For the last one year or more, there has been a welcome resurgence of sorts of the lost innocence of simple, relatable middle-class characters that one associated in the 1970s with the genteel films of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee. Director Amit Ravindernath Sharma, whose earlier outing, Tevar, was a dud in every sense of the word, finally comes into his own with this heartwarming and partially autobiographical film, Badhaai Ho, that not only has us rooting for its characters, but also putting the smile back on our faces.
Badhaai Ho looks at Jeetender Kaushik (Gajraj Rao), a Ticket Collector in Northern Railways and who resides with his mother (Surekha Sikri), wife, Priyamvada (Neena Gupta), and two sons, Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Gullar (Shardul Rana), in a Government quarter in New Delhi. The Kaushiks are a typical middle-class, North Indian family. Nakul works in a private firm and is dating his colleague, Renee (Sanya Malhotra), while Gullar is a typically difficult teenager. All is well, as it is in most families, until the family gets to know that the middle-aged Priyamvada is pregnant. All hell breaks loose then. While the mother is aghast at the sexual activity of her beta and bahu at this stage of their lives, Nakul and Gullar are deeply embarrassed that they are going to have a sibling at this age, to the extent it begins to affect Nakul’s love life, as well. How the family, the neighbours and the relatives, all finally come to terms with the impending arrival of the ‘naya mehmaan’ is what forms the crux of this bitter-sweet tale.
For most of its parts, it has to be said that Badhaai Ho is a fine, well-written film with credible situations and nicely fleshed out characters, a rarity in modern times in Hindi cinema. It is clearly a film that first and foremost belongs to its writers, Shantanu Srivastava, Akshat Ghildial and Jyoti Kapoor, and then to its lead cast, the middle-aged couple Jeetender and Priyamvada. What is laudable in the film is that it never treats the issue of Priyamvada’s pregnancy or the fact that the middle-aged couple are still sexually active as some sort of joke but, in fact, looks at it and them with much empathy. The ‘crisis’ in the family is never trivialised nor do the reactions to it slip into OTT or unconvincing territory. The humor is laced into the seriousness of the situation and not the other way around, as the film’s promotion seems to unfairly suggest. That said, Badhaai Ho does occasionally lapse into quite a few scenes that appear too ‘sitcom’ like, not just in their writing but in their filming as well. This is especially true of some of the more funnier moments in the film. Still, the film manages to effectively bring out the message that grown up children need to accept their parents, especially their mothers, as sexual beings as well.
The elder couple play off each other perfectly and perform beautifully. Neena Gupta as Priyamvada comes off wonderfully well with her old-world charm and is at her best in the moments when embarrassed of her pregnancy at this age. Gajraj Rao, as the doting husband and the obedient son to his mother, is also absolutely first rate. He brings back the lost art of romance of the past through small gestures and slight exchange of looks. What’s admirable about him is that though often caught between his mother and wife, he finally stands by his wife regarding this key issue, leaving the decision to have the baby or not to her and no one else. The one aberration in his characterisation, though, is that while he is shown to be a stingy man, it is never used as an integral element to the plot and seems to be put in more for a few guffaws here and there.
Of the supporting cast, Ayushmann Khurrana once again shows us how adept he is at choosing the right script for himself. He is superb as the ‘Dilli Ka Launda’. Sanya Malhotra, as his upper class girlfriend, exudes freshness and charm, while Sheeba Chadha as her South Delhi, wine-drinking mother is expectedly as good as ever. Veteran Surekha Sikri is fine too as Gajraj’s mother and Nakul and Gullar’s grandmother. She is the quintessential mother-in-law to Priyamvada – authentic when caustic yet lovable when she finally stands up for her daughter-in-law.
While the technical departments unobtrusively support the film adequately, the songs are rather weak and forgettable. In particular, the dialogue and dialect need special mention for their authenticity.
All in all, Badhaai Ho, despite not making any tall claims, is a charming little film with a big heart to boot.
Hindi, Comedy, Drama, Color