An unexpected pregnancy by a set of adorable parents in the sunset of their lives is a potential gold mine of an idea for a Bollywood film.
Badhaai Ho, directed by Amit Sharma and starring eclectic talents, milks that intriguing prospect wonderfully and pulls out a winner.
Ayushmann Khurrana plays the Delhi-based bloke Nakul Kaushik who lives with his parents, grandmother and younger brother in a middle-class suburb. His uneventful life is rocked when his endearing parents, played impeccably by Neena Gupta and Gajraj Rao, announce their accidental late pregnancy.
The movie touches upon the tenuous romance between the ageing couple in such a poetic and delicate manner that any awkwardness immediately dissipates.
But being a knocked-up couple in your late fifties isn’t always embraced and Badhaai Ho gives us a voyeuristic peak into the censure, the chaos and the reluctant celebrations that ensue in the Kaushik
All the actors are in top form as they own the witty dialogues and sardonic humour. The middle-class milieu of a traditional three-generational set-up is flawlessly portrayed, too. Swipes are taken at the dangers of conformity. Being scathing judgemental on someone else’s personal space and their decision to have a child at a inappropriate age is also highlighted.
It’s rare for Bollywood films to underline pro-choice concept subtly, but Badhaai Ho manages to do that successfully too. A telling scene is one where Gupta’s character rebels against the idea of having an abortion and defiantly tells her hapless husband that she wants to keep the baby. Rao says it’s her body, her choice.
Such intelligentand cohesive thoughts are rarely brought to the table without drama and fanfare in Bollywood films. But Badhaai Ho explores progressive ideas without stooping to unnecessary melodrama and bombastic dialogues. Keeping it simple, but not stupid is how they roll in the film.
Khurrana as the defiant-yet-vulnerable son Nakul is a scene stealer. His nasty reaction to his parents’ pregnancy predicament is believable and he shines in those conflict-ridden, emotionally turbulent scenes. Witnessing Nakul’s struggled to come to grasp with his new reality of welcoming a sibling is strangely cathartic. We feel his pain, exasperation and frustration at the curveball thrown his way.
His chemistry with his girlfriend Renee, played confidently by Malhotra, is also endearing to watch. But my favourite two people in this film are Gupta and Surekha Sikri, who plays the mother-in-law. Their love-hate relationship is searingly real and their reluctant love for one another makes you smile.
What’s also impressive is that there’s nothing remotely awkward or icky about the way in which the elder couple express their love for each other.
But this isn’t a laugh riot. The humour is subtle and layered. While the film doesn’t feel laborious, the trailer gave the best bits of the movie away and that’s a downer as you are filled with a been-seen-that feeling.
But there’s lots to love in this sweet and simple film. The lack of cloying melodrama is such a relief, too. This is one situational comedy is like the miracle of birth — it is messy but glorious.
Don’t miss it! Film: Badhaai Ho
Director: Amit Sharma
Cast: Neena Gupta, Ayushmann Khuranna, Gajraj Rao, Surkeha Sikri and
Stars: 3.5 out of 5