Vikas Bahl’s Goodbye is the story of a family that gathers following the death of a beloved family member. Old wounds resurface as they attempt to address their grievances from the past and reconcile with each other. The theme is not novel – we have seen similar issues being addressed in films like Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi (2019) and Pagglait (2020) – and neither can Bahl bring anything fresh or unexpected in his hackneyed effort. The result is a film that loses its way and makes for an unsatisfactory viewing experience. The narrative flow is clunky, choppy and meandering, failing to engage us or to move us.
Following the untimely demise of Gayatri Bhalla (Meena Gupta), her husband, Harish (Amitabh Bachchan), gathers their children, now busy with their own personal and professional lives, to partake in her final rites. As the children arrive from different parts of India and abroad for the rituals spread over thirteen days, Harish soon realizes that he not only has to cope with his impending loneliness but he also has to bridge the gaps in communication between him and his children.
Looking at Goodbye, it is difficult to digest that Bahl, who had given us a bold and progressive film like Queen in 2014, succumbs to such clichéd and generic tropes eight years later. Goodbye leaves no stone unturned to be a ‘correct’ film in today’s times as scientific logic and the unwillingness of the children to follow the rituals post Gayatri’s death finally give way to a belief in the spiritual. The film misses a golden opportunity to initiate a discourse between the necessity of following societal procedures or not, and yet being able to love and grieve for a family member in one’s own way. So, for instance, Harish’s daughter, Tara (Rashmika Mandanna), vehement against blind faith and superstition, changes her stand by the end of the film. Or the son, Karan (Pavail Gulati), who does not believe in shaving off his hair, decides to go bald at the end because he, too, is converted. That said, there are moments in the films that are genuinely heart-wrenching such as at the family dog, adopted as a puppy by Gayatri, lying beside her garlanded portrait. Or the animated sequence going back to Harish and Gayatri’s romance in their younger days. But sadly, they are sporadic and too far and few in between.
Amitabh Bachchan delivers a convincing portrait of an empathetic, grieving, argumentative, dominating and traditionalist ageing man. Rashmika Mandanna, in her debut in Hindi Cinema as the rebellious Tara, plays her role with confidence and mellowness. But her distinct South Indian accent takes away the authenticity of her character. Pavail Gulati, as Karan, effectively plays the man caught between his profession and the filial responsibilities as the elder son. Sunil Grover, in his brief presence as a priest, who apprises people with the faith and beliefs of the Hindu religion, adds naturalistic humour to the film. Ashish Vidyarthy, as the over-zealous and orthodox family friend of the Bhallas, plays his irritating character of PP Singh with assurance. Elli AvrRam is fine in the role of Daisy, the big-hearted wife of Karan, who adjusts herself to the traditions of an Indian family, rising above her stereotypical character. Neena Gupta, seen mostly in flashbacks, brings much radiance and tenderness to the screen.
Sudhakar Reddy Yakkanti’s cinematography beautifully gives the film some much needed emotional warmth. The production design by Subrata Chakraborty and Amit Ray brings verisimilitude to the interiors of the residence as well as the exteriors of Rishikesh. The editor A Sreekar Prasad struggles to maintain the rhythm and pace of the film due to its uneven writing. The background score by Amit Trivedi works in bits and pieces. Among the songs, barring Chann Pardesi, none of the other numbers are particularly melodious or memorable.
With a running length of two hours and twenty-five minutes, Goodbye is a lengthy and inconsistent endeavor. Despite a few strong tear-jerky emotional bits, the film is finally defeated by its conformity.
Hindi, Drama, Color