Kapoor & Sons: The ultimate family film

Arguments, conflicts and clashes normally don’t make for a 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 entirely exorcised all the ghosts.

You could well be the perfect elder child, Rahul (Fawad Khan), always looked up to as the responsible one but who is 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 go-ahead. 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.

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 grand dad (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.

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, how the scenes slowly get built 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 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 than acting 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. It’s Aalia Bhatt who 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, 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.

Posted by on March 18, 2016. Filed under Bollywood. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.