Badhaai Ho goes into a territory not often traveled by Hindi Cinema- sex lives of seniors in our country. Unlike in the West, people beyond a certain stage are expected to be asexual, happy in satsangs and playing with their grand kids. How we react when seniors become new parents forms the crux of the story.
Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana) is a techie who is close to his family, so close that he is not sure he can be away from them on an on-site assignment in the USA. His father Jeetender Kaushik (Giriraj Rao) is a relatively lower level employee in the Railways, mother Sangeeta (Neena Gupta) is a typical housewife who has a strong social circle among the neighbourhood ladies, a school going brother and a grandmother (Surekha Sikri) who is extremely protective about her daughter in law among extended family members but is a typical saas inside the house taunting pretty much everything that the bahu does. Nakul has a supportive girlfriend in Renee (Sanya Malhotra), who cares for him even though her background is worlds apart from her boyfriend’s. Nakul’s smoothly sailing life if thrown off-track with the news that his mother is pregnant.
The film has many positives. The director has beautifully created a middle class family. The details of their existence is not just filled with warmth but it is also funny. Jitender Kaushik is a man sandwiched between a domineering mother and a strong wife. He tries do right by both of them and in return receives barbs, with both the mother and wife complaining he is taking the other’s side. Yet he is not a frustrated person, writing poetry in the little time he gets away from his railway job and a demanding family situation. The part where the parents reveal the news of pregnancy is handled beautifully. There is confusion among the kids who do not know how to come to terms with the fact that their parents have an active sexual life. The grandmother simply goes ballistic perhaps realizing that her son is still extremely close to the daughter-in-law. It does not help that she spreads the news among the neighbours who do not hesitate to ridicule the family over the development. Every character has been given due importance. Renee could have been a passing reference but the director has been careful to develop her character graph as well. She loves Nakul but she is no pushover when it comes to things that matter.
The major drawback of the film is its length. It starts of as a warm funny film and decides to change tracks midway and veer towards a family drama. Renee’s family is a stereotypical rich family where people live in loneliness and drink wine instead of tea. Thankfully the director pulls back from making Renee’s mother (Sheeba Chaddha) a full scheming rich woman. The reaction from extended family and friends is way too large a part of the film. And equally unnecessary is the need to make Nakul come up the winner every time, whether sparring with his friends over the impending arrival or his brother facing bullying for the same reason.
Performance wise, Ayushmann, Giriraj Rao and Neena Gupta are top rate. Ayushmann has played characters like this numerous time, it should be an easy one for him. Neena Gupta, always a fine actress, is spot on. We need to see more of Giriraj Rao – a fine actor he is. Surekha Sikri is oddly over-dramatic. Maybe the long stints in TV soaps have had their effect on her. Sanya Malhotra is fresh and perfect for the role.
While the film may not be as entertaining as some of Ayushmann’s other recent releases, most notably Dum Laga Ke Haisha, it will still appeal to a larger part of his audience. And with a budget of 25 crores, there’s no doubt, the producers will be a happy lot with the collections. Badhaai Ho.