Shakun Batra’s Kapoor and Sons is the latest entrant in an enjoyable new Bollywood genre: the modern urban family drama. Movies like Piku, Hasee To Fasee and Dil Dhadakne Do, which narrate sagas of dysfunctional families. They’re nothing like the Sooraj Barjatya-Karan Johar style paradise worlds, where women perform the karva chauth and kids worship their parents. In Kapoor and Sons, relationships are complex, and hence, real. Characters talk like human beings, not idealised stereotypes. There’s no syrupy ode to Indian culture and sanskar. No mawkish tribute to elders.
At first sight, everything in the film looks (almost) fine. The Kapoors live in a pretty house perched on a beautiful hill station. The eldest is a jovial ninety-year-old retired army officer, whose hobbies include faking his own death. Just because it’s fun. The man of the family, Harsh Kapoor (Rajat Kapoor), and his wife Sunita Kapoor, pass as any other normal middle-aged couple. Their ‘perfect’ elder son, Rahul (Fawad Khan), is a successful writer, settled in London. Another son, Arjun (Siddharth Malhotra), is an ambitious struggling writer, leading a not-so-perfect life in New Jersey. As the film zooms into their lives, blotches appear.
The Kapoors, in some ways, resemble the Mehras in Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do. They are well-educated upper middle-class people, who think and speak in English. However, the former are less polished than the latter. As Tolstoy once wrote, each unhappy family is unhappy in their own ways. If the Mehras’ problems were mostly cosmetic, the Kapoors are stuck in muck. In Kapoor And Sons, the quarrels are louder and fierier. Brawls don’t end with sheepish grins.
The film keeps moving from one spat to another. Sometimes two fights take place simultaneously. Sometimes, in the middle of an argument, secrets jump out of closets. The situation worsens. There is a sense of foreboding in every scene. It’s easy to predict where the tension will eventually converge. And yet the movie is engaging and enjoyable, with distinct moments that speak volumes of a fine script and efficient direction.
The story moves without the help of a narrator. Events occur naturally. There is no spoon-feeding of the premise. When Arjun returns home, he notices that his room doesn’t belong to him anymore. The cupboards have his mother’s clothes; the table and walls look alien. Then the camera shifts to Rahul’s well-preserved room. His trophies, books, and things are intact. Like in a museum. Do we need additional dialogue to explain that the parents love their older son a little more than the younger?
At an earlier point, an argument between Harsh and Sunita over household finances escalates into a violent fight between the kids. In the lengthy, well shot and edited sequence, the Kapoors shout at each other, and vent their pent-up anger and disappointment. It’s hard to pull off this scene flawlessly. Yet, the pace of the mounting tension is just right. In another scene, with the entire Kapoor clan gathered in the house, Rahul picks up a guitar and Harsh starts humming an old Bollywood number. Suddenly, all traces of distress vanish from the characters. No dramatic lines. No animated BGM. Yet the warmth in the scene is evident.
One jarring character is Tia (Alia Bhatt). A rich and pretty laughing machine. A Mumbai-based ‘dream girl’ who loves to party. Arjun loves her, and she likes him. But she has a crush on his handsome, mature, and accomplished brother. Naturally, this causes a brief rift between the siblings. She has no other role in the film.
It’s disturbing to see how this otherwise sensible movie treats the working class. Tia’s house is looked after by a timid Nepali man named Kishore. She laughs at him behind his back, and teases him as if he is a clown. These interactions are supposed to tell the audience that she’s cool.
The best element in Kapoor and Sons is, by far, its sound. Its sync sound is seamless. Everything, even the cacophony during the family quarrels, sounds realistic and clutter-free. The background score isn’t overpowering, and the songs feel like an organic part of the movie.
As the couple struggling to save their marriage, Rajat Kapoor and Ratna Pathak Shah turn in convincing performances. Siddharth Malhotra’s Arjun is reminiscent of his roles in Hasee To Phasee, Brothers and Student Of The Year. Malhotra has played embittered and disappointed second fiddle roles before. Rishi Kapoor’s portrayal of the free-spirited grandfather is endearing. But the actor who steals the show is Fawad Khan. Rahul’s fights are harder, and his emotional turbulence is deeper than that of his other family members. Khan nails this role brilliantly.
Kapoor and Sons could have been a bad movie, overloaded with melodramatic moments and unbelievable turns of events. But it doesn’t slip into that mode. It’s no mean feat to weave a movie around a bunch of unhappy characters, and make it an interesting watch. Shakun Batra has done just that. This is a soulful film that celebrates imperfections in human beings and their relationships.
The Kapoor and Sons review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.