One must admit this about Shakun Batra, he is one of the few directors in Bollywood, alongside Sriram Raghavan, Shimit Amin and Bejoy Nambiar, who can capture even the most mundane of surroundings and give it a refreshing twist. His debut feature, Ek Main Aur Ek Tu combined the craft of Wes Anderson, and the feel of Woody Allen, and while the influence of 2 Days in Paris was quite evident, it was a refreshing take on the rom com genre, and also contained one of Kareena Kapoor’s finest performances. Therefore, in his sophomoric effort, when he takes on the dysfunctional family trope centred around the aged patriarch’s 90th birthday, the family reunion, and the ensuing chaos, combined with an ensemble cast, one cannot help but be intrigued at how it shall all come to pass.
Rahul and Arjun Kapoor (Fawad Khan and Siddharth Malhotra) are estranged brothers, living contrasting lives in London and New Jersey, away from their family estate in Coonoor. Rahul is a successful author, struck by writer’s block as he struggles to meet the deadline for his next book. Arjun is a wanderer, flitting between jobs, currently working as a bartender to make ends meet, while trying to get his own book published. When they get a call from home saying Daddu (Rishi Kapoor) has had a heart attack, and wishes to see them, they have no option but to go back home, where secrets will spill out, new relationships will be forged and old relationships threaten to fall apart.
The first thing you notice in Kapoor and Sons, is that for the most part, the relationships, the interactions between the characters, the unfolding of the plot, everything seems organic. Although, for some reason, Batra seems to be in a hurry throughout to keep things moving. In fact, this turns out to be one of 3 minor quibbles in an otherwise perfect film. One wishes that he’d let the story breathe, let the audience really get a feel of the conflict between the characters and also within themselves. The cinematography by Jeffrey Bierman is top-notch and really lets us get a glimpse of what’s happening inside the Kapoor mansion, and by extension, in their minds. The background score gels well for the most, but at times, it does get a tad intrusive in scenes, where silence would have really made a bigger impact. In spite of the slightly hurried proceedings, the writing is for the most, first-rate, even though one would feel that at least 2-3 characters were underdeveloped.
First things first, Fawad Khan’s performance in this movie stands out, and surpasses the rest of the cast by miles. Right from the beginning of the movie, when we see him wistfully gazing at the wall of photos, right up to the end where he comes face to face with his inner demons and how they have impacted his relationships, no amount of superlatives can do justice to his performance. Rishi Kapoor’s performance here reminds one of Amitabh Bachchan’s in Paa. The makeup aside, there really isn’t much to talk about, except for a couple of scenes here and there, like the video call to his grandsons in the climax. Siddharth Malhotra is all right for the most part, but his lack of acting chops is made glaringly obvious in the more dramatic scenes, where he quite clearly looks out of his depth. Alia Bhatt plays the manic pixie dream girl to perfection and is a bright ray of sunshine in an otherwise dark story, but her character is pretty redundant plot-wise. Rajat Kapoor and Ratna Pathak Shah pitch in with fine performances that are heart-breaking in their subtlety.
Overall, a fine, albeit slightly flawed effort, Kapoor and Sons nevertheless deserves to be watched, just for the fact that it refuses to take the melodramatic route for the most, and can boast of some compelling performances. But most of all, for reminding us through Fawad Khan, that the best performances needn’t necessarily be the loudest.