Director: Amit Ravindranath Sharma
Producer: Junglee Films & Chrome Pictures
Cast: Neena Gupta, Gajraj Rao, Surekha Sikri, Ayushmann Khurrana, Sanya Malhotra, Sheeba Chaddha
Screenplay & Dialogue: Akshat Ghildiyal
Cinematography: Sanu Varghese
Editing: Dev Rao Jadhav
Music: Tanishk Bagchi
Hindi / Drama, Comedy / 123 mins / India / 2018
The story in ‘Badhaai Ho’ is the star. So much so that it takes its cake and eats it too! It isn’t just the subject of a middle-aged woman Priyamvada Kaushik (Neena Gupta in a performance that will go down in history as remarkable and wonderfully understated) getting pregnant that is unusual. It is the ‘how’ she and her family; their neighbours; extended families and relatives deal with the ‘good news’ that makes the film worth its weight in gold.
The story by Akshat Ghildiyal, set in middle class Delhi’s Central Government quarters remains centre-stage while Priyamvada’s doting husband (Gajraj Rao); a cantankerous mother-in-law (Surekha Sikri); an incredulous son Nakul (Ayushmann Khuranna) and a younger son studying for his board exams try to make sense of this sudden, unexpected development in their lives! From the everyday dialogues to the earthy, archetypal UP Hindi Badhaai Ho has it all!
Frankly, as the story keeps pace along side the gift that the stork will bring home soon, you as audience go through all the emotions that each character is experiencing – ranging from surprise, annoyance, embarrassment, judgment, mockery, snickering to plain amusement. Rare is a Hindi film which has the characters being driven by the story rather than the other way round. Rather than once again repeat the oft repeated cliché ‘duniya kya kahegi’ Ghildiyal actually shows you what the world can and will say! It is great, the manner in which microcosm of the self opens up to macrocosm of society.
For all that Priyamvada comes across as a quiet, reserved and obedient bahu – she is a woman with her own mind. Embarrassed beyond belief initially and behaving like she has committed a sin, it is she who sets the ball rolling when she refuses to abort her baby. From then it’s a rollercoaster ride all the way to an expected, happy end.
In the interim however, there is evolution of plot, characters and their understanding of the whole situation. Nakul for instance, goes from withdrawing into a shell out of sheer mortification to someone who is as excited and nervous as his two-son old father when his mother is wheeled into the OT. The serenely attractive Sanya Malhotra (powerhouse talent to watch out for in future) as Renee – Nakul’s supportive girlfriend is her own person when it comes to their arguments! Gajraj Rao as Jeetendra Kaushik and the man behind the accidental muddle is extraordinary as the loving, protective husband. Surekha Sikri has always been a formidable actress and she doesn’t let you down here either. As the matriarch of the family she ensures that no one is free from her barbs!
Badhaai Ho is a great study in acceptance, bonding and family as a support system. It’s great that the Hindi film industry is finally exploring subjects that appear slice-of-life and ordinary but are actually powerful and truthful social comments on the state of affairs behind the polite and polished veneer of the Great Indian Middle Class.