When you step out to watch stalwarts like Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor in the same frame, you know you’ve grabbed the chance to taste some eclectic wine, one of the finest that there is in Bollywood’s landscape.
After wowing old and new generations alike through their collaborative efforts spread over four decades or so – in Kabhie Kabhie (1976), Naseeb (1981) and the cult movie Amar Akbar Anthony (1977), among a few others – Bachchan Sr. and Kapoor come together to show the audience, that despite wearing wrinkled smiles and grey hair, the sheen of their craft hasn’t dulled one bit.
While in all their earlier associations, Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor have bonded as brothers or friends, in 102 Not Out they play father and son for the first time – and what a crackling pair they prove to be!
Based on Saumya Joshi’s play bearing the same name, Umesh Shukla’s 102 Not Out is one thick, flavoured chicken soup guaranteed to warm your frantic, restless soul.
Read on to find out what’s in it for you.
What’s their Story?
Rishi Kapoor as Babulal Vakharia is a 75 year-old elderly chap who seems to sleepwalk through life, taking his senior citizen status a tad bit too seriously – feeling and acting older than he really is. Early on, we are shown snippets of his reluctance to take a joke or a carefree walk outside, his obsession with using the same bedsheet irrespective of the decades of wear and tear it might’ve been exposed to, and his repetitive, fearful relationship with his doctor. As evident, Babulal is in no mood to let a single happy vibe touch him, except an anticipative joy at the possibility of reuniting with his NRI son.
Dattatreya Vakharia (Amitabh Bachchan) on the other hand, is the 102 year-old crinkly yet over-the-top father of stuck-up junior Vakharia who, unlike his weathered son, refuses to take his age seriously! He believes he is all of 26, and that there’s at least a decade and more left to breathe so he can successfully break a Chinese man’s record of being the oldest living person on earth. Dattatreya just doesn’t think it – he, in fact, brings home a life-size picture of the Chinese guy for inspiration, as well as to announce his intentions to Babulal, causing more furrow lines to appear on his already-furrowed countenance.
Clearly, Babulal is averse to his father living more than any human being ideally should; now he is even more displeased knowing daddy cool has set such high aims for himself knowing he could easily outlive him. Understandably, he is perturbed by these new ‘Life Goals’ Dattatreya has set for himself, and wonders out loud why he isn’t accepting his age for what it really is.
Sr. Vakharia throws out a bunch of names at his son – informing him of how lack-lustre, boring and mundane Babulal’s life really is, and how, he must stay away from such negative creatures if he is to ever reach his mission of living up to a ripe old age of 118.
Thereafter, Dattatreya decides to send Babulal to an old age home, so he can peacefully complete his goal of living another sixteen years.
Babulal is shocked and distressed – not only because he would accidentally end up creating history by being the first son on the entire planet to be packed off to an old-age home by his much-elderly father, but also because it meant he would have to warm up to existing in an alien environment. For a man who has been living one day to the next, trapped in a cocoon of familiarity and everything tried-and-tested, this new possibility of being thrown out of his zone literally gives him sleepless nights.
And therein jumps Papa Vakharia, telling his son he is ready to let him stay in the house if he agrees to certain conditions – a list of dos and don’t’s Dattatreya gleefully imposes on his son, spread over the next few days and weeks, and that play out in funny, sometimes satirical sequences making up the entire first half of the movie.
In a day and age where the audience is sassy enough to criticize even a Sherlock Holmes and rarely finds anything intriguing to hold its attention for long, 102 Not Out coasts along beautifully, primarily due to its inherent simplicity. Granted, the plot is straightforward and the climax predictable, and yet, as a viewer I found myself looking for twists and turns, as Dattatreya’s challenges played out sequence after sequence.
Amitabh Bachchan as Dattatreya Vakharia plays the uber-old dad with the sneaky intentions to the hilt. From making us chortle at his frequent barbs at Babulal, to his reaction on being addressed by an obscene name in his son’s hand-written letter to his dead wife, he surpasses himself on more than one occasion. And lest you think the movie is all punchlines and silly humor, Bachchan, with his well-timed silences and nuanced performance (especially in the second half) draws you into his own personal evocative world, where he makes you cry, contemplate in silence about the mystery and purpose of life, and brighten up again at the thought of new hope streaming in. It’s a window you’re allowed to, rather compelled, to peek in at the start of the movie, and you only remove yourself away from this emotional ride when you understand why Dattatreya did what he did.
