I’ve already put up to reviews, one short spoiler-less one and one that goes into detail about the character development and so on with loads of spoilers. And now I am going to see if I can manage my usual extremely detailed scene by scene breakdown. Not sure how it will go with this film, because it is so loose and experimentally structured.
(Final part of summary, with ending, here)
We open with a shot of the outside of the house, the camera lovingly moving around the window frames and over flowers, and finally into the house to look at Rishi Kapoor at breakfast. We know right away that this is going to be a movie that is more about the house and what it means and the family within it than about an outward looking film, the kind that would open with an establishing shot of the Delhi skyline or something.
And then there is the bit I described in my spoiler-less review, with Rishi eating an orange and then falling on the table and we pull back to see Ratna Pathak and Rajat Kapoor watching also at the table, ignoring him. Rajat Kapoor is complaining about bills, Ratna is complaining about him not calling a plumber for the leak in the sink, in between the both complain about Rishi constantly fake collapsing just to get attention. And then Rishi pops up and joins in the conversation, just adding to the tension of it. Eventually he wheels himself away, and the camera follows him for a moment down the hall before pulling back to Ratna and Rajat still fighting, the Rishi falling down, the servant running to him while Ratna and Rajat ignore him, the servant calling for him to wake up, and cut. It’s a nicely done intro, especially that abrupt cut, which doesn’t feel like a cliffhanger, but more like just giving us a glimpse of life and letting the audience fill in the rest.
And, London! Which I am realizing I recognize more from Indian film establishing shots than from actually having been there, or watching movies that are actually British made. Fawad Khan is being hot and having lunch with a really cool seeming Anglo-Indian woman, who is talking about his advance and needing to work on his next book, even though his current one is still selling out and super successful. And even though he is all caught up in his “artist’s retreat” business. This comes up through out the film and they never explain it super well. I think it is just a line of small hotels/guest cottages around the world specifically marketed to creative types as to be alone and work. So, he’s running a hotel chain essentially. And this whole massive outflow of exposition (author! Successful! struggling with next book! also, runs hotels! and lives in London and has cool friends!) is interrupted by a phone call.
And then we are in New Jersey! No establishing shot, just the inside of a crowded busy bar with hot guys in tight black t-shirts behind the bar, one of whom is Siddharth. Which matches my experience if New Jersey pretty well. Including the fact that half the hot guys are desi. Siddharth works, gets off work, checks his email, sends a message with a file attached and a note saying “this is my next draft, please look it over,” says good-bye to a co-worker, and then his phone rings. It’s Fawad, packing up in a fancy looking apartment, saying he’s been trying to reach him all day, it’s Grandpa (Rishi), he’s had a heart-attack. Dad (Rajat) called Fawad, Fawad is packing for India now, he already found a flight Siddharth can take to London and then they can fly together to India. Siddharth hesitates, Fawad leaps in and says he can cover the cost of the flight if Siddharth needs help. Siddharth immediately gets uppity, says he can take care of himself. And he also asks why Rajat called Fawad directly and then left it to Fawad to call him. Fawad tells him to let it go.
This is all so weird to me! Not unbelievable or unrealistic or anything, just soooooooo different from my relationship with my sister. I get that in other families the younger sibling might resent being taken care of and protected by his older sibling, and the older sibling might choose to defend the parents and take their side against the younger sibling, but that’s sure not how it works for us! And, as I mentioned in my spoiler-y review, I think this particular disconnect between brothers can be laid squarely at the feet of their parents, who have created this wall between them piece by piece their whole lives.
So, back to London! Siddharth comes out of the airport and is greeted by Fawad, who hugs him and asks, “Where’s your luggage?” This is going to turn into a rake joke, as it is repeated over and over again.
After their meeting in London, we have some more of those quick abrupt artsy cuts, taking us from the plane to the road in the dark up to the house, to the front porch of the house. On the front porch, both sons are already a little uncomfortable, but in different ways. Siddharth starts being kind of jumpy and twitchy. Fawad looks aggressively relaxed, too relaxed, there is something he is hiding. There is a brief interplay where Siddharth can’t find the key under the mat where it usually was and Fawad has to show him the new key hiding place. Pretty clear which of these sons is more integrated into their parent’s household.
Once they are inside, there is a brief moment of comfort when the dog runs up to greet them, and then both boys go into their childhood bedrooms, Fawad to find that nothing has been changed, Siddharth to see that his mother has moved into his room, clothes in the closet and everything. Ouch! Oh, and this whole time the camera is jumping around like crazy, following on boy and then the other, suddenly leaping forward and jumping back with edits, but all of it done smoothly so the edits are almost invisible. It’s very technically impressive, but also a little disorienting on the big screen.
Years ago, I think in a review of Public Enemy, I read someone pointing out that the action scenes, and really the whole movie, was perfectly made to be watched on a phone. The images were small and fast moving, not big and beautiful. That’s how I felt watching Kapoor and Sons, everything was fine, clear, interesting. But it wasn’t beautiful, it wasn’t something I needed to see stretched out on the big screen. It was almost harder to follow on the big screen than I think it would be on a computer screen or a phone. The big screen is for seeing the big picture, not details. Or seeing one thing clearly with the rest out of focus. Not this fancy fast moving camera with every corner of the screen filled to bursting and shouting at you.
(Never seen it myself, even though it was filmed right around where I was living at the time)
Anyhoo, after the boys have gone into their rooms, their parents arrive. Everyone goes out and hugs, and almost the first words out of Rajat Kapoor’s mouth is a complaint about the mess caused by the dog, and an order to Siddharth to clear it up. Because of course he assumes it is Siddharth’s fault alone, not Fawad. Because he is a terrible terrible father.
