By Deepa Gahlot
The most remarkable thing about Amit Ravindernath Sharma’s film Badhaai Ho is the subdued romance between a middle-class, middle-aged couple, surrounded by family and the hassles of routine.
The idea of an older woman finding herself pregnant has been done in a comic way in the popular 1962 Broadway play Never Too Late (also made into a film) and the film Father Of The Bride 2. Sharma and his writer (Akshat Ghildial) have placed their story in a Delhi colony, in the midst of a bustling, tambola-playing neighbourhood.
Railway employee Jitendra ‘Jitu’ Kaushik (Gajraj Rao) is a closet poet (“Gulzar bane phirte ho” a colleague mocks) and when reading poetry to his usually harried wife Priyamvada (Neena Gupta), an unguarded moment of intimacy happens; and a few weeks later, she discovers she is pregnant. In small town India, this is no big deal, quite often a woman and her eldest offspring have kids at the same time, but here, it created a storm.
The Kaushik sons, Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Gular (Shardul Rana), are shocked and embarrassed. The grandmother (Surekha Sikri) wants to know when they found the time, adding that even in their time they knew of Nirodh. The circle of neighbours, friends and relatives are amused or appalled and find ways to make fun of the two and tease the sons. In a dull subplot, Nakul is dating the posh Renee (Sanya Malhotra) and there is a hitch in their relationship due to this development in his family. Her elegant mother (Sheeba Chaddha) quite rightly wonders how Renee (Priyamvada cannot pronounce her name, and Jitu inexplicably bursts into halting English with her!) will fit into that family, and how they will manage the financial and health burdens of a new child. Which just serves to make Nakul suddenly appreciate his family more!
The film is neither a comedy nor high drama, but made up of brilliant little moments, subtle expressions caught at just the right moment, and the wonderfully evocative dialogue. Gajraj Rao, with his shy smile, and eyes that shine with tenderness towards his wife has given one of the finest performances of the year; Neena Gupta is marvellous, but not given much to do—instead of focusing on her, the film wanders over to the Nakul-Reene romance that does not have half the spark that the older couple’s comfortably prosaic love does.
Directed by: Amit Ravindernath Sharma
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao, Sanya Malhotra and others
Deepa Gahlot is one of India’s seniormost and best known entertainment journalists. A National Awardwinning film critic, Deepa has watched more movies and theatre than most people in the country. An author of several books on film and theatre, she has had an extremely successful run as head of theatre and film at the National Centre for Performing Arts, Mumbai, during which she helped nurture several original productions. For Xyngr, Deepa Gahlot reviews theatre and cinema.