At one point in 102 Not Out, Kapoor’s Babulal Vakhariya opens a jar and marbles fall, rolling out across the floor and out of the room. This is a large house, spread on two levels, occupied by two geriatrics, and you watch those marbles go with morbid trepidation. Surely, now, right at this point, after essentially one hour of a single joke stretched out for the length of a film, those marbles will swing a plot turn. But no. 102 Not Out is happy making old age seem all sunshine, if you just lifted the blinds.
No doubt it’s great to see a film about two old people with unseemly paunches, bad hair, heavily wrinkled faces, dressed in slept-in clothes and not doing much, as all old people, if lucky, should get to do. But we have seen both Bachchan and Kapoor in that avatar in better films (Piku especially, and in Kapoor & Sons) before this. Here, they are used first to underline the point about living life to the fullest, and then to double-underline how mean sons who migrate to the Big, Bad West can be. But there are no middle grounds, no grey areas, no medical scares, no money issues, and even very little tension as the 102-year-old Dattatraya (Bachchan) threatens to send his 75-year-old, pessimistic son Babulal to an old-age home. The alternative is for Babulal to fulfill a series of tasks that Dattatraya sets out for him to do, all of which involve him shedding things he has gone used to or fond of or dependent on over the years.
There are laughs to be had from that, sure, especially the “love letter” that Dattatraya makes Babulal write to his late wife. But when it gets to forcing Babulal to cut little ducks out of a beloved Kashmiri blanket, it gets a little too infantile. Meanwhile, Bachchan’s accent, more Bengali than the intended Gujarati, keeps distracting.
Plus, Shukla, bringing to the big screen a hit Gujarati play again, after Oh My God!, takes away much of the innocence of the simple plot by suffusing the film with blatant product plugging. Saregama’s Caravan is almost a character in the film, competing for screen space with an errand boy from the local chemist store, who is the sounding board for both Dattatraya and Babulal — and the device certainly plays some lovely old numbers every time. The film doesn’t even spare an MRI scan without putting in a prominent hospital’s name.
Along the way, we get mini-lessons on eye donation and fast-growing bamboo plants, and perhaps the quickest death from Alzheimer’s ever.