How Badhaai Ho shattered taboos and marked the reinvention of Neena Gupta and Gajraj Rao
The real stars of Badhaai Ho were Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta, and above all, a delightfully eccentric Surekha Sikri.
Amit Sharma's Badhaai Ho completes a year today. The trailer pretty much gave away what we expected from the film. It dealt with a narrative no Hindi filmmaker dared to explore on the screen. The closest a director got to showcasing geriatric pregnancy was Sooraj Barjatya when he ended his blockbuster family drama Hum Aapke Hain Koun with Bindu's pregnancy. That deserved a film of its own, but coming to Badhaai Ho for now.
Sharma and his writers, Jyoti Kapoor, Shantanu Srivastava, and Akshat Ghildial, based their film in Delhi and gave the narrative a breath of realism. The middle-class fragrance of the characters captivated us immediately as we met them. There was no heroism on display, just simple ordinariness peppered with humour. And despite Khurrana spearheading the film, the real stars of Badhaai Ho were Gajraj Rao and Neena Gupta.
They were a lot more than Khurrana's parents. They had a life of their own, an arc of their own, and most crucially, a romance of their own. Rao was a ticket collector, but the poet in his heart was always alive, and he revelled in reciting his poems to his wife. Soon, Gupta is shown to be pregnant, and the entire Kaushik family is shocked, but the audience cannot stop laughing.
Badhaai Ho was also a reflection of how sex should never be bogged down by two people's age. Romance is beyond societal opinions and stigmas. Akin to those Hrishikesh Mukherjee family comedies, the humour in Sharma's film aroused out of panic and pandemonium, never resorting to innuendos and inanity. The narrative was at a razor-sharp edge, and the film could have fallen on either side had it not been for Rao and Gupta's fearless performances.
Both actors have been a relevant part of Hindi cinema for years, but they finally chanced upon two delightful characters they could sink their teeth into. For the first time since Baghban, we rooted more for the parents than their children, who were the heroes of the story. This was Gupta and Rao's reinvention. And then, there was the always eccentric but exciting Surekha Sikri, who played Gupta's mother-in-law. She was cantankerous and perpetually nagging about her daughter-in-law's irresponsibilities but was also aware of the sacrifices she made for the family. Sikri, from the first scene to the last, was a complete hoot.
Khurrana played a Delhi boy again, and it may be one of his career's best choices but it's surely not one of his best performances. He, like many of us, is a witness to his mother's pregnancy and has a tough time accepting this bitter truth. And as the story progresses, he transforms into a supportive son, finally realising what the film wanted to convey.
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