Badhaai Ho Review: The old guard stands tall in a tale of love, sex and everything in between
Badhaai Ho is not a film that works despite its cliches. It is a film that works because of it.
The Indian middle class is a complex entity. It is a group for which 'Sanskaar', 'Parivaar' and 'Log kya kahenge?' matters a lot it. There is a beautiful dichotomy here, especially as the ones who are worried about what society will talk about them, are the first to stretch boundaries when unseen.
Director: Amit Ravindernath Sharma
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Gajraj Rao, Neena Gupta, Sanya Malhotra, Surekha Sikri
This is the world inhabited by the Kaushiks — Jitender (Gajraj Rao), his wife Priyamvada (Neena Gupta), their kids, Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana) and Gullar (Shardul Rana), and his mother (Surekha Sikri) — and this is the world that gets turned on its head when Priyamvada, the mother of two, gets pregnant. And of course, what follows is cliche-ridden, but in a good way, take on the family's struggle to come to terms with the impending arrival of the 'chota mehmaan'.
Everything in this film is a cliche. The Kaushiks are shown to be middle-class in all its stereotypical glory. They have a 13.5-year-old car with their surname displayed on it in garish red. They stay in a locality where privacy is a myth. Throw in a nagging mother-in-law, a love affair for the elder son with an 'upper-society' girl (Sanya Malhotra as Renee) and extended family members who belittle the family for their indiscretion, and you have ticked every box that a film about the middle-class is typically about.
Badhaai Ho is not a film that works despite its cliches. It is a film that works because of it. It is helped by some superlative acting by every actor, and even better writing by Shantanu Srivastava, Jyoti Kapoor and Akshat Ghildial.
Take, for instance, the scene when Surekha admonishes her son and daughter-in-law for the unplanned pregnancy. One of the first things she asks him is when he found the time to 'do it' when he can barely spend more than a minute with her. A beautiful stretch to remind how this pregnancy becomes hardly about Jitendra and Priyamvada, but about everyone else including dadi, Nakul, Gullar, their neighbours, their extended families, and even the doctors.
The film holds a mirror to how we treat sex in our society, and when Renee asks Nakul if he will stop having sex with her once they are 'older', Nakul is stumped. Does romance and sex come with an expiry date in a marriage? Jitendra and Priyamvada are a couple who have a condom nestled safely under their bed. So, it is clear that the pregnancy was not a result of a one-off night of unbridled passion. In fact, the consummation scene happens after Jitendra returns from a tired day at work, dines with his entire family, tries to resolve a fight between his mother and wife, and finally at the end of the day, slides in next to his wife and reads out one of his poems while incessant rain provides the background score for this recital. We saw 20 years back in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai what happens when rain and music collaborate, and now we see the same in Badhaai Ho.
Watching Neena Gupta and Gajraj Rao act is a delight. It is interesting how Bollywood is writing the parts of parents these days. Last year, in Bareilly ki Barfi, we had the inimitable Pankaj Tripathi and Seema Pahwa, and this year, undoubtedly, belongs to the supremely impressive Gajraj and Neena.
Such is their portrayal that when there is a slight shift of focus to the younger couple, there is a sense of impatience that creeps in. It isn't that their roles are bad, or the acting is sub-standard or that their conflict isn't important, but just that the equation between the elder couple — the furtive glances, the understanding smiles, the sympathetic nods, the flirtations and the fierce defences — feel more rounded.
Sanya's infectious laughter and expressions of displeasure over Ayushmann's outburst in front of her mom (a restrained but measured Sheeba Chadda) and Ayushmann's umpteenth, but still effective, portrayal of a Delhi launda ensure that despite the dip in the pace, the film stays afloat. Special mention to Abhishek Arora for his background score. Songs by Tanishk Bagchi, JAM8 and Rochak Kohli enliven the proceedings a great deal.
Ayushmann, in his outburst at Sanya's mom after she brands his family a circus she wants nothing to do with, says, "We are a simple, normal, genuine, middle-class values filled family." And much like the Kaushiks, Amit Ravindernath Sharma's second directorial, Badhaai Ho, too is a simple, normal, genuine, middle-class values filled film that reminds us that it is not only about remembering to love your parents but also remembering that our parents do more than just love each other. Nudge, nudge.