The realistic portrayal of a dysfunctional family makes Kapoor & Sons a heart-warming watch.
The Dil Dhadakne Do turf of dysfunctional families is back, and not surprisingly, pretty much every character in Kapoor & Sons has a back-story that makes them rebellious, angry or pretentious.
Director Shakun Batra focuses intimately on six central characters and keeps it as real as it gets. So we have the Kapoor family sparring over dinner and revelling in an evening of old songs and 'family album' blues.
There is the natural cacophony - of people talking over each other, overlapping dialogues and the chaos - and Batra has a firm grip until, alas, as Bollywood is wont to do, Kapoor & Sons ends as a melodramatic cliché.
That is sad because the film held tremendous promise. With absolutely top-notch performances by Rajat Kapoor, Ratna Pathak and Fawad Khan, and backed well by Siddharth Malhotra and Alia Bhatt, the film builds a real and raw world from the word go.
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There is no expression of saccharine sweetness even as brothers Rahul (Fawad), a successful author, and Arjun (Siddarth), a struggling writer, return home after a hiatus. Their parents (Rajat and Ratna) are squabbling - the dad for lack of money, and the mom, over her suspicion of his extra-marital affair.
What for now holds the family together is their grandpa (Rishi Kapoor), who is in the hospital. A retired soldier with an irresistible fancy for Mandakini of Ram Teri Ganga Maili (the jokes going on and appearing forced after a point) takes a load off the tension that fills the frames when others are around.
Also is introduced Tia (Alia), naturally, chirpy and with a sense of humour, who gets close to both brothers. For a long duration, as in real life, nothing much happens in the movie. The family keeps bickering, the brothers bond and fall out, romantic notions involving Tia are tossed up in the air, and well, dying grandpa, wants but a family photo.
In setting the scene, Batra does an admirable job. We may not particularly love the family - which is perfectly normal - nor do we really root for any of the characters, which too is fine.
How then do you wrap it up into one coherent whole? Enter the Bollywood cliché factory. The back stories that are floated dilute the core of the film - with [spoiler alert] the easiest plot-point in cinematic history -accidental death - thrown in. The simmering tension between the brothers too fizzles out with the real reason as silly as turning points used in amateurish school plays.
The film tends to drag under the weight of its own confusion and the brave 'real world' that Batra painstakingly built becomes another weepy Karan Johar production, albeit restrained.
The film, to a great extent, belongs to Fawad Khan - and he is terrific. Rishi Kapoor as grandpa serves as a perfect foil to the tension, and one must give it to him for the laboured make-up he had to wear.
The setting of Conoor brings an ethereal backdrop to the story but adds little value to the otherwise gritty reality that the film aims to convey.
There is some deft sensitivity at play in bringing out the 'hidden secrets' of the characters - which is admirable - though nothing ground-breaking.
Kapoor & Sons is heart-warming alright but fails short of building on the fantastically captured 'reality' it achieves early on, ending up 'neither here nor there.' If you want it real, keep it real. Don't drag in the Bollywood school to the narrative.
Kapoor & Sons
Directed by Shakun Batra
Cast: Fawad Khan, Siddharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt & Rishi Kapoor
Now playing at theatres in the UAE