Ratna Pathak (at least for now!) is a better parent, welcoming both sons equally. Although she is making a meal that she knows Fawad likes and Siddharth doesn’t, so that’s not great. But Siddharth is convinced to swallow his anxiety and distaste when they all joke about how he doesn’t like it, but should stay for dinner anyway, for family! Oh my gosh, I am already uncomfortable. Actually, much more uncomfortable writing it out than I was while watching. The effect of actors’ charisma here really cannot be discounted.
We have another abrupt cut, to the end of dinner, Ratna bringing out apple pie for dessert. Fawad compliments her, because he is all smooth and knows what he is supposed to say. Siddharth leaps in and echoes, because he knows he is only doing the right thing if he does exactly what Fawad does. Ratna mentions that she got the recipe from “Timmy Auntie”, who is now running a successful catering business. And Ratna is thinking about maybe opening up a branch of the same business here. Fawad knows what he is supposed to say, and immediately leaps in and gives his mother the positive reinforcement she needs, saying “yes, you should do that!” Siddharth stays carefully silent, knowing that anything he says, positive or negative, will result in an attack. And, yep, the pattern plays out as expected, Rajat objects to Ratna’s plan, Fawad tries to play peacemaker, and Siddharth stays out of it, probably wishing he could have skipped this dinner that wasn’t even made with him in mind and where no one is noticing him. Ugh, this family!
After dinner, Fawad goes to help his mother in the kitchen, gives him a pair of earrings he bought for her, and she responds “Oh, my perfect son!” The music in the background starts swelling, doom, doom! The background music in this is just slightly too obtrusive for much of the movie, by the way. It goes from plinky plinky piano straight to violins swell and cellos come in and it just wants you to feel, FEEL what is happening.
The next morning, they all leave for the hospital. Rajat has spent the night, the two boys are driving over together. When they get in the car, there is a little back and forth about Siddharth driving, with Fawad claiming he can drive, but just doesn’t choose to. Now, this is a little character touch that I find fascinating, and really good. Fawad, the “perfect son” actually feels less comfortable controlling his destiny and moving about the world than Siddharth, the “bad son”. There is a freedom to being the one who doesn’t need to be perfect, a freedom which can lead you to being more confident, because you have nothing to lose. Fawad can’t risk making a mistake, both because he is the eldest, and because he has to constantly be aware of his secret.
In the car, the two brothers seem to be getting along all right, both laughing when they pay a toll and get a candy as change (because it is only 2 rupees, so the toll booth attendant gives out penny candies). This is also a clever bit, but unlike the car thing it doesn’t end up leading anywhere or tell us anything about the characters, it is just something clever the scriptwriter thought up and decided to keep in the movie.
(Now I want candy)
And, Rishi! Yay! He is making fun of the nurse who is taking his temperature, and Rajat is basically ignoring him. This does not make me like either character more. Rajat because he isn’t paying attention to his father and Rishi because he is acting out by insulting the woman who is taking care of him. And the director, because he thinks this will make us be charmed by Rishi instead of sympathetic with the nurse. The two boys come in and interrupt, and there are two super cute things here. First, Rishi immediately pulls out his hand and orders “Hands up!” Both boys immediately put their hands up, and then fall on the ground, pretending to be dead, once he shoots them with his finger. It’s a great little family joke, and makes the audience feel like part of the family by knowing it. And then right after that, Siddharth has his best acting moment in the whole movie. Well, one of the best, there are a couple other moments I also like. Ratna comes in, yells at both boys to stand up, the stand and as the walk over to the bed, Siddharth leans down and casually brushes his hand on Rishi’s feet. It’s a nice small graceful gesture, but the way it is done tells us so much about the character.
Fawad is so focused on being the perfect son, he doesn’t even remember to touch his grandfather’s feet, he is all about giving him the big impressive thoughtful present he bought. He is always on display. Siddharth, on the other hand, can relax and just do what he actually feels like doing, he can be quiet and uncomfortable at dinner, and he can be casual and respectful with his grandfather, and he can drive the car when he is out with his brother. He can touch Rishi’s feet not as a gesture that is expected or even noticed, but just because it is something he wants to do.
Their respective gifts build on that moment. Fawad gives Rishi the perfect gift, a high tech blood sugar monitor from London. It’s thoughtful and expensive and not fun or inventive at all. Rishi doesn’t like it, of course. Meanwhile, Siddharth is put on the spot and pulls out a bag of chocolates and hands them over. Rishi loves it!
Rishi is one of the agents of chaos in this film, one who doesn’t want the perfect, who pushes for the real. Alia is another, and in some cases, so is Ratna. Rajat and Fawad are the ones who never want chaos, who need control. Rajat, because he is trying to hide his sins and weaknesses. And Fawad because he is trying to hide from his parent’s judgments and cruelty.
Siddharth takes the first opportunity to get out of there, offering to go pay the bill downstairs. Still hard for me to get used to hospital bills being paid in cash in these movies, by the way. Anyway, while Siddharth is paying the bill, he sees a friend, and goes over to talk to him.
The friend, Wasim, gives him a big hug, clearly happy to see him, and invites him to a party that night. He also says that he is in the hospital for hemorrhoids, which is another of those random touches that doesn’t really mean anything, the director just thought it would be clever to include. Followed immediately by another clever touch, when Wasim points down below to a super muscle-bound guy lifting a small child in a wheelchair and explains that is his little brother, who is into bodybuilding competitions. The hemorrhoids and bodybuilding don’t actually turn into anything, they are just funny. But Wasim has a purpose as an exposition and plot movement character, so I’m fine with them giving him a couple of specific things just to make his scenes a little more interesting. The real purpose of his intro here is that he still has local connections and can invite Siddharth to come to a house party that night.
