By Pratishtha Dobhal
I’ve become habitual to loving a certain kind of cinema—the kind that draws me in completely—where everything is centered on the story being told and over the course of life revealing itself on celluloid…the film manages to suck me into its world, frame by frame, one chapter after the other.
Disclaimer: This is not about that kind of cinema.
The hardest thing to do as a Director is to recreate alternate morsels of life that stay with you long after the last credits roll out. The easiest is to critique. But in critique lies a parallel story—an unfiled/overlooked chapter. Well…this is not a chapter but an episode of reflection and the risks one must take while telling a story—the episode dedicated to the Director’s risk.
#tbt almost a decade ago:
I remember the time Dil Chahta Hai came out. The four of us had bunked our Medieval India class. We wanted to make the most of our petty college allowance and I had told the sprinter in our group—‘F’ to make a dash for the last row in the cheapest section (some advantage is better than none at all). This was a long, long time ago, when you actually had to walk up to people to talk, when Chanakya Cinema was where you’d find DU South Campus kids wasting away, and eating Hot Chocolate Fudge at Nirulas was a ‘thing’. From the first frame to the last I was sucked into the ridiculously posh life of the three boys who could take off at whim because they weren’t living on a budget like me. I found their world fascinating, their problems very real, yet I came back home wondering why I wasn’t living it up like them? As I boarded bus number 604 and made my way home I imagined what it would be like to drive down Goa in a convertible. After enough, ‘WTF, my life sucks in comparison to theirs’ reiterations I still thought the film was fantastic. Satyajit Ray, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Ramesh Sippy be damned, the ‘melodramatic Indian’ was on his/her way out. Cinema in India was set to go through the myriad motions of change which happen only when you think out-of-the-box.
That was then, and this is now…
While in no way am I comparing Kapoor and Sons to Dil Chahta Hai I can’t resist leaning over the one thing that remained intact from beginning till end in both the films—the polish in the director’s prism.
I went in expecting a love story bubble wrapped as a family film. And between Rocky Handsome (why?!) and Miss Teacher (how?!) you can’t blame me for picking Kapoor and Sons and limiting its capacity to enthrall.
I had seen Batra’s previous movie—Ek Main Aur Ek Tu which reminded me so much of 500 Days of Summer (a sleeper Indie hit starring Jospeh Gordon Levitt and Zooey Deschanel) that I didn’t go in thinking Kapoor and Sons was going to be a treat. To put it mildly—I had aperitif expectations.
Twenty minutes into the movie and I was still vary of Batra’s intention. Was it Rachel Getting Married meets August: Osage County, meets song, dance, and happy melodramatic ending, meets ‘That was a Dharma production’. The camerawork was indie enough for my liking, the edits while jumpy were not terrible, the more I watched the more I eased into the film. It was good, not great, and gradually grew on me as the minutes turned into hours. And even though there was a certain mediocrity that remained intact, what stood out was the risk that Batra took—
1. He had a story to tell (Yiyee, finally!).
2. He relied on incredible actors and well defined characters (thank god!).
3. He normalized pot (Do a Doobie!).
The movie remained unapologetic about the men in the family and the limited screen time the women got. And why shouldn’t it have been intended like that? Kapoor and Sons was a movie about The Kapoor and his Sons. (sorry fellow feminist comrades—not everything has to be about you!).
The trade analysts know the film will hit the projected three digit figure very soon, and just like ‘The Kids Are Alright’ perhaps Bollywood and KJo can finally rest easy on its first commercial ‘kinda-indie’ success.
Till the next outing and my round-up of after-thoughts, go watch Kapoor and Sons, just don’t whine about why the women aren’t given enough room. In an industry that supplies our demand quantitatively and not always qualitatively, a break from the mundane is a break nonetheless.