Monthly Archives: October 2018

Badhaai Ho movie review: Neena Gupta, Ayushmann Khurrana & Co redefine warmth in Sai Paranjpye/Basu Chatterjee style

What happens when a woman gets pregnant in her twilight years. If some gentle ribbing is all you are expecting, then you are out of touch with reality and the subconscious prudery that even supposed liberals direct at the elderly.

Now imagine if the expectant mother and her husband, the child’s father, are already parents of a teenaged son and another who is in his 20s. The contempt they face within the home then is no less than what the outside world inevitably throws at them, as Priyamvada and Manoj Kaushik discover in Badhaai Ho.

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Manoj (Gajraj Rao) is employed in the Indian Railways and Priyamvada (Neena Gupta) manages their home. Their son Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana) works in an advertising firm and is dating his colleague Renee (Sanya Malhotra). The younger one, Gullar (Shardul Rana), is in school.

Their family is rounded off by a tetchy, demanding grandmother (Surekha Sikri). Or so they think until a sudden bout of unease takes Priyamvada to the doctor and they realise she is almost halfway through a pregnancy she was not aware of.

The Kaushiks live in a congested house in a lower-middle-class Delhi locality with an old-world air. Nakul’s office is in Gurgaon, the suburb characterised by its glitzy, gigantic, modern buildings. Their worldview lies somewhere in between.

And so, first comes the older couple’s shyness to announce what in their youth would have been demanded of them as “good news” they owe to the human species. Then comes the laughter and derision of family and their larger social circle. This much is expected in such a story and makes Badhaai Ho a lovable slice-of-life comedy.

What is most telling and a departure from the expected is the nuance and sensitivity with which director Amit Ravindernath Sharma (who earlier made the dreadful Tevar) and his writing team (story: Shantanu Srivastava and Akshat Ghildial, screenplay: Akshat Ghildial) examine Priyamvada and Manoj’s own response to their situation, and the judgement they face from a seemingly forward-thinking character who sees in their decision not to terminate the pregnancy a sign of backwardness.

Messrs Sharma, Srivastava and Ghildial’s work reminded me of an article I read a few years back by a rape survivor who said she had to deal with considerable social opprobrium in small-town America when she decided not to abort the child she conceived from rape. Too many people who view themselves as liberal think that pro-choice means pro-abortion. It does not. It means being in favour of the right of every woman to choose for herself. So if you pressure her with your expectation that she absolutely must, in certain specific circumstances, exercise the option the law gives her, then how are you different from fundamentalists who want to change the law that gives women this freedom?

Priyamvada holds the conservative view that abortion is a sin, Manoj clearly does not and would like her to consider it. Badhaai Ho for its part reveals its standpoint in the position Manoj ultimately takes when he tells his beloved Priyamvada: “Kasht tera hai, final decision bhi tera hi hoga” (You are the one who will go through the trouble that this pregnancy entails, therefore the final decision too will be yours). That, and the fact that Badhaai Ho openly acknowledges abortion as an acceptable possibility, takes it light years ahead of most Hindi cinema so far including the Salman Khan-Anushka Sharma-starrer Sultan (2016) which steered clear of the subject perhaps for fear of antagonising a traditionalist audience.

This is what makes Badhaai Ho not just warm, funny and realistic, but also thinking, intelligent and unobtrusively politically and socially conscious. What makes it so enjoyable is that it wears its IQ lightly.

The characters in this film are not painted in black and white but in all the colours of the rainbow. The middle-class protagonists are not portrayed as saints nor are the upper classes presented as evil cliches. The screenplay, like these people, does have its imperfections though. Halfway down the line it moves too far away from Priyamvada and Manoj in its focus on Nakul and Renee. It’s not that we don’t get to spend time with them – of course we do – but they are dears and it feels like not enough. Since the young are the top priority of most cinema, it would have been nice to get better acquainted with the older pair here and especially know more about Priyamvada’s mindset, her goals and life-long dreams.