Before we get to the party (Kar Gaye Chull!), we have another family scene in the house. This is really a magnificent sequence, very complex, and possibly all in one take. It starts with Ratna yelling at the plumber in the bathroom, and Rajat yelling at her to be quiet, he is on the phone with the hospital, then going back to talk to the plumber himself and yell about the same thing Ratna was just complaining about. On the way, he stops to yell at Siddharth for not getting up and helping himself. Siddharth offers, but instead is told to take the dog out. He leaves, and Ratna and Rajat go back to talking about the hospital bill. The hospital wants to send Rishi to Bangalore for treatment, but its expensive. Ratna suggests they have Rajat’s brother pay (we previously heard that the brother’s family is on a cruise and will be coming as soon as they can, which both explains why only half the extended family is dealing with this crisis and implies that Rajat’s younger brother is considerably better off than he is). Rajat is immediately angry and offended, and starts claiming that he would have plenty of money if he had kept his job at the bank, but instead he started his own business, so Ratna would be proud of him! Somehow the fight takes a detour where Ratna starts being jealous of his co-worker from the bank, Anu, and then comes back to the money issue, where Ratna says if it is such a big deal, then he can take the money from her savings.
This whole time the camera has been swinging between watching them fight and the bathroom where the plumber is still working and calling for help as the bucket overflows. We are back in the bathroom, I think, when Rajat responds to Ratna’s offer, and come back to the living room just in time to hear her scream in anger because Rajat has taken her savings and used it to pay a business loan. At this point, I think, Fawad leaps in and tries to solve the problem, offering to give them the money, asking how much it is. Both parents immediately shut him down and then go back to their fight. Rajat argues that it was all his money anyway, it was stuff she saved from the allowance he gave her for the household accounts (gah! divorce him!), Ratna is not just angry but actually distressed, to the point of physically twisting her body in pain at the thought of her dreams being deferred again, the money she saved for 3 years to start her own business being gone.
(She is so good! Also, I just now remembered that she played Fawad’s mother before, in Khoobsurat. Her character and his character and their relationship is so completely different here, and they play them so differently. Really, both are great actors)
Siddharth walks through the door in the middle of all this and starts asking what’s happening, what’s going on? Everyone, including Fawad, shuts him out, not even considering him worthy of knowing what they are fighting about. Now, in a slightly healthier family, I could see this as Fawad or at least one of the parents, shutting Siddharth out so he would be protected from the problems of the family, and Siddharth incorrectly seeing it as an insult. I mean, it’s the classic Deewar sort of brother-brother-mother dynamic. But in this movie, I think it is that the entire family sincerely does not see Siddharth as worthy of being part of the discussion. And he knows it, which is why he stomps out of the house to go to the party he heard about. Oh, but that’s not the button on the scene. The button is the plumber finally coming out and saying the leak is fixed. And when they ask how much they owe him, he responds “whatever you can afford. If you are having money problems…[because he has been over-hearing their whole argument]”. Which is, like, perfectly timed for maximum tension breaking humor.
But on the other hand, should that tension really be broken? I was talking about it with a friend on the way home from the theater, and I realized that Waqt, say, was much less realistically filmed, with crazy sets and plot twists and so on, but I was much more emotionally invested in it. I think because, Waqt went 100% whole-heartedly into the emotions. Kapoor and Sons keeps pulling back just a little. Through a joke at the end of a scene to cut the tension, through an abrupt cut before the emotions have really landed, through a camera that keeps zooming around and in and out instead of just staying on a face and keeping it there. The exception to this is one particularly scene in which Fawad is allowed to say his piece for a good 3 minutes straight, no cuts, complete focus on his face. But we haven’t gotten there yet!
(Speaking of Waqt, did you know it was supposed to be the real “Kapoor and Sons”? Yashji original pictured casting Prithviraj, Raj, Shammi, and Shashi in the main roles, but had to settle for just Shashi filling in the gaps with Guru Dutt, Rajkumar, and Balraj Sahni instead)
But we have gotten to “Kar Gaye Chull”! Finally! Siddharth arrives at the house and starts wandering around. The lights are out, but there is a crowd there. He hears a woman’s voice calling out asking for someone to bet against her, the camera swings around to show Alia. She reaches randomly into the crowd and picks out Siddharth and orders him to put money on the table so they can bet. Siddharth does it, the lights come on, and a boy and girl have an arm-wrestling match which the girl wins, and Siddharth loses his money.
Next we see Siddharth sitting on a tub, rolling a joint. Alia bursts through the door and looks at the mirror. Siddharth makes an awkward sound so she knows she’s not alone. She proceeds to give him a very hard time. First asking what he is doing rolling a joint, then taking it from him, and asking who he is and what he is doing here. Siddharth tries to say that Wasim invited him, he had a very hard day and needed a party, he tried to call Wasim on the way here but couldn’t reach him. Alia claims it is her house, and she doesn’t know any Wasim. Siddharth starts apologizing and trying to say he will go, he can leave, and then Wasim bursts in and leans over the toilet, clearly there and knowing Alia. Alia laughs, grabs the joint, and says she was just having fun with him, it’s her sense of humor. Boy, Alia, not a fun joke!
