Welp, not a great movie! I can describe the plot in about 3 sentences, no twists or surprises, and just not the best way to bring up the questions it wants to bring up. But I want to bring up those questions! So this is a review/discussion post.
Whole plot in one paragraph:
Rajkummar Rao is an orphan who grew up working in Paresh Rawal’s tea stall, then ran away as a teen and never came back. He meets Kriti, an orphan raised by her uncle and aunt who dreams of a perfect family and proposes. But he needs a perfect family for her. He goes to find Paresh who gives him a hard time for leaving and refuses to help. But Rajkummar learns Paresh is still in love with his widowed college sweetheart Ratna Pathak and therefore goes to her to ask her to play his “mother”. Ratna agrees so Paresh agrees. They move into Rajkummar’s house, and then Kriti decides to move in for a month too during the wedding planning, the whole family falls in love with each other, and then at the wedding a microphone accident reveals everything. Kriti breaks up with Rajkummar, but changes her mind when Paresh and Ratna come to her house as his parents to ask her to marry him. Film ends with Rajkummar arriving at the wedding with his “family”, Paresh and Ratna, plus his friends, the orphans he tutors, and so on.
Plotwise, very weak. We barely get Rajkummar and Kriti together, we get basically none of Ratna-Paresh together, and there is so much about Rajkummar’s journey as a parentless person that is just not explored. Not to mention Kriti’s feelings about being raised by her aunt and uncle and still missing her biological parents. So much left on the table!
Plus just basic stuff like scenes that are missing. We never see Ratna and Paresh say they love each other, they just don’t like each other and then like each other with no transition. We never see that same transition with Ratna and Paresh seeing Rajkummar as a son. It seems like it happens almost immediately actually, which is somehow even weirder?
So yeah, a mess.
BUT! It brought up stuff I want to talk about! Rajkummar is one of those little boys we see in movies all the time who works at a chai shop or taxi stand or whatever and doesn’t seem to have any parent, but just jokes around and follows the main characters on adventures. I don’t get those kids. Because they are being raised by people, sort of, the people they work for/with. But they aren’t adopted? Like, it’s totally different in a movie for the hero to say “And this is Chintu” versus “And this is my younger brother”.
Is it about social expectations? Just like the difference between live-in relationships and non-legal ceremonial weddings? If you are raising a child without saying “father” or “son”, that means you theoretically owe each other nothing and can cut each other out of your lives without pain.
It’s that “theoretically” that I find so confusing. Because yes, if you aren’t married but live together for ten years, theoretically you owe each other nothing. But in reality, that is ten years of sharing everyday and the bond is there anyway, even if it doesn’t have a name. So yes, you aren’t officially saying “I take the responsibility of a parent for this child” when you hire a little boy to work in your cafe. But, if you are sharing a life with this child, and if this adult is the person who is molding you, then there IS a bond! Whether or not you name it.
This movie misses an opportunity to really dig into that question. The way Rajkummar and Paresh Rawal play their scenes together, it is a father-son relationship. A very very loving one. If the movie had addressed that, had said at some point “I wasn’t an orphan, Paresh was my father” or had Paresh say “I always had a family, until you left and I was too hurt to chase after you”, that would have been interesting. Or, another twist to it, what if we had something about how because their emotions were not validated by society, Rajkummar ran away and was never brave enough to come back, and Paresh never felt he had the right to look for him.
On the other hand, we have Ratna. She had an “official” family, a proper husband and son. When we first see them in a flashback, they seem a little dismissive and unkind to her. I was waiting for the story to be that just because someone is your son doesn’t make them worthy of being your son, and ditto husband. But instead the film kills her husband off without really addressing her feelings about him, and writes her son off as rejected by them for marrying a white woman, that loss making her realize how valuable a son is. That’s just an odd ODD choice! Like, her son isn’t dead? She could mend this rift, but instead the son is just, like, GONE.
And Kriti, who is so obsessed with a “perfect” family, despite having a seemingly perfect family already. I was all set for her family to turn out to never really love her since they were forced to take responsibility for her, or a reveal that her dead parents were actually abusive, or SOMETHING.
The answers I wanted this film to find are pretty simple really, that sometimes your official “family” is sucky and unhappy and doesn’t deserve to be your family. And sometimes the family you choose, the family you don’t even realize is “family” is the one that matters.
But I guess maybe that isn’t as simple in the Indian context? The whole idea of taking semi-responsibility for children who work for you, of dreaming of a perfect combined family post-marriage, of this “I told my son he was dead to me and that’s it, no way to walk it back even if I regret it”, all of that I have seen before in other movies and it has NEVER made sense to me!!!!
Also, the whole thing of “orphan” being the WORST THING EVER I find weird. That would be a good thing to dig into too, why is it considered shameful? Or rather, why is it still acceptable to show it as a sad shameful thing instead of something that is certainly not the fault of the orphan?
All of these questions in my mind! None of them answered by this film! Now, let’s talk about what “chosen family” means in the Indian context and if it means anything at all!