Still, what Badhaai Ho offers is precious – an insight into the lives of real people rather than glossed-up specimens of humanity that exist only in the imagination of commercial filmmakers. Sanu John Varughese’s camerawork plays a part in highlighting the contrasting spaces Nakul in particular inhabits. Varughese scales down while shooting the Kaushiks’ home milieu and even Renee’s wealthy residence, but his frames become more expansive when they shift to Gurgaon. The cast and Sharma’s vision are a match made in heaven.

Ayushmann Khurrana is gradually becoming the Amol Palekar of his generation, yet different. This young artiste is capable of top-lining conventional Bollywood cinema (as we see even with the closing song and dance routine in Badhaai Ho), but chooses to work in small films where the star is the story. He is completely convincing here as a well-intentioned though conflicted son. He also shares a comfortable chemistry with his co-star Sanya Malhotra, whose calling card as of now is her role as a wrestler in the Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal (2016). Within a span of just three weeks, Malhotra has managed to display amazing versatility playing a sensible, urban, wealthy woman of today in Badhaai Ho, a character that is chalk to the cheese that is the loud, pugnacious sibling living in rural Rajasthan that she was in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Pataakha.

Surekha Sikri is rollicking good fun as the cantankerous Dadi who turns out to be not quite as old-fashioned as you might think at first. Hers is a character that occasionally is in danger of being overplayed, but Sikri holds back just at the point where she needs to. The always wonderful Sheeba Chadda’s performance as Renee’s mother is marked by her trademark restraint.

Neena Gupta plays Priyamvada with the natural ease that has characterised all her performances on film and TV. In addition it is worth noting how she has been styled and how she chooses to carry herself in Badhaai Ho. When she was young I never particularly thought of her looks, but in this film I was struck by her luminous prettiness in a face filled out beautifully with life experiences. Gajraj Rao is so credible as her reticent yet romantically inclined partner, and they are so good together, that they bring to mind these lines from ‘I Believe In You’ sung by the legendary American country musician Don Williams: “But I believe in love / I believe in babies / I believe in Mom and Dad / I believe in you.”

Manto, Leena Yadav’s Rajma Chawal, Tumbbad to be showcased at 2018 London Film Festival

London: The 62nd London Film Festival which opens on 10 October will show more than 200 films from 77 countries with more than a third of them from women filmmakers, including India’s Manto directed by Nandita Das.

Posters of Manto (left), Rajma Chawal (right), A still from Tumbbad

One of the world’s most prestigious film festivals will open with Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen’s thriller Widows.

Indian films are a growing feature at international film events and the London festival is no exception. Although Das’s biopic on the famous writer Manto, has already been premiered in India and elsewhere, the Nawazuddin Siddiqui starrer is still a prominent entry.

Three other Indian films which are eagerly awaited at the festival are Leena Yadav’s Rajma Chawal, Rahi Anil Barve’s Tumbbad and Dar Gai’s Namdev Bhau in Search of Silence.

In Rajma Chawal Rishi Kapoor gives a charming performance as a newly-widowed father who’s struggling to cope with the unfolding situation. Tumbbad is about the cursed family of a now deserted village while Dar Gai’s film is about a 65-year-old man who cannot take the noisy Mumbai city anymore.

Another Indian film being shown at the festival is Ivan Ayr’s debut Soni. The film is about a policewoman in Delhi which has already had its premiere in July at the Venice International Film Festival.

The 12-day London Film Festival will close on 21 October with the world premiere of Jon S. Baird’s Stan & Ollie. This funny film starring Steve Coogan and John C, Reilly features a double act of Laurel and Hardy.

Some other prominent films at the 2018 festival are The Old Man and the Gun which features Robert Redford as an aging bank robber; Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma —a black and white film which is a tribute to the women of his boyhood.

Besides, Yorgos Lanthimos’s delirious period drama The Favourite, Mike Leigh’s historic epic Peterloo, the Cohen brothers’ dazzling new film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs and Luca Guadagnino’s art horror Suspiria.

Another film worth mentioning is Lords of Chaos by the Swedish director Jonas Akerlund. It is a darkly comic drama that tells the true story of how the rise of the Satanic musical subculture of Norwegian black metal in the 1980s, spun from an angst-inspired need to revolt into a fable of gross cult crimes.