I think, as written, this scene could have been one of those magic-pixie-dream-girl things. But Alia plays it almost aggressively uncharming. She isn’t just giving him a hard time, she is being abrupt and affectless about it. It comes off not as a pretty girl giving a boy a hard time because she enjoys using her beauty, but as a truly weird woman who doesn’t know any other way to be. And who is also maybe a little off and a little out of it tonight. And then they dance!
At the very end of the song, just as they are about to kiss, someone runs in and interrupts, asking for Siddharth, because his friend is throwing up. And cut to Siddharth driving home while Wasim throws up out the window. It’s another one of those abrupt edits that gets a laugh, but undercuts the emotion of the previous scene. But Alia and Siddharth have enough chemistry, and they are well-written enough, that the emotion still kind of lands. Alia is a little over-excited and over emotional (she says that she is throwing a last party before selling her family house, that she hasn’t been there in years. It isn’t hard to fill in the gaps that she is just as off kilter with emotion that night as Siddharth is), and she has the kind of confident way of moving through space and loud voice that goes with too much party adrenaline and too much alcohol. Siddharth is holding back a little, observing her, still sober enough to drive and sober enough to make a real emotional connection. Siddharth is already in love, but Alia isn’t really able to notice him yet. Perhaps if their kiss hadn’t been interrupted, she would have, and they would have made a real connection. But it was, so she didn’t.
The next morning, Rajat and Fawad have breakfast together. Fawad gently brings up the fights and issues they’ve had, and that they’ve been sleeping in separate beds. Rajat, for once calm and not defensive, explains that they’ve been fighting a lot, especially since Timmy Auntie got divorced. That Ratna stayed with Timmy Auntie for two months before, and may go back to her. Rajat then adds, “[Timmy Auntie’s husband] drank and beat her. I don’t know why Ratna is so mad at me, I’ve never raised a hand to her.” Oh wow! Let us all applaud the wonder of his husbandness! He never beat his wife! The man is a SAINT! (this is sarcasm)
Fawad is more sympathetic than I am, and I can understand. These are his parents, he would want to believe that their marriage is salvagable. And, even in the little we have seen so far, it is clear that they had something in common at one point, they have the same sense of humor, the same quick wit. It’s actually a fairly well done portrait of a marriage that has seriously lost its way, but which was at one point so strong that those who know them longest may have a hard time seeing how deep the problems have become. We, the viewers, have been dropped into the present day situation, with blinders off, and can better understand how far they have come from where they need to be, and that this is a much bigger problem than their son can hope to fix in a flying visit.
I can’t remember if it is now or later, but Fawad fairly soon after has a conversation with his mother in the kitchen, suggesting that she try to be a little kinder to Rajat, that she should stop accusing him of infedility. Ratna responds by pointing out her 35th anniversary gift, a food processor. And that ever since “Anu” opened her store in town, Rajat is always talking about how wonderful she is, how successful, how artistic. Fawad is not hearing what she is saying, he is still thinking of it is a small problem that can be solved with one big gesture, not as an issue that runs deeper than that, that a food processor as a gift or fights over money are symptoms of an essential lack of understanding, trust, and care between the couple. And again, I applaud the director/scriptwriter for how he has structured these scenes, so we understand how optimistic and prejudiced Fawad can believe that his parents just need a good talking to and all will be solved, and how Ratna and Rajat are trying to convey what the problems are, but they go too deep to be fully articulated, especially to their son.
(Personally, I would love a food processor as a gift)
Oh, and also, something comes up about Fawad possibly looking for a new “artists retreat” property nearby. Fawad is going out that morning to look at properties, and then will be dropped back at the hospital. We see him say good-bye to the real estate agent and enter the hospital, to see Siddharth pushing Rishi at top speed through the hospital lobby. After all of this, all the pressure he has just had on him with his conversations with his parents, it is understandable that he blows up at Siddharth and Rishi, who seem to be just enjoying themselves while Fawad is stuck with the family worries. Siddharth takes the abuse, but doesn’t look happy about it.
I believe it is later in the same sequence, back in the hospital room, Fawad is checking his email on his phone. Or maybe Siddharth? Siddharth was yelled at earlier at the dinner table for checking his phone, and again he quietly took the abuse, although the emails he was checking for were from his agent about his novel, he didn’t contend his family’s assumption that he was merely being rude and frivolous. Anyway, Fawad/Siddharth show Rishi their tablet/phone and how you can even look at videos on it. Rishi gets excited, remembering how he used to love watching movies, especially Ram Teri Ganga Maili, which he watched over and over again, until his wife was made at him. Mandakini in the white sari! Fawad (I’m pretty sure it is Fawad) pulls the video up on his tablet, and Rishi gets all excited. Side-not: how weird is this? Rishi Kapoor playing a character who enjoyed watching Ram Teri Ganga Maili, which was directed by his father in real life and starred his brother? But then, what classic movie could they possibly have used that WOULDN’T have some kind of connection to the Kapoor family?
(This song. Also, doesn’t Rajiv Kapoor look like his uncle Shammi?)
Siddharth comes in while they are watching the video, and enjoys watching them see it. The two brothers leave the hospital together. Now, there is a whole series of brotherly bonding moments somewhere in here, and I can’t remember if they are in a row or not. But they could be, so I am going to go ahead and put them in this order. This is also the point in the movie when the structure starts to get really fuzzy. There is one scene later that is obviously out of shooting/script order, moved around later. The structure for this movie as a whole is very loosey-goosey. Lots of little moments and connections that could be put in almost any order, to build a pastiche of relationships. Which makes it very hard for me, now, to actually write a summary that is in the proper order!
