102 not out is a sweet film. Starting off as a funny light hearted film, it switches mid-way to an emotional tone though retaining a light approach. Dattatraya Vakharia (Amitabh Bachchan) is a 102 year old man who has the zest of a 25 year old. He is on a mission to beat the record of the oldest man in the world. His quirky 75 year old son, Babulal Vakharia, is stark opposite of the father. He considers himself too old to enjoy life, clings to a bedsheet that is more than half a century old and tries to maintain a sense of security by following a routine in life, be it daily visit to the doctor or taking a shower that is timed to last exactly fourteen minutes.
The father believes his son’s dry attitude is going to cut short his longevity goals, so he plans to haul the son off to an old home. If the son wants to stay, he has to agree to certain terms of his father. Rather, he has to do certain things. How Dattatraya gets his son’s groove back forms the crux of the story.
Amitabh Bachchan is spot on as a seemingly senile centenarian who is smarter than what he appears to be. His is a loud character who is rather high handed in his approach. Rishi Kapoor’s is a more layered character, a man whose setbacks in life has made him dry and irritable, seeking refuge in obsessive behaviour. He is superb, infusing just the right amount of stubbornness, gullibility and vulnerability to his character. In certain scenes he tends to steal the thunder from the senior Bachchan, not an easy task. The third character, Dhiru (Jimit Trivedi), a neighbourhood medicine shop errand boy provides comic relief as well as serve as a medium for Dattatraya to convey the reasons for his erratic behavior.
This would be a great film had it concerned itself to keeping it a fun ride throughout. In between, the film changes gears to include Babu’s errant son, who is waiting to take over his ancestral property. Adapted from Saumya Joshi’s Gujrati Play, the film lacks the depth to make an emotional connection with the audience. Rather than delve deeper into the play of emotions of a neglected father, a concerned grandfather and even perhaps a selfish grandson, the film sees people as black or white. Seemingly minor actions have disproportionately large impact on Babu. And Babu’s final outburst against his son is unconvincing. The son is shown as a person with no goodness in him, a true enfant terrible. The film never soars. It starts off nice but remains that way with little variation. Sure, there are moments that will bring in a lump to the throat or make you chuckle, but they are few. I haven’t seen the play but I can imagine how it would look great on Stage. On the screen though, it comes across as flat.