I had to do a bit of running around to see this movie, and abandon my adorable dog for half the day (she didn’t notice I was gone. She’s not that smart), but it was worth it, because this is a surprisingly good film.
This film was promoted on Amitabh and Rishi Kapoor coming together. But the actual film doesn’t care that the leads are played by people named “Amitabh Bachchan” and “Rishi Kapoor”, it just cares that the leads are played by two excellent experienced actors who have a great natural rapport.
I honestly forgot Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor were in this movie, until about two thirds of the way through I had this sudden moment of “oh right! They are friends in real life and in-laws and co-stars in multiple films before this”. The rest of the time, they were clearly just a father and son with long complicated histories.
The other thing that surprised me was how Bombay this film felt. There were so many lovely little location moments, including a park in Santa Cruz with a huge concrete airplane that I noticed last time I was in Bombay. It’s not famous or particularly notable, it’s just a lovely little part with an odd fun touch. The kind of thing you see and appreciate if you live in a city, but aren’t usually shown in films.
(I saw it because I think we passed it between Shahrukh and Amitabh’s houses. I know how to tour the important parts of a city)
More than that, there was a love for the people of the city. Amitabh is introduced getting into a rickshaw and asking the driver where he is from and to tell him all about that place, saying that he has traveled all over India this way. Jimit Trivedi, the third lead, is a Gujurati immigrant working at the local drugstore as a delivery boy. Rishi gives cake away to small street children, Amitabh visits a farmers’ market and plays in the band, it is a joyous wonderful kaleidoscope of people and places.
And that’s important. Because ultimately this is a story about family, and letting go of family too. The world around them is wonderful and will continue to be wonderful no matter what. You can make new connections, start fresh at any age, it will all happen if you just open your eyes and appreciate what is in front of you.
And of course it is also about love of a father for a son. Amitabh truly does just get better with age. And Rishi is no slouch either. There are a few moments when Amitabh covers him with a blanket and looks at him sleeping, and when Rishi cries in fear in front of him, that let you see a whole lifetime of them together. And, again, I completely forgot that these were two actors and friends with only 10 years of age difference, that Rishi’s nephew is married to Amitabh’s daughter, that Rishi is a scary powerful confident man and Amitabh is a dignified intellectual type, that their bond is not that of father and son at all, but rather two equals with a complex interpersonal relationship and history (for example, Rishi gave a pay off so he would win a FilmFare award instead of Amitabh in 1974).
Rishi and Amitabh’s real life personal history has no effect on how they play their characters, but their tangled professional history does. Or at least, that they have such a similar professional history. They both learned acting in 1970s Hindi film, a very specific kind of schooling. They give speeches the same way, they attack the camera the same way, they even speak Hindi the same way. Different, because they are different actors after all, but still very similar. In a way that makes them feel like father and son, like two people who have lived in the same household for years and years and years and naturally behave in the world in the same way.
But mostly the real Amitabh and Rishi get out of the way so that their characters, and the story of the film around them, can shine instead.