Anyway, 3 brother-brother moments coming up. First, in the car on the way home, Fawad apologizes to Siddharth for snapping at him. And, as a gesture of reaching out, offers to help him with his book, maybe talk to an agent. Siddharth kind of flinches and rejects the help. And then stops the car and says now, no more putting it off, Fawad has to learn how to drive! Fawad tries to prevaricate, but Siddharth insists. They trade places, Fawad is nervous, Siddharth is cracking up, it’s a great moment where for once Fawad is openly insecure and Siddharth gets to be the relaxed and confident one. As they drive along, another car comes behind them and starts honking. Fawad is nervous, but Siddharth has an idea. He pulls a round tire like thing from the back seat and holds it in front, like it is the wheel of the car. He has Fawad pull level with the other car, and then swings the wheel heavily towards the other car, causing the other driver to panic and swing off the road onto a side road. The two brothers start laughing so hard, that they accidentally roll off the road themselves, and we have a sudden cut from the car swerving, to the car rolled up to a tree, with both brothers inside the car looking very “oh shit”.
Cut to, both brothers standing in front of the car while Rajat starts yelling at Siddharth for being so careless and never considering consequences. Fawad leaps in and points out that he was the one driving. Rajat looks back and forward between the two boys for a moment, and then just turns and walks away, rather than yell at the “perfect son.” The two boys look after him for a moment, and then Siddharth says “Boy, he really went off on you!” and they both laugh. And then Fawad poses with his hands up in a victory salute and his tongue out in front of the banged up car. It’s a nice acknowledgement that this is the first time Fawad has done something wrong and he is kind of proud of it. And that Siddharth is so used to being blamed for everything, he doesn’t even mind it any more, it’s just funny.
I think after this is the scene where we see Fawad talking on the phone, with earphones in, clearly on skype, walking around a house with the phone up to show it. I believe we have seen him briefly on the phone before this, seemingly talking with this same person. He is so relaxed and happy on the phone, it makes us see that he is never quite fully relaxed with his family. Siddharth plays his discomfort so broadly, and his character is so broad about it, knowing that his family doesn’t notice him enough to even see it. But Fawad is well aware that he is always the center of attention, he can’t escape it, and he must always appear comfortable. But in these phone calls, we see him actually comfortable, smiling, shoulders down, eyes smiling. It is a level of comfort we also saw, briefly, during and after the driving lesson with Siddharth.
Besides his physical attitude, the content of these calls is the healthiest and most loving relationship in the film. He says “I love you” like it is flowing naturally out of him, not like it is an obligation. He laughs a lot, there is a lot of little pauses and little “yeah yeah yeahs”, this isn’t a calculated conversation or an adversarial one, or even one where he has to be clever and put on a good show, it’s just a pleasure to talk with “Nicky”. Oh, and as the camera follows Fawad through the space, we see the reveal that Alia is sitting there watching him. Which ties in with what she briefly mentioned at the party, that this was one last vacation before she sold her family house. While Fawad is on the phone, Alia’s friend comes out and she and Alia make “oh my god!” faces behind his back about how hot he is. Once Fawad leaves to see the garden again, Alia’s friend immediately starts bugging her to ask him out, he is so cute! There are also some brief conversations, the friend and her fiance offer to stay a little longer so Alia isn’t alone, Alia tells them she will be fine, they should go off and continue to enjoy their time together. It’s sweet, we see that her friend and her friend’s fiance are worried about her, enough to give up their romantic getaway, and that Alia cares enough about them to want them to go off and have fun. And Alia is playing this scene really well, obviously comfortable and confident, but with the faintest tinge of bracing herself, being carefully casual so they don’t see that she is feeling anything. And her friend’s dialogue, pushing “are you sure? really?” supports that acting choice, her friend knows her well enough to know that she isn’t really “fine.”
Their conversation is interrupted when Fawad comes back, ready to move forward with the purchase. He and Alia walk away, discussing details. Fawad asks for contact info for an “elder” in her family with whom he can talk more. Alia sort of smiles and says “me. I’m the elder.” Fawad kind of apologizes and says that he has gotten used to talking to old uncles and aunties about these things. Alia immediately goes into a bit, saying she looks a lot older with her dentures out, and pretending to be an old lady. It’s well done, again, in how Alia takes the script and runs with it in her performance. The script gave her a much more elaborate joke to play with Fawad than with Siddharth, where she just pretended not to know Wasim. But Alia adds to it, going just slightly too far with her imitation, taking a few too many glances at Fawad to check his reaction. She is trying too hard with him, she is less herself, than she is with Siddharth, even in these first meetings. Fawad, meanwhile, gives her less response. Laughing, but not giving of himself, the way Siddharth did just by gazing at her with his big puppy eyes. It’s Fawad’s cool reaction of “you’re funny!” that throws her off enough to force an accidently “you’re hot!” out of her (as seen in the trailer).
There’s something else in this scene, from her interactions about Fawad with her friend. Alia mentions being here alone because she has to work on a presentation, the way she says it creates an image of some corporate successful job. And Fawad is clearly successful. He’s not just attractive, he’s wearing expensive clothes, he’s talking about buying her house, he is “marriage material”, as it were. She met Siddharth at a party, rolling a joint in her bathroom, looking dazed and in cheap clothes with funky hair. NOT marriage material. Her friend, her engaged friend, pushing her to go after Fawad isn’t just because she sees that Alia is attracted to him, it’s because Fawad is clearly a catch, according to societal rules. And it takes the next few interactions, with both brothers, for Alia to realize that those rules don’t really work in this case.
(compare these two guys. Who seems more marriage ready?)
