With Kapoor & Sons, Dharma Productions has made a quantum leap in storytelling. The film is still all about loving your family - only, this time, it is not the candy floss-like setting that the studio often brings to mind. Instead, Shakun Batra (who directed Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu) introduces us to a family that is far from perfect and, therefore, more relatable.
Set in the picturesque city of Ooty, the film stars Rishi Kapoor, Rajat Kapoor, Ratna Pathak Shah, Fawad Khan and Siddharth Malhotra as members of the dysfunctional Kapoor family. Rishi Kapoor plays the role of a quirky grandfather with a never-say-die attitude, while Rajat Kapoor and Shah appear as an ever-bickering middle-aged couple. Khan and Malhotra play their sons. Alia Bhatt joins the cast as what would traditionally be the "heroine", although if screen time were to be considered, Shah is clearly the leading lady.
Kapoor & Sons could have been a peppy, all-is-well kind of story, with the obvious love triangle thrown in for good measure and a picture-perfect family in the end. Instead, the film rises above the cliche and tackles some tricky issues that a family could face - for instance, marital discord, sibling rivalry, acceptance and forgiveness. Even so, amid all this, Batra manages to avoid being preachy and does a good job at entertaining the audience.
As Batra takes the viewers on an emotional roller coaster, some scenes simply end up involving a lot of cacophony. What, however, delivers the impact is the silence that follows after the cacophony reaches a crescendo, allowing the viewer to absorb the moment. This is helped by some intelligent lighting and good photography, which pleases both the eye and the mind.
As far as performances go, everyone, including Bhatt in a limited role, does well. The three veterans, as expected, lend a degree of authenticity with their nuanced performances.
Among the youngsters, Khan takes the cake. In many ways, this is Khan's movie from start to finish. He plays the role of a responsible elder brother and a protective son with much ease. Malhotra, however, seems a bit wooden in some scenes, but his charm is undeniable. Bhatt is also likeable. The supporting cast, too, does a good job.
While Kapoor & Sons has tear-jerker moments in abundance, the script incorporates the laughs with ease. The actors deliver dialogues with a subtlety that one would expect from the veterans, but it comes as a surprise from the youngsters.
Music has always been the cornerstone of Dharma Productions and here, too, it does not disappoint. Moreover, songs have been used to take the story forward, as part of the narrative. The only exception is the song Kar Gayi Chull, which is the signature peppy number - obviously, a marketing bait and also because, well, it's Bollywood. Having said that, this song, too, does not slow the film in any way.
Kapoor & Sons is one of those films that pick up in the second half. Although the first half is not a drag, it is only in the second half that the movie comes together beautifully. It is here that the all the small pieces that seem random in the first half fall in place.
Here's a film that proves that Dharma Productions is not all about picture-perfect cinema, and that imperfect characters go a long way towards making a perfectly likeable film.