Neena Gupta-Ayushmann Khurrana Starrer Badhaai Ho And Pihu: Two Content-Driven Films To Watch During The Week-PART 71

In our 71st edition of Lockdown blues chasers, check out two content-driven films to watch during the week! Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao and Ayushmann Khurrana starrer Badhaai Ho and film Pihu; films to keep you entertained

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Neena Gupta-Ayushmann Khurrana Starrer Badhaai Ho And Pihu: Two Content-Driven Films To Watch During The Week-PART 71
Badhaai  Ho (2018): You will be smiling but also deeply moved by the artless charm of that great big universe known as the  Indian Muddle Class, and  I  do mean ‘muddle’ where so many contradictory cultural, religious and political forces co-exist  uneasily and yet  without friction. Some such controlled chaos defines the world that the Kaushik family inhabits with such fluent ownership. We’ve seen an abundance of commendable comedies on the Delhi’s confounded middleclass such as  Dibakar Bannerjee’s  Khosla Ka Ghosla and  Habib Faisal’s  Do Dooni Chaar. But none so delectably oblivious of its responsibilities of pinning down the characters  to their cultural canvas. We meet the family….rather we  run into them as  though  their existence  does not depend  on our attention. This  is  the hallmark of  above-ordinary cinema. The characters  must seem to exist from long before the camera was switched on. I don’t think the Kaushik family knows  or cares about Sanu Vargghese’s ruminative  camera work.

Gajraj Rao, an actor of enormous skills I never had the chance to take so seriously until now, plays the  patriarch with a problem. He has just impregnated  his wife (Neena Gupta,  restrained and effective) at an age when  parents are supposed to  be celibates.  Elder son Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana ,owning the sexually challenged middleclass space) can’t take the  jibes and  snide remarks from friends and has  a massive showdown with his girlfriend’s  elitist mother(Sheeba Chadha, so  in-control that I forgot she was acting). Then there  is  the  family’s grandmother played by the  firebrand Surekha Sikri who  lights up every moment of her  screen-time like a 4-year old who has just discovered  the joys of playing with fire. This is exactly what director Amit Sharma and  his writers Shantanu Shrivastava, Akshay Gildial and  Jyoti Kapoor seem to be  doing in this  film. The  risk of  turning a  story on belated  pregnancy into a farce or peachy (like B R Ishara  Kaagaz Ki Nao)  looms large over this exceptionally unconventional comedy. The director swerves  the  plot  neatly away from all innuendo  to capture with  sullen satire a family coping with an  unexpectedly outrageous  crisis.

Badhaai Ho is  a work of wondrous  writing and  incredible acting. Both aspects  of the film are so unassuming in their  impact that the untrained eye may miss the skills that go into scripting and performing  a  film that questions our collective hypocrisy when we  are scandalized  by  the  thought  of our parents having sex. In this film the narrative is supremely self-satisfied  though never smug. The  characters  do not mouth lines that they ought to. Rather they say what they have to say when and  if they want to. In a sequence after sex,  Ayushmann asks his girilfriend (Sanya Malhotra), “Is this something parents should be doing. He gets his answer sooner rather than  later. By the time Ayushmann’s Nakul  gets the answer , we are completely and  unconditionally immersed  in the goings-on ,  our heart reaching out to the  family as it  comes to terms with the fact that the parents  are not  morally wrong in producing a  child at an age when they should be grandparents. Badhaai Ho is  treasure-house of commendable  performances. When  Gajraj Rao bursts into ‘Babu’ English with his son’s girlfriend I chuckled at the  linguistic pretension of all the patriarchs of  the word who equate  the English  language with  upward  mobility. Early on I decided  this film qualified  as a masterpiece for its  solid robust grip over the  workingclass’ anxieties. Towards the  end when Neena Gupta’s  character skips  the baby shower and  goes straight to  labour , I felt  I was  a part of the Kaushik family. When the family younger son Gullar (Shardul Rana) bursts into tears on seeing his newly-born baby sister I wanted to comfort him. To tell him it’s okay. I understand.

Pihu (2018): If  Macaulay Culkin was a little girl who was a far better actor than he, and if Home Alone was a tragic terrifying nerve wracking exposition on  a 2-year child left  all alone in a house filled with electric gadgets and dangerous inclines and a dead parent , this is the film you would get. Let’s be thankful for the new wave in Hindi cinema that has  gripped the  Bollywood script in 2018 like  an obstinate fever.   Pihu pushes the envelope so far you can’t see the stamp of any other film on  it. On seeing the trailer  I had compared Pihu to Chetan Anand’s Aakhri Khat. And  to a large extent  that parallel remains pertinent. To simply watch a child  fending for  herself is  the most heartbreaking ode to vulnerability on this side of  Sadma. As Pihu  prances, giggles, groans and finally weeps her way through the nightmarish  emptiness  of her well-appointed home, I kept wondering  how  the director   would hold our attention for  a full-length  feature film with just a 2-year protagonist on screen…Or for that matter, how will he get  the 2-year child  to go through the motions of an imminent catastrophic crisis?

On  both counts, I am happy to say Pihu scores high points. Not only are we unconditionally riveted  to little Pihu’s  instinctive survival methods (don’t think Culkin, think Tom Hanks in Castaway) the  little wonder-actress is astonishingly  clued  in to the way the camera works. In no time, we  surrender to Pihu’s  distressful circumstance  while she remains oblivious  to it. At times  her expressions of exasperation at  the  mess that karma has suddenly dealt her, are so profound I felt I  was watching a seasoned actress  rather than  a child who doesn’t even know  what the camera(or karma)  is. And yet Pihu , for all its disposition to  overpower us with a one-character  survival saga,  is never short  of  breath. Director  Vinod  Kapri never runs out of ways  to engage our senses  in the most heightened  state  of emotional vulnerability.  I can’t begin to imagine how Kapri  directed the child. I suspect the  child directed herself most  of the time, mumbling cajoling coaxing and  pleading  baby-talk as her mother refuses to answer, breaking into a lisping song (Nani teri morni ko more le gayi will never be the same again), tiptoeing on her little feet to reach for her mother’s cellphone to tell her absentee Papa that Mama is  sleeping.

Oh, this is the most heartbreaking horror tale of domestic desolation you will ever see. That’s for sure. The jarring notes are provided by  extraneous voice. Pihu’s father  on the phone  sounds like he is  participating in a  Vividh Bharti play. Noises of a maidservant, watchman  and others  incidental  voices  outside the  apartment where  Pihu  is trapped(think Rajkummar Rao with a feeding-bottle  in Trapped)  sound like they’ve been hired to create sound effects. These apart, Pihu hits all the right notes scaring the hell out of us as  the little girl gets into one potentially life-threatening situation after another, all in the ironical ‘safety’ of her own home. Yogesh Jaini’s camera lets  little Pihu do as she likes. The camera is  a stoic bystander in this tale of a domestic idyll gone horribly wrong. The background score(Abhishek Rey) remains remarkably liberated  from over-punctuation, coming on  with a frugality that spotlights the vulnerability  of the  protagonist.

 If you’ve ever worried about your child’s wellbeing then Pihu will remind  you of just how much at  risk a child can be put into by selfish parents  who  forget that once  you give birth to a new life your life no longer belongs to  you.

Image Source: youtube/jungleepictures/rsvpmovies