And, back to the hospital! Siddharth is hanging out with Rishi when Fawad comes in Siddharth has just shown Rishi how to watch porn on the iPad (seriously, did Apple pay for product placement?), because Rishi was remembering when Ratna found his porn stash and threw it out. Only, Rishi enjoys the free softcore porn so much, he asks Siddharth to pull out a credit card and pay for the real stuff. Siddharth claims to not have a credit card, when Fawad walks in, and Rishi immediately asks him. Fawad says yes, but then has no problem being the authority and taking the iPad away from Rishi entirely, rather than pay for it. Rishi switches gears, since he can’t get one thing he wants, to asking for something else. He wants to be buried, not cremated, (there is a funny moment when he says he doesn’t want them to light his pyre and Siddharth asks “so you will just lay there?”), so he can be with the fellow members of his regiment. And he wants to be home for his upcoming 90th birthday. And he wants a family photo, which he can hang on the wall, and write underneath it, “Kapoor and Sons. Since 1921”. Ratna comes in time to hear these requests and comments that he can’t be buried, the army won’t do it, “You can’t just change your religion.” Which was overly distracting to me, because of course you can change your religion. At least, from Hindu to Christian. Or Muslim or Mormon. I get what they meant, that he can’t just change his religion at the last minute so he can be buried with his fellow soldiers, but it sounded odd to my ears.
The family is getting ready to leave the hospital, Siddharth takes off and goes into the downtown area of town. I think this is the only time we see the downtown, otherwise we keep going back and forth between the Kapoor house, Alia’s house, and the hospital. It’s really a remarkably family and private life focused film, with almost no public content. Anyway, Siddharth sees Alia going into a store, describing something to one of the clerks. The clerk says they don’t have it, but before she can check out, Siddharth comes in and grabs her and has her go off with him “right next door” to see something. He asks her what she was looking for as they leave the store, she says the small candy cigarettes they used to have when they were kids. And then we are in another small store, Wasim’s camera shop. He tells Siddharth it is “almost ready” and while they wait, he invites Siddharth to his little brother’s bodybuilding competition. Siddharth turns down the invite, but Alia perks up that she’d like to go, and Siddharth immediately reverse himself. And then the assistant brings out from the back, a life-size cut-out of Mandakini from the waterfall scene, what Siddharth was waiting for, and again we cut the scene on a funny and surprising image.
I think the next thing we see is Fawad back at Alia’s for a final walk through, although I’m not sure, but I know the sequence with them comes before the next bit. Anyway, Fawad finishes his walk through and Alia’s servant comes up and asks for the night off to see a movie. Alia agrees and says she will buy dinner out, and then asks Fawad if he has a place he recommends. Fawad does the normal thing, and offers to just have dinner with her. It’s not exactly a date, it’s more just a friendly gesture to someone he is closing a business deal with/a young woman who is alone. Not that she seems lonely or weak, but that it would be almost insulting at this point to not go to dinner with her, and natural to go.
And then they are in a restaurant where music is blaring. Alia is definitely bringing her a-game. She is making jokes and throwing out questions and funny comments. Fawad is relaxed, but also a little dignified, distant. Alia breaks through his reserve with her barrage, culminating in a bet that she won’t kiss a bald man at a neighboring table on the head. She does, then slaps him, and pretends it was a mosquito. This serves to break the ice a little, the beers they are drinking break it a little more. Cut to after the meal, Alia suggests they dance. Only, instead of a choreographed dance, or even a romantic one, it turns into more jokes, coming up with the most ridiculous dance moves they can.
Finally, we cut from the loud bright restaurant to the dark of her house. Fawad has walked her home, because he is a good guy, and when he sees that the power is out at her place, he offers to help change the fuse, again because he is a good guy. They go back to the fuse shed, and laugh a little more while trying to jump up and hit the fuse. Finally, Fawad offers to just lift Alia up, so she can reach. Alia asks “are you sure?”, clearly thinking about the romantic implications. Fawad says “yes, of course”, clearly not even thinking about the possibility of it being romantic. Alia hits the fuse, and gets a shock, Fawad drops her and then sort of pats her, asking if she is okay. Alia says yes, and then, standing close to him, takes a risk and leaps up and lightly kisses his lips. Fawad looks stunned and uncomfortable. Alia immediately starts apologizing, but before she can say any more, her servant finally returns home, and asks why they are trying to hit the fuse there, that’s for the waterpump, the house fuse is right here. And he flips it, the lights come on, Fawad says good-bye, and Alia slips to the ground calling herself “stupid stupid stupid.”
I actually think this sequence is one of the better done one’s of the film. Alia is so hyped and nervous and trying the whole night. Not in a normal flirty way, not with flipping her hair and laughing and all of that, but in a way that fits her character, with wild jokes and constantly trying to be entertaining. And Fawad is clearly enjoying her as a person, but is responding, not taking the lead. He liked her, sure, they have the same sense of humor and all of that. But he’s not trying to impress her at all. And the kiss is so clearly a bad idea right away, not because of womanly shyness or anything like that, but because Fawad’s reaction is such extreme disinterest. Her regret doesn’t feel like embarrassment, although that is certainly part of it, but also like she could have made a new friend that night, and she blew it by insulting him.
Fawad meanwhile shakes it off pretty easily. Back home, he sees Siddharth smoking in front of the house, and bums a cigarette off him. Siddharth gives it to him, then pulls out his phone to check email, and actually takes a picture of Fawad, saying now he has proof that the perfect son isn’t so perfect! Fawad makes a gesture like he’s going to take the phone, but doesn’t really care. They talk about Rishi, thinking maybe they should do a birthday party for him. Siddharth mentions the dirty magazines he was talking about earlier, and says that Ratna threw them all out, but one of them was his! “Barely Legal”. He had so little! Fawad laughs and makes a joke implying that Siddharth is still mostly surviving by masturbation, which Siddharth lets pass. It’s mostly just brotherly joshing, but it’s also yet another small moment in which Siddharth is insulted/weakened and lets it go.
