Assured of care, cheer and contentment, part of its comfort comes from the privileges involved, allowing one, a certain degree of entitlement and another, very little guilt on taking his benefactor for granted.
What makes this give and take so worthwhile is its life-long validity.
Umesh Shukla’s 102 Not Out takes the life-long bit most seriously in its whimsical premise centred on a centenarian free spirit (Amitabh Bachchan) and his uptight septuagenarian son (Rishi Kapoor) to highlight its virtues and take to task ones, who abuse the sanctity of this bond.
Based on Saumya Joshi’s Gujarati play of the same name, also credited for its story, screenplay and dialogues, there is a decided novelty to the setting.
Few films bother to explore this relationship from the point of middle-aged sons and their over-the-hill fathers. Although it’s not an entirely unexplored territory if you consider the dramatic dispute between Prithviraj and Raj Kapoor in Kal Aaj Aur Kal, the silly banter outlining Shammi Kapoor and Anupam Kher’s camaraderie in Aur Pyaar Ho Gayaand the plausible ups and downs impacting Adil Hussain and Lalit Behl’s bond in the profound, poignant Mukti Bhawan.
The only difference here is 102 Not Out believes in treating age as a purpose instead of a dead-end.
Upholding these agreeable, anti-ageist views, Amitabh Bachchan’s 102 year old vows to outlive a Chinese fella holding the record for oldest man alive.
In complete contrast to his father’s smell-the-roses philosophy is Rishi Kapoor’s 75-year-old hypochondriac grouch scurrying to turn off the geyser and hang the laundry before screaming his lungs out to announce, ‘Aaj bai nahi aanewali hai.’
What an ulcerous match the AB of Piku and he would make.
Bachchan decides it is high time Kapoor loosened up. He sets a series of challenges for his perpetually crabby beta, threatening to send him off to an old people’s home if he does not comply.
The gags are simplistic and silly. And yet, the one involving a love letter to his deceased wife and Kapoor’s mention of the time she fought with his deceased mum had me laughing out loud.
There is a predictability to the whole Grumpy-learns-to-let-his-hair-down rigmarole inducted in Rajkumar Hirani’s school of sunshine film-making. It is all a bit of a stretch, but the film’s seasoned stars possess enough comical heft to pull it off.
Especially Rishi Kapoor.
His scene-stealing delivery is the film’s biggest ace and the biggest reason to watch him reunite with his co-star of several films including Kabhi Kabhie, where again they shared a father-son age gap.
I found myself chuckling at Kapoor’s idiosyncrasies, feeling his despair and exhilarated by his outburst. The sequence where he walks down memory lane alone is testament to his artistic extensity. No one makes the viewer vulnerable like Rishi. It is what sustains our interest when all its humour evaporates and 102 Not Outslumps in a cesspool of soppy disclosures and exploited emotions aka Baghban zone.
Add to that, 102 Not Out never shrugs off the feeling of made-for-stage or garbled, lost-in-translation Gujarati texture.
Not many people, and virtually no woman, inhabit its garish frames outside snickering Bachchan, snarling Kapoor and a surprised Jimit Trivedi (wearing a consistently alarmed expression) as the sympathetic pharmacy hand at their beck and call.
Every single gesture is overdone and extra boisterous like Bachchan’s inflated exuberance and screaming prosthetics, reminiscent of the 1970s when he’d masquerade as a grey-haired old man playing to the gallery. It was phony, but so much fun.
This one’s more 102 and not quite.