It’s all about loving the family

A refreshing new voice to an old, tried and tested trope: the chaos of familial ties

March 19, 2016 12:00 am | Updated 05:41 am IST

rguments, conflicts and clashes normally don’t make for pleasant viewing. Shakun Batra’s Kapoor & Sons , however, keeps you riveted as you move from one family fight to another: from the dining table to the kitchen to the bathroom, the lawn and the party, from the husband-wife to the brothers. At times two brawls run parallel, or they spark off each other.

Even at its most ugly and shrill, the film stays so real and believable that what you see on screen feels like your very own family war zone, a bitter-sweet slice of your own life. Even as a silent spectator you get planted in the action and become a participant. So at one level there is the sense of indulgence and affection towards the characters, who could well have been your own granddad, father, mother, uncle or brother. At another, it is also a curiously therapeutic experience, where you step out of the theatre having come to terms with at least a few of your own demons, if not having entirely exorcised all your ghosts.

You could well be the perfect elder child, Rahul (Fawad Khan), who is always looked up to as the responsible one butis tired under the weight of all the expectations, wanting desperately to break free. You could just as well be the younger brother, Arjun (Siddharth Malhotra), living perennially under the shadow of a successful sibling, always being the second best, the runner-up, grudging and complaining about everything, right from the bhindi sabzi to his room getting taken over without his consent. You could be the head of the family, Harsh (Rajat Kapoor), bearing the burden of a crippling financial crisis, or his wife, Sunita (Ratna Pathak Shah), trying desperately to be an entrepreneur but not quite making it.

On the face of it you might easily say that there’s nothing new to Kapoor & Sons . Isn’t it the usual, dysfunctional family drama we have seen in countless Hollywood films? But not for a minute does the film feel stale. Batra gives a refreshing new voice to an old, tried and tested trope.

So you have the granddad (Rishi Kapoor) wanting desperately to frame his family members together forever in a happy picture while they seem to be going their own ways, the relationships crumbling and falling apart. Everyone is pointing a disapproving finger at the other but saying “ sab theek hai ” when nothing is quite right.

Brilliantly crafted

The busy screenplay reminds one a lot of Piku : the frenzied frames, the hyper characters, the constant motion in the sequences. Like Piku , it is yet another film that has been brilliantly crafted and mapped out in terms of the writing, and how the scenes slowly build up towards a crescendo. It’s an onion-peel narrative in which the relationships, revelations, secrets and lies, unfinished confidences, unresolved issues, betrayals and conflicts are unspooled layer by layer. Little hints are thrown out here and there that eventually accumulate to lead on to outbursts. The simple, conversational exchanges and the repartee are the other high points, as is the acting: how the actors play off against each other with pitch-perfect timing.

There is something very finely calibrated and nicely measured about the entire package that is Kapoor & Sons . What’s more, it’s delightfully engaging despite being rooted in the everyday, the banal and the seemingly trite. Even fixing a fuse with a wooden stick becomes a delightful scene in Batra’s hands. It’s not just the quarrels but even the togetherness that Batra recreates just so right. I found myself smiling through the extended family get-together: the guitar, the song, the happiness and the ache: why can’t we fix things and become happy again?

Kapoor and Shah bicker brilliantly, and with great dignity at that. Khan is expectedly charming and delightfully at ease with his personable self. He seems to just inhabit his scenes rather than act them out.

Even though it’s a tad hard to imagine Malhotra as a budding novelist, he holds his own with his solid presence and vulnerable glances. Aalia Bhatt seems to be playing her usual hyper, ditzy little sunshine girl act yet again. What disappointed me most was Rishi Kapoor with the terrible prosthetics — why couldn’t another older actor have been cast in the role? — and loud presence, perhaps in tune with his character but totally out of sync with the rest of the mellow, subtle tenor of the film.

Like Piku , Batra brings the family, parent-child relationship under the scanner in Kapoor & Sons , but he doesn’t quite rebel against or throw away the construct entirely. He questions the family only to reassert its primacy.

The ‘sorries’ come as easily as the bickering, and all is forgiven over a few shared joints. A few blips later it’s back to continuities and certainties, perhaps to yet another argument or a bigger fight. It’s about the chaos of relationships, yet about an overarching stability. The redemption is not in running away from the family but coming within the fold. It is still all about loving your family.

Kapoor & Sons

Director: Shakun Batra

Starring: Rishi Kapoor, Rajat Kapoor, Ratna Pathak Shah, Siddharth Malhotra, Fawad Khan, Aalia Bhatt

Runtime: 132 mins

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.