Hmm, what happens next? I know the next big scene, but I am trying to remember what happens before then and in what order. Oh heck, I’ll just go through all the bits and figure out the order later! At some point, the two brothers go out to run errands together. They take a break and sit down on a curb, sharing another cigarette. Fawad asks how the writing is going, Siddharth shifts a little, clearly uncomfortable, like he always is when his writing comes up, but answers honestly, that he is sending it around to publishers and agents. But they keep telling him to change the ending, make it happy, and he wants to keep it “real”. Fawad offers that maybe the reason people read stories is because they aren’t real. And Siddharth seems to listen and process this.
(Of course, Shahrukh already said it better in Om Shanti Om)
Also at some point (before? after? in between? can’t remember) around this scene, we see the body-building competition! Wasim’s little brother is sweet, but dumb. Alia complements him and he just keeps repeating “thank you for coming.” Wasim is grateful they are there, because he says bodybuilding is all his brother is good for and he needs to help him get out. It’s treated as a joke, because his brother is so sweet and so stupid, and body-building is such a funny looking thing, but it’s also kind of an important comparison with Siddharth and Fawad. Wasim and his brother accept their different personalities, and Wasim understands what his brother needs and supports him whole-heartedly, with no judgement. Oh, also, I find this whole sequence kind of silly, because of course Siddharth himself was a male beauty pageant winner.
(And he deserved to be Mr. Gujurat 2007! Look how beautiful!)
I think it is after this that Sidharth and Alia walk along the road and talk about his family. Siddharth talks about how his brother is always better than him, always gets what he wants. Alia must have been spoiled, with all that attention as an only child, Siddharth is jealous. Alia agrees, and teases him a little, offering to call him “princess” and “my little doll,” if he wants. Siddharth laughs, but then Alia says she guesses she does know what it is like to be overlooked by your parents, since her parents died when she was 13. Siddharth says “I’m sorry” and seems sincerely sad for her. Alia sort of shrugs it off. Their body language in this scene is great. While with Fawad, Alia was always moving, putting on a show, even their dance was a matter of performing for each other, with Siddharth she is relaxed. I first noticed in the shots of them standing next to each other in the audience at the body-building competition, they couldn’t stop smiling and sort of orienting their bodies towards each other. Now, walking down the road, they are sort of in synch, loose, relaxed, walking side by side with their steps matching. And while with Fawad, Alia did most of the talking, joke-joke-joke-joke-joke, with Siddharth, she is able to relax, listen, have an actual conversation. It’s very well done.
Hmm, I think somewhere along here is the clearly out of sequence scene. Fawad and Ratna are talking the kitchen, I think about finding guests for Rishi’s party, they are inviting everyone they can think of to make it seem like a real party, and they come back out through the yard, where Wasim and Siddharth are blowing up balloons and decorating for the party. That will not happen for several more scenes, covering at least a day, so it doesn’t make sense for them to be decorating in this scene. Anyway, Fawad is suggesting that Ratna come visit him in London, just for a few days, get away, see his life and his friends. Again, Fawad is playing this casually, but those of us in the audience who know, or think we know, the secret that he is hiding, can see that he is pushing a little too much, that he might have an alternative agenda and fantasy of how this visit might go. Ratna puts him off, although she does mention that she wants to finally meet “Nicky” and ask about grandchildren! Fawad gets immediately uncomfortable, even more so when Wasim comes over with a balloon under his shirt, pretending to be carrying his baby. Fawad punctures the balloon and storms off.
(Still looks more realistic than this. Poor Priety)
Hmm, I know this was dramatically out of order, maybe the bodybuilding comes after this? Anyway, Alia is invited to the party. And she arrives to see Fawad and Siddharth both there and learn they are brothers. When Siddharth asks how they know each other, Fawad leaps in to explain that he is buying her house. Siddharth is fine with that, and immediately offers to go get her a drink. Alia and Fawad stand awkwardly for a moment and kind of agree not to talk about it. Ratna comes up and pulls Fawad over to talk to “Preet”, who is obviously supposed to be a potential wife, from the right family and background and so on. They have an awkward conversation, culminating in Preet listing every kind of tea manufactured by her company and asking if he drinks it, to which Fawad says “No. I am an alcoholic. I only drink alcohol,” and walks away.
And then Rishi arrives, and song!
The song is fun, when it is over, Rishi is playing games with his buddies, Siddharth and Alia come up behind him and Alia gets into the game. Siddharth excuses himself to go to the restroom, but on the way to the house, Fawad comes up to him, and you think it is going to be a conversation about Alia, only instead Fawad points out the woman who just arrived, neither of them can believe she was invited. Fawad runs off and grabs his father, trying to get him to steer her away, asking why she was even invited, Rajat says that he invited all his old bank colleagues, it would be odd to not include her. Siddharth meanwhile (I think Siddharth? For once, the two boys are being treated as equals in this scene, so I don’t remember which is doing which. One of them is talking to Anu, the woman who arrived, who is talking about how he used to love her cookies, look, she brought some! Siddharth (?) clearly has no memory of this, but is talking fast, trying to cover the way he is hustling her around to hide her.
