After the tepid reception of I Hate Luv Storys (sic) from the Dharma stable, here again is a movie aimed at the family audience. The two czarinas of Bollywood, Kajol and Kareena, come together for the second time after Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham (2001). The star cast itself makes the movie a must watch, especially for those who don’t mind using up a box of Kleenex every 20 minutes or so.
Based on the Susan Sarandon/Julia Roberts 2007 weepie Stepmom, this is about how a modern family copes
with adversity. Aman (Rampal) and Maya (Kajol) have recently divorced and their three children are trying to get used to the other woman, Shreya (Kapoor) in their father’s life. Despite her good intentions, the inexperienced Shreya botches up her efforts to make friends with the children and decides that she’ll have nothing to do with them. But destiny has other plans. Maya discovers that she is suffering from terminal cancer and sees a substitute mother in Shreya. The rest of the movie is about how Shreya learns to mother and how Maya learns to let go.
The beauty of the movie lies in moments.
Viewers tend to take Kajol’s excellence for granted but the actor manages to wow with her histrionics, especially in the scenes where she watches the growing camaraderie between her kids and the other woman. Without saying a word she manages to convey the sense of loss through her eyes. Kareena’s Shreya matches her every step of the way, whether it is in portraying her frustration when she’s stonewalled by the kids, failing to reach Kajol’s standards, or when she thinks that she has been abandoned by Aman. Rampal plays the quiet foil to the two, holding his own with his completely natural and credible portrayal of a man trying to be fair to his dying wife and family, even if it means leaving the new love of his life. To the credit of the director, he also manages to extract believable performances from the three junior artists, who, for once, talk and act like normal kids! A special kudos to Aachal Munjal, who plays the eldest, Aleya. She does complete justice to the role of a teenager who must grow up quickly to cope with the changing circumstances of the family.
Shankar-Ehsaan- Loy’s music forms a perfect background for this sensitive movie. The peppy “Mujhe nahin pata main kya gaoongi ” livens up the film just when it is threatens to drown the audience in tears.
A point in the movie’s favor is that there are no meandering sub-plots. The single short-coming of the movie is the incredible perfection of its characters and their relationships. Kajol is a perfect mother; Rampal a perfect father (heck, even their divorce is so perfect where both the partners remain perfectly civil and considerate towards each other!); Kareena the rightly apologetic and contrite other woman. Even the cancer that Kajol is suffering from is so considerately perfect that it leaves Kajol looking remarkably healthy till the last scene. But well, that’s Bollywood for you! Years ago, we did whole-heartedly accept and applaud the title character of Anand (1971), despite his surprisingly robust health through his fight with leukemia. We didn’t find anything odd with Shahrukh Khan dancing away energetically minutes before he dies of a supposedly debilitating heart-condition in Johar’s own Kal Ho Na Ho (2003). But unless you go expecting heart-wrenching reality from a Bollywood movie, you won’t be disappointed.
Madhumita Gupta is a freelance writer and teacher.