‘Kapoor & Sons’ seems to have taken to heart that famous Tolstoy line: “all happy families are alike, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way”, in the way it chooses a specific kind of unhappiness for each member of the Kapoor family.
The fact that Bollywood is now confident enough to give us a family which is not bursting with joy is a thing to be lauded. Meet the Kapoors : grandpa (Rishi Kapoor), middle-aged son (Rajat Kapoor) and his wife (Ratna Pathak Shah), and two grandsons Rahul (Fawad Khan) and Arjun (Sidharth Malhotra), all gathered together after many years for a reunion at their Coonoor homestead.
At first it is a huge relief that the Kapoors don’t go about slobbering over each other. They are not gratingly saccharine. They squabble, shout and yell. Simmering resentments between the two young men, kept at bay all this time, come out. There’s tension between the older couple as well, which keeps spilling out all the time. You see these people stepping around each other, ducking and weaving, lying to each other, and you are thinking, hey now, great, here are finally, actually people you can recognize.
And then you stop. Because much too soon you recognize them too well. Because they are all playing to a type, and we’ve seen so many of them so often in Hollywood flicks. Rishi Kapoor, almost unrecognizable underneath all that make-up, is meant to be the jolly ol’ roguish gramps. Fawad’s Rahul is the London-based ‘perfect’ older son, so often called ‘hot’ by pretty women that you know exactly what that portends. Sidharth’s Arjun is the ‘loser’ who is constantly having to prove himself. And Tia (Alia Bhatt) is yet another version of the manic pixie girl dealing with past tragedy. The result is a cook-out which pleases only in patches.
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This turns the characters into stock, and the film into a constructed thing, and you know what’s coming much before it actually does. Which is a pity because a film like this one, with a nice sense of place (the house has a lived-in feel ; the hill town used as home, not a series of picturesque spots) and more-than-competent performers, could have been that rare Bollywood thing : a grown-up drama featuring grown-ups.
The other problem is that in many places things get much too overwrought for far too long. The slanging matches between the Kapoors escalate naturally, but then they are allowed to go on and on. And you want to tell them to give it a break, because we got it already.
Sidharth Malhotra brings to the table an attractive loose-limbed vulnerability which he reveals slowly. He makes something of his part. Fawad plays his straight, and he doesn’t lift off the screen, the way he did in ‘Khubsoorat’. Rishi gets some laughs in, but has to struggle against the heavy prosthetics. The two people who kept me watching all the way were Rajat Kapoor and Ratna Pathak Shah : they play long-time partners in a marriage gone sour, and create a relationship which has enough strength and weaknesses that you want to know more about.
These two deserve a separate film.
Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Fawad Khan, Alia Bhatt, Rajat Kapoor, Ratna Pathak Shah, Rishi Kapoor
Director: Shakun Batra