102 Not Out Review: A derivative work that’s inoffensive but unmemorable
The film ambles along like a chamber drama, a drama that feels like it has been directly translated from the pages without the need for direction
Umesh Shukla's 102 Not Out runs for a brisk 102 minutes. I wonder how they made that decision or what they saw in this minute, inconsequential detail. The film does not care much for details. It ambles along like a chamber drama, a drama that feels like it has been directly translated from the pages without the need for direction, and it came as no surprise that the film is based on a play of the same name by Saumya Joshi. A large part of the film is set in the Vakhariya household in Vile Parle East, shared by Babulal Vakhariya (Rishi Kapoor), 75, who uses an alarm clock to time his shower and his father Dattatraya (Amitabh Bachchan), 102, the molecules of whose breath rearrange themselves to spell out carpe diem. By the second. And there is only one other character, Dhiru, lovingly played by Jimit Trivedi, who manages to hold his dignity among two stalwarts of the industry. Two stars trying to play much older version of their old selves with exaggeratedly hunched shoulders and Gandalf-in-a-school-play wigs.
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Jimit Trivedi
Director: Umesh Shukla
102 Not Out begins with title cards over what looks like hand-drawn images of parts of Mumbai over the years. There is Regal and other parts of the town area, the kind of places that will be instantly recognizable as Mumbai - from the Marine Drive to Asiatic Society, the Royal Opera House to Siddhi Vinayak temple. There is also Dhobi Ghat and lesser known places like the Airplane garden, officially known as the Lions Club Garden in Juhu. It also forms an important plot point as Dattatraya gives a series of challenges to his son in order to spruce up the latter's drab ways of living. The titles become colourful as they pass, as time passes, with the sea link more vibrant than the images that came before. It is Mumbai over a century and we go from Mumbai described in books to Mumbai described by Behram Contractor in the 90s to the Mumbai defined mostly by Bollywood today. 102 Not Out is hopelessly in love with the old school, and while that is not always a bad thing, it is also written in unimaginative, derivative ways. It has no surprises in store and everybody seems to be phoning it in, except for maybe Trivedi. The film might well have had only its two principal characters but Trivedi's Dhiru is there as our stand-in, the person Dattatriya relays his family history to, so that there is someone to whom the father and son rant to, and provide us, the audience, with key information. The idea is flimsy if not lazy, but Trivedi's timing makes it work. Apart from that, almost every aspect is a caricature - the Gujarati tinged Hindi, the Hasmukh bhais and doctor Mehtas. Bachchan salvages some laughs with his nonchalance and lines punched with non-sequitur, while hand-holding Kapoor through the challenges.
When we see the Regal image in the credits, the theatre is showing Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. We see the film on television in the Vakhariya household later, a poignant scene between the kid and the tramp, as the tension between father and son escalates over the issue of another father-son relationship. Now here is some detail that Shukla could have expanded or laid down more generously over his film, but he is content with putting Bachchan and Kapoor on screen, as father and son, and hopes Joshi's writing will take care of the rest. The result is inoffensive but unmemorable.