April Issue 2016

By | Movies | Published 8 years ago

The dysfunctional family is a familiar trope in cinema and it is one Kapoor and Sons, Fawad Khan’s second Bollywood outing, is unable to breathe new life into. A heavily made-up Rishi Kapoor dominates the start of what looks to be a comedy. Here is a man who enjoys play-acting his own death but, inevitably, suffers a real heart attack. His family is flawed in all the usual ways, with lots of secrets and lies, constant bickering and long-held grudges. Rishi’s confrontation with his impending mortality brings his family together — or at least under the same roof since emotional togetherness seems a bridge too far for the Kapoors.

Fawad Khan, Rishi’s grandson, is the perfect child. A successful novelist living in London, he has everything going for him other than the jealousy of his brother Sidharth Malhotra, who too had literary aspirations but is reduced to tending bars in New Jersey and nursing grudges against Fawad for supposedly stealing his ideas. Their parents are no happier, with Rajat Kapoor suffering a financial crisis, while his long-suffering wife Ratna Pathak is going through an existential one.

Directed by Shakun Batra, whose previous film was Ek Main Aur Ek Tu, the central flaw in Kapoor and Sons is that the problems the family faces are familiar to every family which, in theory, should make them relatable to the audience, but just end up being blandly generic. Financial troubles, sibling rivalry and infidelity have been played to death and Batra is unable to provide a fresh spin on these well-worn themes.

Kapoor and Sons isn’t helped by its constant shifts in tone, going from broad humour to dark drama to cheesy dénouement in a little over two hours. Yet the movie has an appeal that can only be explained by its brilliant acting. Rishi Kapoor has a grand old time portraying the over-the-top grandfather. He likes his pot and porn and, while one can see how infuriating he is, Rishi can’t help but be lovable.

Fawad helps prevent the movie from descending into a broad stereotype by playing the NRI returning to his homeland not as the arrogant and brash  success story, but as a man who has already learned humility and now needs some understanding. Although not hard to guess what his big secret is, when it does come out, one can’t help but be impressed by the empathy with which Fawad plays it.

The family’s saga would have been quite enough without shoehorning in a romantic subplot. Quite predictably, Sidharth falls in love with Alia Bhatt, who once again saves this tired plotline with her acting.

Kapoor and Sons is refreshing in that it takes a lot of cues from Karan Johar, who is the producer of the film, but provides a slightly different twist on it. The film also shows the power of perfect casting and how that can paper over a predictable plot. This is still a mature drama, albeit one which would have been helped by a more consistent tone.

This review was originally published in Newsline’s April 2016 issue.

Nadir Hassan is a Pakistan-based journalist and assistant editor at Newsline.