‘Goodbye’ movie review: Amitabh Bachchan, Rashmika Mandanna in a more preachy than poignant film

Amitabh Bachchan can’t salvage this average study on grief and bereavement, marred by shallow characterisation and treatment

October 07, 2022 02:31 pm | Updated October 08, 2022 05:59 pm IST

A still from the film

A still from the film | Photo Credit: Balaji Telefilms. Ltd

Pandemic made us realise the fickle nature of life, and stories that explore the ache and anguish that comes from the unanticipated demise of a family member feels all the more real. In Goodbye, writer-director Vikas Bahl explores how different people have different ways of coping with grief. When Harish (Amitabh Bachchan) loses his wife Gayatri (Neena Gupta), he doesn’t have any shoulder to cry upon. His children are busy with their work and partying, and the neighbours are more interested in gossip and providing perfunctory advice.

Harish wants to follow the rituals but has no clear idea of how to go about them. Having missed the last phone call from her mother, his advocate daughter Tara (Rashmika Mandanna) is angry and the fact that she sees no logic in these rituals only adds to it. The elder son Karan (Pavail Gulati) is unable to take his mind off the board meetings and his American wife Daisy (Elli AvrRam) struggles to fit in. Harish’s adopted son Angad (Sahil Mehta) responds to stress by overeating, while the youngest Nakul is unreachable.

Director: Vikas Bahl
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Neena Gupta, Rashmika Mandanna, Sunil Grover, Ashish Vidyarthi, Pavail Gulati, Sahil Mehta
Duration: 142 minutes
Storyline: When Harish loses his wife Gayatri, the funeral reunites the family members, and the shared grief helps stitch bonds that they seem to have forgotten.

Poignant and preachy, this is not new terrain for the audience of Hindi cinema. In fact, after every few years, Hindi cinema comes up with a family film that focuses on how elderly parents feel ignored and cheated by their children. From Rajesh Khanna’s Avtaar and Swarg to Amitabh Bachchan’s Baghban, the list is comprehensive. In the last decade of his career, Kader Khan fuelled his career by writing and acting in such films where the adopted sons, daughters and animals are shown to be more caring towards the aged parents than their progeny.

Then there is another set of films, inspired by Death At A Funeral that explores the bonds, conflicts, and family politics when friends and family get together to say a final goodbye to the deceased. Seema Pahwa’s Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi and Umesh Bist’s Pagglait are two noteworthy works in this space in the last one year.

Bahl attempts a tearjerker by combining the two templates, and it fails only to make us appreciate the craft of the likes of Mohan Kumar and Ravi Chopra who made us shed copious tears. The premise is moving but as it pans out, we discover that the characters are underwritten, the scenes are overwritten, and the conflicts are half-baked. What irks one the most is the lecturing tone to explain the value of rituals and how science and faith can coexist. It seems none of the characters in the film has ever been to cremation and has seen death up close, and the makers want to advertise common religious practices at a funeral to fit into the league of propaganda pictures.

There are heartfelt moments in between, particularly the flashback scenes that capture the love story of Gayatri and Harish that makes you sit up, take note of the beating heart of the narrative and reach out for a handkerchief. But for the most part, it is like a heartwarming subject reduced to a cringe-fest in the hands of a filmmaker who doesn’t know his cinematic punctuation well.

The elements of dark humour feel borrowed and forced after some time, while Bahl's cursory attention to Harish’s adopted child Delna (Payal Thapa) and Tara’s boyfriend Mudassar leave you with question marks.

Like Baghban, Bachchan holds the film together with his time-tested capacity to move the audience with even facile stuff. The monologue where he speaks to the ashes of Gayatri is the high point of the film. But Bahl’s surrender to Bachchan also means that Neena Gupta’s presence has been cut short. It would have been interesting to see a little more of the versatile actor in conversation with Bachchan. Rashmika is efficient as the rage-filled daughter. But Tara’s anger against her father remains unexplained.

Riding on a melancholic Bachchan, the film does look up in the second half when the endearing Sunil Grover as the laptop-wielding priest talks about the deeper meanings of life and death and how memories become stories that keep nurturing us, but the two can’t salvage the film from the inherent shallowness of writing and treatment.

‘Goodbye’ is currently running in theatres

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