Badhaai Ho movie cast: Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao, Ayushmann Khurrana, Sanya Malhotra, Surekha Sikri, Sheeba Chaddha
Badhaai Ho movie director: Amit Ravindernath Sharma
Badhaai Ho movie casting: Two and a half stars
Marriage and procreation. Very good. The sex that is a required pit-stop? Very bad.
The ridiculous extent of Indian hypocrisy around sex, especially middle-aged or, worse, elderly sex, is laid bare in Badhaai Ho, which has to have one of the most unique propositions in Indian cinema: how do you deal with the imminent, wholly unexpected arrival of a ‘nanha mehmaan’, when you have two grown up sons—one in his mid-20s who is about to pop the question to his girl-friend, and the other stepping into testosterone-ruled teenage years—and an old cantankerous mother/ma-in-law?
The couple in question, Jeetendra and Priyamvada Kaushik (Rao and Gupta), do a good job of channeling the bewilderment mixed with joy when they learn that Priyam is pregnant. The boys and their grandmum (Sikri) are aghast. Mummy and Papa, in bed, doing, you know, that? Ugghhh.
Badhaai Ho is fashioned as a comedy of manners, as it goes about showing us nosey neighbours and nasty relatives and garish weddings in the very middle-class society that the Kaushiks inhabit. And as long as the film is in the hands of the veterans, with Gupta coming up with a pitch-perfect performance as a loving wife, mother, dutiful daughter-in-law, while also being her own person, and Rao keeping in step with her, it works. We gasp just as they do when they hear the ‘good news’, we smile when we see the tender sizzle between the two: just for the fact of showing that parents can have sexual feelings for each other, Badhaai Ho needs to congratulated.
Where it slips is when it takes off on a tangent, with Nakul (Khurrana) sparring with his wealthy girl-friend (Malhotra), and her snooty, pastel-hued mother (Chaddha).
Keeping the tone consistent is key, and here, Badhaai Ho doesn’t quite know what it wants us to do more, laugh or cry. And parts of the film sink into sitcom flatness, especially when Sikri overdoes her grumpy ‘saas’ act, though some of her lines are laugh-out-loud.
What’s refreshing is the thing between Rao and Gupta: both emit the lived-in spousal awareness of the long-married couple which only sometimes bursts into flames. They are sheepish when outed yet dignified, and I liked that the decision of what-to-do-with-the-pregnancy stays with the wife. And that age has nothing to do with desire. The smiles Kaushik Seniors exchange could teach the young ‘uns, Khurrana and Malhotra, both efficient, a thing or two about getting it on. Yes, mummy and papa can.