BADHAAI HO : Celebrating Goodness!

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Badhaai Ho is a beautiful film. And its not because it possibly delivers the best humor of the year so far. But it becomes so much more effective because it doesn’t just trivialize the important but awkward issue of accidental geriatric pregnancy in the garb of comedy, but adds adequate depth to it with the right balance of emotions and well blended sentimentality. The film can boast of landing some of the most crackling lines of recent times perfectly laden with bouts of laughter; but the biggest strength of the film lies in how well each of characters at Kaushik’s and Sharma’s are developed, the kind of bond and understanding that they get to share with each other, and the complete redemption arc that each of them traverse to overcome the social predicament and welcome the little one with open arms.

The would be parents, the senior Kaushiks share a world of affection & mutual respect, and their understanding and care for each other can win any one over. In a conservative, traditional, middle class Delhi household, the way Jeetender and Priyamvada stand by each other and get extra protective – while they hear the ‘news’, decide the way forward, break it to the family including the mother, or face the ever interfering neighbors / friends / relatives is pure gold. Their love and admiration for each other gives them the power to shoe off the social stigma and the uncalled for feeling of being outcasts in a social event (cinematically compared with a father being ashamed of his gay son forcefully wedded twice), and also understand the conflict that their grown up son Nakul is going through in a troubled relationship with Renee to lend him the much needed timely support. In fact, the bond between Nakul and Priyamvada is strikingly beautiful, and they share some of the most beautiful moments of the film – the way he is worried for his mom when she is suddenly sick, feels ashamed and disappointed with the pregnancy for a while, and then beautifully reconciles with her in a subtly emotional scene all land perfectly.

And Priyamvada’s and Nakul’s isn’t the only loving mother-child relationship in the film. The Sharmas belong to the snooty posh Delhi culture, they host classy parties (as opposed to kirtans followed by a game of housie @ the Kaushik’s), sip gorgeous wine, and ironically in spite of all their forward social thinking, are equally uncomfortable with the situation that the Kaushik couple has landed in. But even in their kind of setting, what Renee and her mom share is a beautiful, open and warm relationship of friends. It doesn’t hence feel out of place when Renee takes such a strong exception to Nakul‘s outburst on her mom, and it rather feels good when Sangeeta humanizes herself to give due respect to Renee‘s happiness and pushes her to go grab it. The scene where Nakul earnestly apologizes to her showing his respect for her and Renee and at the same time standing rock solid with his family and the values they inculcated in him is beautifully balanced without getting overly emotional, and is perfectly placed for a necessary closure.

And then there is also the other mom in the film – Amma, and her sweet-tangy-spicy relationship with Jeetu and Priyam. Possibly the most well written character of the film with the most scene stealing lines, Amma is deep rooted in patriarchy and empathy at the same time. She has no two thoughts of blaming her daughter in law for everything, asking for a male child yet again, and yet stands solid by her giving it back to the bickering relatives when they come to talk to her about values and traditions.

The bond between the brothers is no less endearing, and it’s interesting how the script smartly integrates an age gap of nearly eight to ten between them as well indicating well that their parents always have had an active sexual relationship but last time around it wasn’t possibly embarrassing enough for the age. Hence Nakul is somewhat a father to Gullar as well at times, depicting the empathetic fabric that he is made up of. No wonder his and Renee’s relationship is also full of easy charm and unhindered warmth, and if you are Renee its easy to see why she would feel so close to someone like him.

And along with all these wonderfully engaging emotions between all the characters, Delhi also stands tall on its own and delightfully sprinkles its Delhite spunk into the entire landscape. The changing texture of Delhi and all its cultural nuances as the focus shifts from the cosy corners of a railway colony quarters to the posh interiors an upscale bungalow to the swanky meeting rooms of an MNC to the loud and vibrant marriage halls of a larger NCR family, is all brilliantly captured and integrated seamlessly in the script without any jerks. The bullying at the school, to the ‘laundebaazi’ at the road side tea stall, to the babu culture of the Railways – everything fits in with ease, and is interestingly juxtaposed with motifs of flying birds across scenes to capture the fleeting emotional turmoil that the central characters go through at those junctures.

Kudos to writers Shantanu SrivastavaJyoti Kapoor and Akshat Ghildial for delivering such a well written film. Other than one unnecessary sad romantic song, not a scene goes off tangent or out of place. Special shout-out for getting the drama so much on point, and not just relying on comedy to talk about a rather taboo subject. The background score by Abhishek Arora and the editing by DevRao Jadhav add to the impact.

Amit Ravindernath Sharma showed us glimpses of his talent when he told us an impactful reunion story of two aging friends through a Google Ad a few years back, but he shines through and through here, and earns himself and his team enough accolades and more by the safe delivery of one of most socially relevant and yet entertaining films of the year. Badhaai Ho!

Finally, a Big round of cheers to the entire ensemble for making Badhaai Ho the film it is! It is a great use case to perfect casting from start to finish. Really happy for the kind of roles that Sanya Malhotra is choosing for herself. She might not have a lot to do here, but her warmth and natural performance makes a striking impact. Sheeba Chaddha is perfect as her snooty mother who also has her own kind of shielded charm and empathy. Shardul Rana is very natural as the young Gullar and a lot of teenagers will identify with him. All the other supporting cast stays on point as well.

But the biggest shout out has to go out to the four major pillars of the film. Surekha Sikri is sheer delight on screen as Amma and lights up the screen every time she is on it. I so wish that she decides to do more films and add her charisma to different kind of characters. Casting Neena Gupta as Priyamvada is a masterstroke – the way she brings out her vulnerability as well as her confidence to carry out a pregnancy laden with social stigma, and yet be the ultimate centre of strength for the entire family through her silent pauses and speaking eyes shows what we have been missing from screen for many years now. No one else could have pulled off Priyamvada with so much conviction. I wonder why Ayushmann Khurrana is not often recalled when we talk of the best actors of the current generation, because to me he has as much finesse as a Rajkumar Rao or a Vicky Kaushal if not more. Its not easy to wipe out Andhadhun’s Akash (one of the top two acts this year in my opinion) within minutes of Nakul capturing screen space, and Khurrana does that effortlessly. Its also not easy to make every single Delhi boy that he has played so far to be different from each other, and Khurrana does that as well convincingly. Here he makes Nakul so endearing with all his flaws, restricted thinking, shame, awkwardness, empathy, sense of respect and overall wholesome goodness. Superb yet again! But the biggest hero of the film is undoubtedly Gajraj Rao with his absolutely flawless portrayal of the middle-aged middle class man who is still tremendously in love with his wife, has a world of respect for her as well as his mother, is caring to the core and deeply proud of his values, his family and his life. He delivers brilliance in every single frame. I really wanted to go and hug him as he danced his way with his baby in the final song – cuteness overload in the true sense!

Its great to see that a well made film like Badhaai Ho is doing so well at the box office. It can be a lot of encouragement for films that want to deliver important social messages based on clean entertaining humour and engaging free flowing effective drama without getting preachy, over the top, cheap or melodramatic. After all, this is the kind of cinema Bollywood needs and we deserve. Lets welcome this bundle of joy with open arms and all the love.

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