|We Are Family|
|Siddharth P Malhotra|
|Kajol, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal|
It's all about loving your family: A famous quote by Karan Johar that gave enough fodder for teasing and spoofing his emotional stance!
Quite natural, then, for Johar to adapt Hollywood's Stepmom into a Hindi multi-starrer and naming it We are Family.
The characters live in Australia, yet constantly speak impeccable Hindi. It's a spooky world where little girls are gifted tiaras and wands, and the boys (wearing glasses, naturally) are presented books and telescopes. The demarcation is clear; and the story cements itself as an old-fashioned, sexist one.
We see divorced couple Aman (Arjun Rampal, half-awake) and Maya (Kajol) at their child's school annual day. Their little girl Anjali (cute as a biutton, Diya Sonecha), in the middle of the act on stage, spots her mom in the audience and says 'Mama, hiii!'. It’s a touching moment, and the film has a few more.
Aman's character is a mixed one: He's clearly not a hands-on dad, preferring to meet his three children over the weekends. He also insensitively chooses little Anjali's birthday to introduce his new girlfriend Shreya (Kareena Kapoor) to the family.
So while you dislike him for a display of insensitivity to everyone in his life, you admire his faithful friendship towards his ex-wife, even as he drops everything to be with her when she's diagnosed with a terminal illness. Maya then hits upon the idea of warming up her kids to Shreya whom they hate, so she can take over as their replacement mom.
But the dialogue is a let-down. Each character keeps saying, "Tum aisa nahin kar sakti, you can't die," to Maya, as if it were a choice.
And then, when Maya is convincing Shreya to give taking care of the kids a shot, Shreya shoots back, "Main ek career-woman hoon, mom-type nahin." It’s a ridiculous bit of dialogue; outdated and one that an entire span of working mothers will wonder over.
Again, the whole trip about the urgency of finding a substitute mother is strange when they have their father hale- and-hearty. It again reinforces the cliche that you need another woman to pack the kids' lunch and pick them up from school, and the father, however he may love the kids, just can't manage.
The reason why Karan Johar choose an average film made 12 years ago, among several path-breaking Hollywood films, is clear. It has amble potential to bring out the tears.
And this film is an unabashed attempt at extracting your sniffs and sobs, and sometimes the effort at doing so is too apparent.
The manipulation shows in scenes like the one where the kids are ushered in to see their mother, all tubes and pipes, on a hospital bed. The strategy works; you do cry but not whole-heartedly, more as a reflex response to the sobbing faces onscreen. In fact, you might let out a tired laugh when the effort goes overboard.
The drone about the teen child who everyone keeps saying will be the "most beautiful bride in the world" is bizarre. Their obsession with this 13-year-old's marriage takes a new height when the film chooses to fold with it, where we see an aged Rampal, and an exactly-the-same Kareena (in this biased Bollywood trend where women simply don't age; another example: 3 Idiots) at the wedding of this girl.
The Kareena-Kajol combo is explosive, and the high-point of the film. Their altercations are delicious; one wishes there were more such complexities instead of the syrupy gloop. You care about Maya's character in the first place (the only character that really makes an impact) because no one can exude a warmth, and smile as expressively, emotionally, widely, and honestly as Kajol. Kareena’s character is a bit wobbly with inconsistencies. But the actress is in full form, brimming with fire. Arjun Rampal gives a damp performance.
Debut director Siddharth Malhotra serves us old wine in a new, expensive bottle. It's evident in the characterisation, the dated dialogue, and the choice of the heavy-duty background score where you hear a woman's alaap for the most part; a mainstay in our saas-bahu soaps. If you’ve been pining for an old-fashioned tear-jerker, this one's for you.
Verdict: 2.5 stars