Meanwhile, the other brother is trying to distract Ratna, keep her turned in the other direction, and it almost works! Until, finally, after much spinning through the house (this is a good pay-off for all the times we have followed characters around this house, we can process the lay-out even at high speed as in this scene), Ratna sees her and starts screaming. Rajat hustles Anu out of the house, the boys get Ratna to sit down at the table, Fawad orders Siddharth to stay with her, but Siddharth is visible in distress, because of course he has needed to go to the bathroom for minutes now! Finally, he begs his mother to sit there for just a moment, just wait, and runs to the bathroom.
Oh, I forgot one of the best parts of this. The whole explosion and excitement in the house is being intercut with a growing fight at the poker table between the old men. Alia is trying to keep them all happy, all calm, but it is spinning out of control. Charming though these Kapoors may be, pleasant though they are to spend time with, it can all turn on a dime. Rishi can yell at his poker buddies, Ratna can lose it on Rajat and Anu, Rajat can respond with anger to her, the two brothers can snap at each other while they are caught in the middle, it is the darkside of all the personality and confidence just shown in the song sequence before. Sometimes not caring what people think can be related to not caring what people feel.
Speaking of, Ratna sits at the table for a few minutes, but finally can’t stand it, grabs the jar of cookies which is sitting there, runs outside, and throws it at Rajat asking “Is this what you want? You want her cookies? You let her bring her cookies to my house?” Rajat finally blows up at her, telling her she is crazy, she is losing it, and then yells at the guests watching that the party is over, go home! And when they don’t move, he yells at them “Go Home!” and starts aggressively moving them to their cars.
Meanwhile, Fawad turns to Siddharth and yells “This is all your fault! I asked you to watch her for 5 minutes!” Siddharth is finally tired of being the scapegoat for everything and starts to yell back, but Ratna turns on him and drags him away. She begs him not to say anything, says that they are all together for the first time in 5 years, just let it go! Siddharth plays “anguish!” as much as he can, and finally goes off in the car. He goes straight to Alia’s place, and invites her to come with him and see something wonderful. She goes along with him, no questions asked, which says something for how close they already are. Especially after that huge scene she saw. It’s a cemetery, with the unspoken implication that he is trying to fulfill Rishi’s wish to be buried. They walk around a little, and then sit on a stone. Siddharth apologizes for his family, saying they aren’t usually like that. Well, in public. Actually, I think this is a really important line. Too bad it is given to Siddharth, the worst actor, so it doesn’t land as well. The Kapoor’s are proud of being open and real and different. They dance in pink boas and with Mandakini stand-ups. But the fact is, they are putting on more of a show than anyone else. They are repressing their anger, their resentments, their desires, for the sake of appearing like the fun and happy and free-thinking family. Alia’s response is that at least he should be glad he has a family. This rings a little false to me, not as false as when Salman says “Every family has problems” in Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, in response to other-Salman’s brother trying to kill him, but still a little false.
(Rajshri really just does not believe in subtlety)
They sort of change the subject to making up fake epitaphs. Siddharth’s is apparently really good (it doesn’t translate well, something like “Tell my story”), and Alia is legitimately impressed, takes a moment, and then says “Wow, you really are a good writer!” He looks at her, and you can see that her actual authentic respect is sinking into him and making him feel more comfortable than ever before. And then, finally, he tells the thing that he has been forcing himself to hide all along. Not very well, not as well as Fawad has been hiding things, but then the point is he doesn’t have to hide it well, because he knows no one is looking at him.
Also, by the way, I totally called this secret from the very first dinner conversation when Ratna talked about how wonderful Fawad’s book was and Siddharth kept pretty quite about his writing. Only I was kind of thinking it might have been an open thing. That Fawad asked Siddharth for a first draft, an idea, help, and has never acknowledged it. Which is why Siddharth looks so uncomfortable every time he talks about his writing, like he is waiting for Fawad to acknowledge him, and it never comes up. But apparently, it was handled completely passively. Siddharth had almost finished his novel, Fawad was struggling with his, then Fawad’s comes out, it’s a huge hit, it’s written differently, the ending is different, but the basic idea and characters are all from Siddharth. And they’ve never talked about it. Alia can’t believe it, but Siddharth explains that they never talk about things in their family. Oh, and because there was a scene a little bit earlier where Fawad suggested that Siddharth let Ratna look at his work, she really helped him a lot when he was working on his novel, I also totally figured out the rest of the reveal.
And then song! “Bolna”, which is all chopped up and quick, so much so that one of the people I watched it with didn’t even realize the song was still included. Siddharth and Alia are walking in the cemetery, and Fawad is at home, trying to work on his novel, looking for inspiration in notes, and old books, and so on. Earlier, he saw Siddharth’s luggage being delivered (remember, the “where’s your luggage?” jokes?) and noticed a draft of his novel inside it. Finally, at the end of the song, he goes into Siddharth’s room and takes it out and reads it.
At the end of the song, Alia and Siddharth are sitting in the car, back at her house, and Alia asks when he is leaving. Siddharth says in two days. Alia says she is leaving in 4. She takes a moment, and then says, “I don’t know…I mean, we just met. But somehow, I feel…We just fit, you know?” The camera slides down to show her fingers interlinked, how she sees them fitting. Siddharth nods, agrees, and says he will change his ticket and stay longer. She smiles.
Back in the house, Fawad hears him arrive, while he is still staring at the the manuscript. He rushes into the room and barely manages to slip it back in the suitcase before Siddharth comes out of the shower. And I think this is when the other relatives arrive? Which is also when the drama gets turned up to 100, so I’m going to break here and come back for the massive secret spill scenes tomorrow.