KAPOOR AND SONS
Direction: Shakun Batra
Actors: Rishi Kapoor, Sidharth Malhotra, Fawad Khan, Alia Bhatt, Rajat Kapoor, Ratna Pathak Shah
Kapoor and Sons is a portrait of human frailty. It’s about our flaws, our wounds, our losses, our resentments and regrets. It’s about the pain we inflict on each other -- the slights, big and small. And it’s about the ties that bind and the love that endures. The love that ultimately allows us to do both -- forgive ourselves and find redemption in our relationships.
The story is set almost entirely in the hill station of Coonoor. An ageing grandfather has a heart attack. The grandchildren are forced to come home. Both are writers. Arjun, played by Sidharth Malhotra, is a part-time bartender in New Jersey who is trying to be a novelist. Rahul, played by Fawad Khan, is, as his mother calls him, the “perfect bachcha”. He’s an affluent, in-demand, published novelist, living in London. All his life, Arjun has felt that he is “just a runner-up”. The family reunion soon turns sour. Old scabs are scraped and the hurt spills over.
Be warned that Kapoor and Sons isn’t heavy on plot. It’s about characters, moments, textures and emotions. This is a very hard thing to pull off and the first half is a bit of a slog. It feels like director Shakun Batra, who has also co-written the film with Ayesha Devitre, is finding his rhythm. Disconnected scenes follow one another and, even though the acting is uniformly good, the drama doesn’t grip you. The narrative seems random and repetitive.
But stay with these people. In the second half, as the Kapoor family fault lines deepen, the drama develops heft and becomes genuinely moving. Shakun doesn’t change his understated style of storytelling. There is no flash here. We are merely observing these people as they wrestle with their demons.
Even in tragedy, the notes never go over the top. Unhappiness unfolds surely and softly, as it would in life.
The actors breathe life into these moments. Sidharth Malhotra, Fawad Khan and Alia Bhatt playing Tia, the girl next door, are all startlingly attractive. If used too strongly, their good looks can make emotions feel fake. But Shakun doesn’t showcase their visual appeal. Apart from ‘Kar gayi chull’, which I just can’t get out of my head, there are no concessions to their stardom. Each one steals scenes quietly – I first got teary when Alia told her story. She is guileless and beautifully unfettered. Then Rahul’s secret made me cry. Fawad is outstanding as the son burdened by his own perfection.
Sidharth as Arjun seems fuelled by a bewildered rage. His ache is ferocious. And then, there’s Rishi Kapoor as dadu. The actor shines through the inch-thick prosthetic make-up. When he made an impassioned plea to his grandchildren, I wept audibly.
Kapoor and Sons broke my heart, in ways big and small. The film’s biggest triumph is that, by the end, I felt like I was a member of this family. I wanted a group hug and therapy.