When a middle-aged couple gets pregnant, the reactions of those around them are telling. Priyamvada (Neena Gupta) and Jitinder (Gajraj Rao) are at the doctor’s clinic. She’s been feeling a bit unwell; both are completely unprepared for the news they’re about to hear. They don’t know how to react when the pregnancy test shows positive. How to deal with this shocking news, and then…. How to break it to their grown-up sons? And to Jitinder’s cantankerous mother who hates on Priyamvada with all the venomous drama of a TV serial mom-in-law? And also to the nosy neighbours, judgmental relatives and so on?
The film is subversive but to a level. While abortion is looked down upon by our conservative characters, and no one (except another lady whose opinions are portrayed as being uppity) thinks of the health risks to the woman and the financial situation of the family, it is also broad-minded enough to have the husband say to his wife, “You have to bear the physical strain of the childbirth, so the decision will also be yours.”
She chooses to have the baby leading to emotional and hilarious situations. The husband is thrilled but tries to hide it, and also enjoys his new-found respect among other men. The wife is trying to maintain the peace of the house as much as possible. The older son (Ayushmann Khurrana) who is about to get married to a well-heeled girl, goes through an emotional crisis, finding it hard to look at his aging parents as sexual beings, and fighting off ragging from friends.
The romance between Ayushmann and Sanya Malhotra’s characters is where the film falters. They seem an unlikely couple not just when it comes to their family backgrounds but also in their thinking. Devoid of romance or charm, he seems too rough (even rude), for a person like her to consider marriage or something long-term with him. Though the actors across the board are absolutely fantastic, it's the older couple’s romance that steals the show.
Our Hindi films have often shown senior romance with a touch of humour and poignancy. Badhaai Ho shows the senior romance played out in gestures. It is the arm around the wife when the husband shares his published poem, in his siding with the wife when the mother gets too much, in his love-struck admiration for her when she dresses up for a relative’s wedding and his unequivocal support of her decisions.
The film reminds one of Do Dooni Chaar, where the Rishi-Neetu pairing after more than three decades is naturally the highlight. The two are splendid together, exuding the friendship and love of a middle-aged couple. While Rishi Kapoor is masterful in bringing out the common man's balancing act between the family aspirations and his spending capability, Neetu Singh matches step effortlessly.
In Ok Jaanu, the older couple’s tender romance and the way the husband (Naseeruddin Shah) takes care of his wife (Leela Samson), inspires the younger couple to rethink their life.
Pyaar Mein Twist has Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia falling in love, with the kids objecting to the romance for a change.
Baghban showed the very-alive romance between a husband and wife to be stronger than even the bond between parent and child.
In Life in a…Metro, a man (Dharmendra) unites with his first love (Nafisa Ali) after 40 years. The part with the two on a motorbike laughing with the abandon of young love-birds is one of the film’s best scenes.
Honeymoon Travels Pvt.Ltd., which delves into the lives of six honeymooning couples travelling in the same bus, is the most interesting when it focuses on the newly-wed couple played by Shabana Azmi and Boman Irani. That they are both seniors with grown-up kids and often get mistaken as the honeymooning couple’s parents, leads to embarrassing moments. But they choose to own their romance and even mischievously lie to an unsuspecting audience about their decades-long marriage.
With Badhaai Ho, we see yet another unique, charming and hued love story between a senior couple. This time, a middle-aged mom and pop all set to ride the parenting roller-coaster from scratch. Keep ‘em coming, Bollywood!
Sonia Chopra is a critic, columnist and screenwriter with over 15 years of experience. She tweets on @soniachopra2