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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



Badhaai Ho, Review: No age to have a baby

Badhaai Ho, Review: No age to have a baby

What if you discover that your mother is pregnant when you are 25 and in a steady relationship? Should you be happy? Sad? Feel outraged? Would you become the butt of jokes day in and day out? How would you deal with the development? Such is the off-beat premise of Badhaai Ho (Congratulations). [This review has been delayed for so many days due to serious issues with my computer, but the film, which was seen 10 days ago, deserves to be reviewed, and we begin with the synopsis].

Nakul is in a stable relationship with his work colleague, Renée. He has already met her mother Sangeeta, who is not impressed with his middle class family background but likes him and approves of their relationship. Nakul’s father, Jeetender Kaushik, is a middle-aged man working in a lower management position in the Indian Railways. His mother, Priyamvada, is a middle-aged typical housewife who looks after the family and gossips with the society's ladies. His younger brother Gullar, about 18, is a student studying in the twelfth grade. His grandmother (Surekha Sikri) is above eighty, and always quarrels with her daughter-in-law and taunts her. She also scolds her son every time, as he is sort of henpecked.

One day, Jeetender and Priyamvada get intimate. Some five months later, Priyamvada becomes ill. She is taken to the hospital where it is announced that she is pregnant and that the Kaushiks are going to have their third child. Realising that such a late pregnancy might be an embarrassment, the hospital staff tells them that if they want to abort the child, they have to do it within 4–5 days. Priyamvada does not agree to abort the child because she thinks that it is a great sin. Kaushik at first hesitates as he feels that it is embarrassing to be a middle-aged parent in Indian society. He fears that people will make fun of him and his family. He also thinks that his two sons will never accept their mother's pregnancy. But on Priyamvada's insistence, he agrees to go ahead with what nature had decreed. Now, how does he break the news to his children and his mother?

This is not a formula film. If anything, it is not formulaic. A three member team has written the film--Shantanu Srivastava, Akshat Ghildial and Jyoti Kapoor, with Ghildial taking credit for the screenplay. The phenomenon of late pregnancies is not entirely uncommon in India. Many families have had 11-14 children, and you can imagine the age difference between the oldest and the youngest. My brother was 13 years older than me, so I know what it feels like when your brother is more like a father. However, it is the handling of the developments from the announcement of the pregnancy to the arrival of the baby that needed careful fleshing out, and that is where the writers have largely succeeded. They do not have too much to say, but they say it well. Like the classic line by Gullar when told that they are expecting a guest, “I am not giving my room to any guest!”

Nakul and Gullar refuse to go to Meerut for a family wedding, to avoid facing derisive comments from relatives. Nakul stops going to the office and seeing his girl-friend too. When she learns of the issue (pun not intended), she cheers him up. One amorous day, they are about to make love, when Nakul is reminded about his mother’s pregnancy and he pulls away. Some good one-liners are reserved for Gullar.

Amit Ravindernath Sharma (Tevar) treats the film as a comedy but it is layered comedy for sure. There is many a message sugar-coated in the narrative. Ample footage is devoted to the parents, even at the cost of the young romantic couple. Bonding between the brothers is well delineated when Gullar is beaten by a school-mate on the pregnancy matter and Nakul comes to his rescue in dramatic fashion. The relationship between Jeetender and Priyamvada is so tenderly and delicately developed. This contrasts sharply with the presence of the venom-spouting grandmother, hopelessly type-cast, but there is a twist in the tale. Nakul’s affair and his highs and lows with Renee and her mother are a distraction at times, something the film could have done well without. As are the numerous run-ins the two brothers have with all and sundry who insist on teasing and taunting the brothers. In one such run-in, Nakul resorts to cheap retorts in order to shut up the offender—entirely uncalled for.

Ayushmann Khurrana as Nakul Kaushik is quite natural and easy going for most of the time. When he is uneasy, it is the scene to blame. Neena Gupta as Priyamvada Kaushik brings 35 years of experience to her conscientious and caring role. Gajraj Rao (Yahaan, Black Friday, Talvar) as Jeetender Kaushik is the surprise packet, with a nuanced and spontaneous performance. Expect more from him, as he hopefully signs some good stuff in the near future. Surekha Sikri as Dadi (grandmother) has the amazing ability to rise above such a hopelessly hamming part and endear herself to a whole range of audiences. Sanya Malhotra as Renee Sharma shows sincerity. Sheeba Chaddha as Sangeeta Sharma reminds you of the days when there was just a Sheeba, and she was so good looking. Still good looking, here, she says so much in one scene by merely listening for several minutes. Shardul Rana as Gullar Kaushik has fun and enjoys himself.

Badhaai Ho is not great cinema. It is good cinema, not run-of-the-mill and worth a watch. And if you enjoy the four songs, all the better for you.

Rating: ***


P.S. A Chhattisgarh-based writer, Paritosh Chakravarti, has filed a written police complaint in a Raipur police-station against the makers of Badhaai Ho, for stealing his short story Jad, published in the collection Ghar Buntey Huey, in 1999.


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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