score as a cue to the audience to rejoice in laughter – is what makes Badhaai Ho an even better family entertainer. However, what sets the film apart from other recent family comedies is that every character is idiosyncratic – from their family doctor who reminds you of that overweight physician your family used to consult in the 1990s to the kin characters who also remind you of people you know in real life. They all have their own flavorful characteristics which not only makes the film a fun to watch but also makes you wanting more from director Sharma. Despite his last one being the noisy thriller, Tevar (2015), with Arjun Kapoor and Sonakshi Sinha.
As I have noted above, Badhaai Ho has an excellent suggestive score (Abhishek Arora and Tanishk Bagchi) that acts as a cue for you to take note of the particular scene. And such cues come and go every five minutes. The titular song is catchy and funny, which although is too loud for me, reminds me that I am watching a Bollywood movie. Special appreciation to editor Dev Rao Jadhav who concocts a complex carving so that the viewing becomes interesting. I am amazed at the sound mixing as well, which made me sit back and marvel at the amount of efforts put in the film in the editing room. The anti-climactic narrative may put some of you off, but it is what makes Badhaai Ho enjoyable and different.
Sanya Malhotra is the only cast member who seemed out of place in the whole film. Others blend in like actual members of a Delhi housing colony, with a special visible connection between the actors who play the family. Malhotra is good-looking and adds brightness to the scene she is in, but her facial expressions make me want to direct her to a film school. Gupta and Rao are the highlight performances of the film, and maybe even the year. You cannot find anyone else to play the kind of a miser and innocent father that Rao plays in Badhaai Ho that you want to go and hug him if you ever meet him in person. Helping him put up a show is Gupta, who is phenomenal in her star character. (I even wonder what prevented casting directors from hiring her all these years when she was out looking for a job.) Together, their performances overshadow that of the rest of the cast, including Khurrana’s, who I think has reached the typecast saturation. There is even this discussion that happens on Reddit where people claim that Khurrana plays the same character – ordinary young man from Delhi or UP – in all the films. I tend to agree, after watching Badhaai Ho and Andhadhun almost within two weeks.
If you thought Sharat Katariya was the only master household storyteller (who directed Sui Dhaaga this year) then think again. In Badhaai Ho, director Sharma crafts comedy out of thin air; out of routine familial conversations, which is so sweet to watch that it melts in your mouth like the caramel popcorn you prefer while watching such comedy dramas. There is no shortage of such palpable moments in this honest drama that you will complete watching it with a big smile on your face. But, when you go in to watch Badhaai Ho this week, don’t go in to be outsmarted by a relevant story, but instead go in to get your mind blown with a crispy drama that will make you laugh and cry – in a way that Bollywood hasn’t been able to in a lot of years.
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