On the other hand, Rishi Kapoor as Babulal is smooth as butter; from his dialogue delivery to the poignant silences conveyed with the least effort. He plays the disgruntled, disapproving son with relatable finesse, and keeps the movie from leaning too hard on comedy alone. His hypochondriac behaviour may remind you of typical Virgo behaviour of obsessing over details and perfection and their fervent attempts to keep away from diseases and death, whereas his rebellion will remind you of characteristic tools children often employ to deal with stubborn, autocratic parents – these flavours in Babulal’s personality feel tremendously personal, almost tugging at our hearts.
There is love between the father-son duo, and there is outright war – the way this love finds its way out of their old, creaky, stubborn hearts, barreling right through their frequent spats and overtly polarised views on life, is the recipe that makes this a treat to watch.
Needless to say, the film’s essence lies in the earnest performance of the two stars in the centre of this tale, but it is just as much bolstered by theatre actor Jimit Trivedi’s humble act as the young assistant (Dhiru) in a pharmacy shop, who speaks without a filter in his mind, and who, as told to us by the narrator, happens to find “job satisfaction” in the Vakharia household more than he does in the pharmacy store.
What is particularly endearing is his relationship with both father and son – the bond between him and the Vakharias blooming out in different degrees but in disparate ways. While he is admittedly in awe of the lively spirit Dattatreya is made of, and readily agrees to be a “partner” of sorts in seeing son Babulal get playfully tortured; he is, nevertheless, just as affectionate with Babulal, and empathizes with his resistance to change.
As you get pulled into the drift of the movie, Dhiru looks more like the next-door naughty kid getting a kick out of upsetting the ‘oldies’ on the block by shattering their glass panes with cricket balls. The annoyance of aging and then dealing with a reckless youth remains, and yet, there is an underlying warmth between the young and the old that belies these superficial occurrences.
It is commendable that an effective portrayal of such a simplistic story has been executed with a total of three characters, with most of the scenes taking place in the Vakharia bungalow itself. That said, Jimit’s portrayal as Dhiru, however sincere, seems to be holding back its rightful brilliance, a sparkle, which seems to have been blunted around the edges to make the megastars stand out in contrast. As much as I loved Dhiru, I personally wished he had more to do than just play along and soak up this roller-coaster ride like a sponge.
Bachchan saab waves his magic wand and slips into the childlike reverie of Dattatreya wanting to beat old age and death, even at 102, while also maintaining a fine balance by imparting some much-needed wisdom (without the preachy hangover), an expectation that comes with being this old. And yet, you can’t help but see a glimmer of Piku’s Bhaskor Banerjee in Dattatreya – just a tad bit more bearable, a little less sexist and definitely less selfish.
This is, however, a minor coincidence and doesn’t quite get in your way of enjoying the movie as a wholesome dish served for your senses. What does sometimes get in the way is Dattatreya’s cakey makeup – the hair, a little too unruly and wispy, the dentures not ‘real’ enough.
But there’s boundless freedom to look however weird one wants to at that age; after all, how many get to survive till they’re 102?
The music is lamentably uninspiring. Except Bacche ki Jaan loge kya sung by Arijit Singh, there is hardly any other tune worth humming to. There is a rehash of old songs in the movie which is great to stir up some nostalgia, but is devoid of any recall value, once you step out of the theatre.
So Yay or Nay?
Despite its obvious flaws, I’d go with a big, resounding Yay!
102 Not Out is worth spending your hard-earned money on simply to have the chance to partake in the nuanced, delicate world created by these two veterans. For the pure joy of losing oneself in an old-fashioned tale of love between a parent and his child, while cruising through bitter memories, while eagerly awaiting a new tomorrow. This is a film that will move you to the core and make you believe in rainbows – that don’t die and fade away just because you turned 75 or even a 100.
On a lighter note, if you wish to exorcise your mind of the imagery of Nirupa Roy winging it as Bollywood’s cult Mommy in Amar Akbar Anthony by pulling a cherubic Kapoor and a lanky Bachchan into the folds of her pallu, this is a good way to do it!