It’s all about loving your parents.
A lesson filmmaker Karan Johar drilled into the Bollywood psyche with his melodramatic family drama ‘Kabhi Kushi, Kabhi Gum’. Cut to 15 years, he looks at the evolution of those conflicts, minus the Bollywood razzmatazz, and ropes in young blood to play mad house.
So, the Kapoors are a dysfunctional lot, each gleefully flashing their hatred and pain to tell us that all’s not well. They may willingly fake a smile for a much-desired family portrait, but what they feel deep down is dark and twisted.
During the first half, the tension simmers as each Kapoor unravels their problems. There’s the second-child syndrome, extra-marital affair, stolen identity and gender preferences, all thrown in to cook up a messy family drama.
Director Shakun Batra and writer Ayesha Devitre Dhillon may win points for tackling some conflicts untouched by Bollywood, but their process is unfortunately sluggish, and often, exaggerated, ruining the impact.
There are clever setpieces but he never weaves them into a tight plot.
It’s during the second half that the Kapoor household begins to erupt, as they are cornered into confessing their deep dark secrets. It’s also the moment when the performances peak, as each Kapoor battles their own demons or crushes those of the others.
Much of the movie rides on its performers. Veteran Rishi Kapoor outshines the rest, and creates a world around the quirky 90-year-old, who spends much of his time playing dead or revisiting his Bollywood crush through his “new toy” iPad. His deeds may be obnoxious but Rishi makes us love him unconditionally. And then, there’s Rathna Pathak, who is outstanding as the lady of the house. This Kapoor lady isn’t the typical, honourable mom that Bollywood often plugs, but a woman who has imperfections. Rajat Kapoor is a perfect match, and works out a menace as her man.
Among the younger lot, Alia Bhatt, despite being handed a giggle and a cool wardrobe, manages to excel in only one scene. Unfortunately, Shakun doesn’t give her more to do. The Kapoor boys are both high on charm, but where Siddarth lacks in talent, Fawad Khan manages to cover-up.
There’s a spectacular moment, at the beginning, when a plumber struggles to fix a bathroom leak, as the family engages in a scream match. Rattled by the noise but still brave enough to ask for pay, he announces, “whatever you can manage during these trying times.”
Unfortunately, Shakun doesn’t build on that gem, and leaves ‘Kapoor and Sons’ rather half-baked.
It’s a ticking time bomb, but one that fizzles out in the end.