Badhaai Ho movie review: Ayushmann Khurrana’s film belongs to Neena Gupta
Director: Amit Sharma
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Sanya Malhotra, Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao
Heroism is in the eyes of the beholder. To Priyamvada, her son Nakul is the ultimate champion, even when all he’s doing is reading out Tambola numbers to her friends. Nakul is bored stiff, yet customarily announces each number with a humorous tag: the number 7, for instance, turns into “MS Dhoni number 7.” When his girlfriend calls and he discreetly says he’ll call her back, he looks up to see not only his mother glaring suspiciously, but all the neighbourhood aunties. Like many an Indian son, he has his hands full with mother figures.
Amit Ravindernath Sharma’s Badhaai Ho is a fine, funny film about family, and about how hard it is to accept a truly unfamiliar situation, no matter how positive it may be. The Kaushiks are a simple Delhi family, living contentedly in government-allotted housing, curtains matching sofas in a flat festooned with Hanuman stickers. One night, Priyamvada discovers she’s pregnant. While this is unquestionably the most-lauded news a married woman can give an Indian family, she is too middle-aged, and too entrenched in the middle-class, to celebrate or be celebrated. Her beloved Nakul is the most torn. How can he imagine his parents doing it?
The awkwardness of the situation — of parents having a child when expected to marry off their eligible son — gives rise to many a laugh, and while Nakul’s immense dejection might initially seem overdone, the truth is that the young man is getting to grips with a deeper problem: the realisation that despite his marketing job, his affable demeanour and his smart girlfriend, he is not as progressive as he imagines himself to be. This film gently asks us to ponder if we are.
The dialogues are a riot. The word “tich” is used to describe perfection, the internet is pronounced “gnat,” while the bouncy song Badhaiyaan Tenu has a great line about good news itself kicking you. I was reminded of Habib Faisal’s lovely Do Dooni Chaar, and the relatable grace of Basu Chatterjee films. This is because of the writing (by Shantanu Shrivastava, Akshat Ghildial and Jyoti Kapoor) which features not only clever lines but insightful observations. Like how, in a cluttered house the kitchen, however small, becomes ‘the housewife’s room,’ where she calls her friends to share secret smiles, or how a group of friends ribbing each other will eventually side with whoever has the best punchline.
This film understands that a good punchline is hard work, which is why Ayushmann Khurrana’s Nakul practices hard in front of a mirror to make sure he gets his line just right. Khurrana has played the woebegone middle-class child before, but he is impressively consistent here, and his anger and his awkwardness feel very real indeed. Sanya Malhotra plays his well-to-do girlfriend, and while she may not have as much to do here as she did a few weeks ago with Pataakha, there are a couple of moments — one when she can’t stop laughing, one when she’s righteously angry in bed — where she sparkles. Not that this film is about these kids.
Badhaai Ho is, refreshingly and triumphantly, a film about the parents. It belongs to Neena Gupta’s Priyamvada, nicknamed Babli, who looks luminous even when exhausted and does too much talking with her eyes as she looks at her husband fondly or at her children longingly. It belongs to Surekha Sikri, who plays a fierce and frequently immovable mother-in-law. It belongs to Sheeba Chadda, playing a soup-slurping socialite who looks down at the absence of an apostrophe.
Most of all, this film belongs to Gajraj Rao, who plays Jitender, a ticket examiner on the Northern Railways. He refuses to tip people for doing what they’re supposed to, though he does parsimoniously part with a small mango instead. He writes poetry under a restless pen name, but is stunned by his newfound position, among menfolk of family and locality, as an icon of virility. Briefly, too briefly, he considers growing a moustache, but Priyamvada disapproves and — as demonstrated to us by the way he flicks a bit of mango from her chin, reads poetry to her on a rainy night, or simply the fondness with which he looks at her — he loves her with all his heart. Now that’s a hero.
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