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'Badhaai Ho' review: In the family way

A still from the movie Badhaai Ho.  

Ye bhi koi mummy papa ke karne ki cheez hai (Is this something for parents to do),” says Nakul Kaushik (Ayushmann Khurrana) to his girlfriend Renee (Sanya Malhotra) when the two are in the throes of passion. The “something” in question here is sex. Badhaai Ho is about the unusual phenomenon—the inability to come to terms with your parents having sex, seeing their relationship as conveniently chaste despite knowing how the kids come about in this world. Nakul has to face up to the fact when his mother Priyamvada Kaushik aka Babli (Neena Gupta) gets pregnant.

 

It’s a trifle of an idea that can give you a few moments of fun. But can it go beyond and be stretched engagingly into an over two-hour-long film? Things start off pretty well in Badhaai Ho, in establishing the various characters, their relationships and the strange situation they get caught in. What could have become an over the top, slapstick comedy stays real and rooted. Be it the authenticity of government quarters in Lodi Colony, the footwear flung around casually at the door before the neighbourhood kirtan or the class conflicts between the sophisticated residents of Tolstoy Road and the members of a Travelling Ticket Examiner (colloquially known as TT)’s middle class family.

 

Badhaai Ho
  • Director: Amit Ravindernath Sharma
  • Starring: Ayushmann Khurrana, Gajraj Rao, Neena Gupta, Surekha Sikri, Sheeba Chaddha, Sanya Malhotra
  • Run time: 125.38 minutes
  • Storyline: World turns upside down for the Kaushik family when the middle-aged mother gets pregnant

There is a warmth in the quirkiness of the film’s various characters, their external and internal conflicts. Much of the credit for this goes to the writing and direction but most of all to the virtuoso ensemble. A word then, especially for Gajraj Rao who plays the father Jeetendra Kaushik in a seemingly simple performance. Rao plays a character that could have lapsed into a caricature with fantastic shades, little touches and details and is built on a gamut of gestures and expressions by the actor—the common man/TT who won’t give away a mango easily as a tip, the “vyakul” romantic poet, the guilt of late fatherhood, the responsibilities ahead and the embarrassment of being judged by friends, family and neighbours. Rao gets the many everyday eccentricities of a regular householder spot on. Neena Gupta as the older mother-to-be is so lived-in that she doesn’t seem to be acting at all. And it all coalesces in the standout scene of the couple interacting with their son’s girlfriend. Surekha Sikri is as much in form as the amma who understands sex(y) better than the generations much younger to her. Sikri is the character with the acerbic tongue who gets the best of dialogue in the bargain.

 

The film captures the little, seemingly insurmountable conflicts of a middle class family very well. Badhaai Ho does a fine job of depicting middle class self-righteousness when it comes to matters of sex and its hypocrisies in putting the mother on the pedestal. It’s in the film’s conclusions and closures that things get out of hand. The convenient and sentimental “it’s all about loving your family” route doesn’t quite work with the otherwise cheeky tenor at the start of the film. If only the film had remained consistently irreverent.  

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Printable version | Oct 21, 2020 1:41:58 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/reviews/badhaai-ho-review-in-the-family-way/article25257600.ece

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