The London Film Festival has featured some of the world’s best movie makers. The first film ever to be shown at the festival was Akira Kurosawa’s Throne of Blood in 1957.

In that year alone, it showed Bergman’s The Seventh Seal, Fellini’s Nights of Cabiria and Elia Kazan’s A Face in the Crowd— all classics of world cinema.

India’s Satyajit Ray won the best film director award in 1959 at the London festival for his Apur Sansar. He was only the second director in the history of the festival to be awarded for his work.

In its early years, almost all films shown and awarded here were by international directors rather than British.

Geetika Tyagi on Aamir Khan backing out of Mogul: ‘It’s always nice to get support, but I’ve been fighting my battles alone’

With Aamir Khan stepping away from producing Mogul, which was scheduled to be directed by Jolly LLB director Subhash Kapoor, media professional-turned-actor Geetika Tyagi says she is happy with the support she has recieved, especially since she wasn’t expecting any. Kapoor is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Tyagi, who has alleged that the director tried to molest her in 2012. “It is always nice to get support. But this is happening when I stopped looking, and I thank him (Aamir) for it. I never looked or asked for any support. I have been fighting my battles all alone,” said Tyagi in an exclusive chat with Firstpost.

As soon as Tyagi learnt about Aamir’s decision of walking out of the project, in the wake of India’s #MeToo gaining momentum, she tweeted about it.

Aamir and Kiran Rao also put out a statement regarding his decision stating that at Aamir Khan Productions, they have zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment.

Aamir Khan took this strong step after Geetika Tyagi tweeted to Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival (Kiran Rao is the chairperson), reminding them of the sexual harassment she faced by Mogul director, Subhash Kapoor.

Geetika asked Kiran if she remembers that Aamir Khan is working with Subhash Kapoor who she alleged had earlier sexually assaulted her. Tyagi’s tweet read, “Although @MumbaiFilmFest hs disassociated itslf frm directors&producer whose names have come out in #Metoo movement but I hope its chairperson #KiranRao remembers tht @aamir_khan her husband hmslf is working wth #subhashkapoor who’s being prosecuted for sexual assault&molestation” .

It may be recalled that Tyagi, who has acted in films like Aatma, What The Fish, One By Two and television series, Powder, had accused Kapoor of molesting her after a party and even trying to drag her into the bedroom.

Tyagi had further taken to her Twitter handle to share a 30-minute video in which she named Subhash Kapoor as her molester and had also captioned the video as “Subhash Kapoor’s true face”. The video, which was shot through a hidden camera, saw Kapoor, his wife Dimple Kharbanda and Tyagi discussing the ‘sexual misconduct’ of the director. A few minutes into the video, and Kapoor tells Tyagi, “I didn’t drag you inside”, to which the actress reacted by saying, “You pulled me, Subhash. You were holding my hand.” Further (in the video), Tyagi she tells Kapoor,  “I can’t trust any man. I don’t have a single friend aaj ki date mein jisey mai bolun let us have coffee together or go out, sit and talk. Maine bahut bahut suffer kiya hai, Subhash. I’m jittery, I’m always fu***ng jittery”.

The director of the Arjun Kapoor-starrer Aurangzeb, Atul Sabharwal, was also seen in the video speaking in support of Tyagi, who was further seen slapping Kapoor. Kapoor seemed to be apologising to her. While Tyagi’s seen crying hysterically in the video, the director’s wife is seen pleading to the actress to keep the matter under wraps as she was worried about her son’s future and didn’t want him to be affected by this.

Kapoor was working with Aamir Khan on Bhushan Kumar’s Moghul, but the actor has backed out of the film after the news of Kapoor’s ‘sexual misconduct’. After this, Bhushan Kumar also decided to drop him as the director of the film.

Speaking in response to the development, Kapoor posted a statement saying, “I understand and respect Aamir Khan’s and Kiran Rao’s decision. Since the matter is subjudice, I intend to prove my innocence in the court of law.”