There has been much buzz surrounding Shakun Batra directed ‘Kapoor and Sons’ for some time. It seemed like a typical family drama which would tug at the heartstrings and be exactly as Dharma movies usually are – packaged to perfection. As a second film, Batra had taken a huge leap in terms of characters, cast and on the scale of the story since his debut as director with 2012’s ‘Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu’. With Sidharth Malhotra, Fawad Khan and Alia Bhatt in the lead characters as well a great ensemble including Rishi Kapoor, Rajat Kapoor and Ratna Pathak Shah, the film was packed with performers whose potential upped the excitement for the film. Initial promos made all the right noise but it seemed to fall short somewhere as there was no wow factor. Does the film itself deliver that “wow” that audiences might’ve been looking for?
When Dadu (Rishi Kapoor) suffers a heart attack, son Harsh (Rajat Kapoor) summons his sons back home to make sure all the family are around him. When his sons Rahul (Fawad Khan) and Arjun (Sidharth Malhotra) come back, cracks eventually begin to show not only between them but also in Harsh and wife Sunita’s (Ratna Pathak Shah) relationship. As they all try to find their way through, Dadu has one wish before he passes away – to take a happy family photo. Will the family be able to forget their differences and come together for all of a few minutes to fulfill his wish?
It would be absolutely wrong to leave the mention of the man who made such a film possible out of the top of the list. Director and writer Shakun Batra has shown with no regression and the utmost integrity what real-life relationships are all about. He’s kept away from any pre-conceived notions which might have existed in previous such films such as maybe a ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ (2015) or an essential Rajshri family drama. Instead, he’s carved his own path when it comes to portraying a family image on celluloid. One might expect a perfectionist style from Dharma Productions but ‘Kapoor and Sons’ is nothing but relatable – as Karan Johar rightly said. Batra hasn’t sought the aid of a huge item song or dance number or one particular subject to take his story forward. In fact, he’s chosen to give each character a meaning in the story which ensures that each reaction and each relationship’s fate is somewhat justified. He’s placed real events in the character’s lives which take the narrative to a level which you can’t even imagine as an audience member. The details in each part of the story are perhaps the best and biggest parts of the overall plot and this is then lifted by the actors that have stepped into the main roles. The most real achievement of Batra’s second film is that he’s gone from two main characters in ‘Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu’ to a full-fledged family of six characters and he’s managed to create something extraordinary which perhaps each section of the audience will identify with on some point.
As far as performances go, Rajat Kapoor and Ratna Pathak Shah – as a couple who have been married for 35 years, as a son and daughter-in-law, as parents of two sons – are the backbone of the whole film. Their praiseworthy performances would have been expected because of their calibre but it somehow seems as if Batra has managed to push the boat out for them to outdo themselves. The audience very much becomes immersed in their world and how the people around them react to situations. When you add on the patriarch of the family in the form of Rishi Kapoor, the film takes on a whole new meaning. His wish is something that drives the whole story and his humour is integral to open up the differences in opinions, generations and meanings in the relationship each character has with another. Rishi Kapoor’s performance is also great, once again showing off his quite obvious versatility as part of the ensemble cast.
It has to be said that Malhotra, Khan and Bhatt’s chemistry with one another was something quite endearing – whether this be Malhotra and Bhatt’s comfort shining through their performance, Bhatt and Khan’s cute attraction in some scenes or indeed Khan and Malhotra’s camaraderie and tension throughout the film. Malhotra’s character seems to be a little subdued and it would’ve been good to see him open up a bit in the character of Arjun. Although it can be said that his role was such that was somewhat understated, it would’ve been good to see him break out as a performer. Having said that, his performance is steady and he seems to liven it up in an argument scene with Khan and in climax scenes in the second half. Bhatt is just as refreshing as she always is as Tia, coming into her own as her character’s background is unravelled – there is no doubt that she fitted in perfectly in the film but this could well be because of her hit pairing with Malhotra. They both take their much-loved jodi to a new level and ‘Kapoor and Sons’ almost sees it mature. When it comes to Khan, he definitely should take the credit for his performance being one of the absolute best of the film. As an audience member, you almost search for him to appear on the screen and his character’s aloofness, maturity and love for his family makes him so appealing that you just want to see him. You not only can’t imagine anyone else playing Rahul but you also know, as the film goes on, that this is a sterling performance from an actor who has yet a long way to go in his Bollywood career.
One of the most refreshing things about ‘Kapoor and Sons’ comes in the form of the soundtrack which, after a long time, doesn’t take centrestage – which can be seen as an unsaid expectation one might have from a Dharma movie. Batra has made sure the songs that are featured in the film are well fitted into the story and most are tracks that are playing in the background as events take place. This does wonders for the kind of treatment he has given the story as it ensures that it doesn’t overpower what is important about the film. All of the songs are decent in the album, with Buddhu Sa Mann taking on the one song that encompasses the whole cast and feel of the film in both picturisation and composition.
It’s difficult to say what is wrong about a film which has so much going for it as a package. However, if there was one thing that could have been improved then it would have been a more obvious love story in true Bollywood style. It is perhaps healthy that this kind of cinema didn’t warrant that so the developing relationship between Bhatt and Malhotra’s characters seem to tick that almost invisible box.
‘Kapoor and Sons’, it has to be said, is a Shakun Batra masterpiece. Along with co-writerAyesha Devitre Dhillon, Batra has given audiences a story which will hopefully stand the test of time as far as family dramas go. Here’s hoping his style gives way to more such films which do not need extravagance to lure in the audiences and strike a chord. The wow factor in this one comes from the director’s vision!
BizAsia Showbiz Rating: 4.5/5