Kapoor and Sons

Kapoor and Sons had a far bigger and more complicated emotional impact on me than I had anticipated while I was watching it. A day later, it's the performances that linger—all of them compelling and convincing—more than the characters. The script successfully convinces me that these are compassionate, intelligent people who have been reminded that loving each other in any meaningful way involves speaking and acting with empathy, with awareness of the responsibility of holding someone else's heart in your hands. Most of the problems the Kapoors have are due to assumptions rather than hatred or malicious wronging. I may have questions about what will happen next to all of them (and I do!), but I can trust that they will be much better off moving forward than they were when we met them.

Contrast this with Dil Dhadakne Do, which has a slightly more filmi ending but also left me much less certain about how the parents were going to do in the months ahead. Kapoor and Sons feels gentler, a little crunchier, and more real, maybe because it's set at home rather than in the fantasy world of an untethered vessel along foreign shores. The Kapoors did their work at the literal heart of their family (as is maybe foretold by dadu's recovery from the heart attack that brought his grandsons home and the plumber who fixes leaks only with the help, in turn, by each of the family members), and the writers choose to show us some results of their efforts. I really appreciate that we get those glimpses at their lives a few months onward. Their progress is uneven but it is so significant.

This film is an exploration of the platinum rule that gives real respect to the differences among whatever collection of individuals who happen to make up a family. The title sort of hints at that, I think; there's a reason it's not called The Kapoors. And even though the name "and Sons" omits the two major female characters, the film really includes them very well, giving them the same sort of mix of secrecy and explosive expressiveness as the men. This is how you make a movie that treats women with the same respect as men, even when the cast is unevenly split. This is how you tell a widely relatable story without asserting that the male experience is universal. Kapoor and Sons is full of humans, not heroes. The diversity of age is also very welcome and beautifully handled.*  I love films that make the parents as interesting as the children. As much as I wanted to know more about the particulars of everyone's arc—why didn't Arjun (Sidharth Malhotra) tell anyone about his secret professional passion? what is Rahul (Fawad Khan) going to give his publisher in that 20-day window he promised?—I'm most caught up in wondering why Sunita and Harsh ended up so cold and bitter to one another (the fantastic Ratna Pathak and Rajat Kapoor, inhabiting this anger expertly, spiteful and broken in one scene but so tender and hopeful the next). It's obvious, painfully so, that they did, but I want to know how it happened.

Maybe the greatest triumph of Kapoor and Sons is that it acknowledges the distress that comes from the realization most of us have to make as adults: everyone around us is carrying so much pain and fear. This is primarily expressed through Rahul; the older son seems to be the most thrown by all the revelations that so clearly demonstrate that no one, not even the golden boy, could have kept the peace with that family system operating the way it was. He also most plainly embodies the hope that consequently arises: there can be so much meaning in someone recognizing and accepting our truth, however unexpected it may be. They cannot always solve our pain, but because they know it, they can much more genuinely support and love us.

PS: I'm very much looking forward to a few months from now when essays on this film can address what I think is probably its most important aspect, at least long-term, but that is, unfortunately, a major spoiler and thus has to wait.

PPS: Alia Bhatt is really good in this too, but I couldn't figure out how to mention it in the preceding paragraphs. Hers is a well-written secondary character who is important but not exaggerated, and I think she plays it just right.

* Although why on earth it was necessary to spackle Rishi Kapoor in so much makeup when the film could have used him as-is or cast an actor closer to 80 (the stated 90 feeling fairly unrealistic, unless Dilip Kumar would come out of retirement), I do not know.


janus said…
Not seen a Hindi movie in ages, but just stopped by to say Hi :-)

As usual, excellently written and makes me curious about the movie...

Christie Sanam said…
I wasn't planning on watching this, at least not in the theater, but I'm surprised to find a review that seems to indicate that even a feminist could like this movie! Do you know if it would pass the Bechdel test? I doubt anything in Bollywood could but I'm defninitely intrigued.

Very happy to spot another gori passionate about Bollywood too!

Christie Sanam
Wicked Karma
I certainly am a feminist and like many, many Bollywood movies, though sometimes it takes quite a bit of mental work to be critical of a film's misogyny, for example, while also loving many other things about it.

Anyway, yes, I think this one does pass Bechdel, because if I recall there are conversations between Alia Bhatt and her female friend about things that aren't boys. I think Ratna Pathak also has conversations with other women. However, it is certainly true that all of the significant conversations in the film include at least one man.

Goris who are passionate about Bollywood are a dime a dozen. :) There are many who write blogs, too (check my "friends and links" section if you want some more reading material).
Aparna said…
Christie Seattle: Any reason why you thought that a feminist might not like this movie? :) Is it from an experience of watching previous B'wood movies?

Well, a lot of Bollywood movies will pass the Bechdel test :), but that does not necessarily mean that they are progressive :) and a "feminist will like them". That is because a lot of Bollywood movies, when they portray women over a certain age, usually who are not uber urban, show them discussing cooking/recipes, clothes, other people and TV shows/movies and complaining about how much they work and how ungrateful everyone else is. Women in the sam household talk about what to cook for the day, and how to run the house and what to give the washerwoman for ironing:).

Come to think of it, there is plenty of time in a Bollywood movie, so females do not need to cram in the essential information and they can talk about lipsticks, bags, promotions, safety and the problem of getting a ride back home too. :) The more I think, the more i wonder why Hollywood does not show women this way. Are we saying that liberated, independent women have only men-related issues? :)
Kanan said…
I enjoyed the film also and loved how they made it just perfect emotional and not go overboard with it. However, everyone else I talked to didn't like it and I keep wondering why. Does the film actually require an audience who analyzes (maybe over-analyzes) things?

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