Synopsis – 102 Not Out is a 2018 comedy-drama film, with legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan playing a 102-year-old wanting to break the oldest-man-alive record. Another Bollywood legend Rishi Kapoor plays his sad and grumpy 75-year-old son.
My Take – While Indian films depicting a father and son relationship are not quite novel, nor are stories about parents who sacrifice everything in order to give their children a good life, only to be rejected by them in their old age, in simple terms, it’s fair to say we have witnessed our share of empathetic portraits of generational dramas over the years. But something about the trailer of this Umesh Shukla directed film manages to catch the eye, i.e., the camaraderie between its two lead actors – Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor.
Having played many memorable roles in their long, illustrious careers, the veterans are back together on the big screen after 27 years, and are like a house on fire as father and son. Based on Soumya Joshi‘s Gujarati play of the same name, the film’s tale is as old as time, but unlike most, this is a rare film that manages to balance entertainment with enlightenment, as well as manages to shed some light on our society. For those who grew up watching the two brilliant veterans, this film is a definite must watch, especially if you are a fan of Bachchan Sir’s monologue and energetic act.
The story follows Dattatraya Vakharia (Amitabh Bachchan), a 102 year old healthy man, who is full of life and likes to believe he is still too young to die. In fact, such is his love for life that he wishes to break a 118 year old Chinese man’s genius world record, by aiming to live for outlive by 16 more years. However, his biggest roadblock is his son, Babulal Vakharia (Rishi Kapoor), who at the age of 75, is your average geriatric. Living his life by the clock and as instructed by his physician, Babulal seems to have accepted his age and aims to live with a permanent frown on his face.
If there’s any joy in his life, it comes from the hope of reuniting with his America based son, who he hasn’t seen for about 30 years or so. Unable to tolerate this form of negativity surrounding him, Dattatraya decides to become the first father ever to admit his own son into an old age home, to which Babulal naturally protects, mainly as he values everything familiar, will do anything to stay under the same roof as he has for the past 75 years. The only way Dattatreya will allow this is if Babulal promises to change towards the positive side and fulfill a set of conditions put forward by him, all governed by Dhiru (Jimit Trivedi), a young shop clerk who cannot seem to get enough of the duo’s banter.
While most of the challenges, initially seem childlike, they slow require Babulal to confront some of his past demons, which may end up effecting both father and son’s emotional bond. Here is a film that can make senior citizens feel young at heart, and indeed they should, as life is all about what you make of it! There is more to the film than just this, however this is the message that hits all the right notes. The story itself is interesting, especially at an age where children these days don’t have time for their aging parents even though they earn 5 times more than what their parents did, most of them either hire a help to take care of their parents while they live alone or they end up putting them in old age homes. It’s a genuinely novel plot that one doesn’t come across often.
The first half of the film is filled with laughs and devoid of much of the plot points, its charming enough to keep a smile on your face. But the second half, though predictable, steadily builds up emotional momentum, as we get absorbed by its assured storytelling as it frequently touches the several moving gestures of a simple human decency. It is indeed a fiction, but it feels real due to director Umesh Shukla’s assured direction, and it gently tells us that we can do better than expected to ourselves, in our life. The script written by Saumya Joshi and adapted from his own Gujarati play, not an easy task, astutely mounts the banal observation of life as a journey. While keeping the film breezy, yet high on emotions, despite some unconvincing moments, director Shukla keeps manages to keep us involved all the way till the climax.
Though the tempo drops considerably in the second half, he ensures that the story doesn’t lose its charm. Slowly and delicately drawing attention and care from the audience, the film comes to us as a simple story about one family matter. While at the outset that very statement might seem to be the core driving force of his character and the film, it is not. The film’s message is simple as Dattatraya puts it, live before you die, and the film is simple too. Never disrupting its slow, but steady pace throughout its 102 minutes of run time, it gives us a real slice of life through its intimate human drama filled with over-the-top characters.
While the challenges aren’t that spectacular, but are played out adorably. There are plenty of laughs and tons of emotional moments as the father tries his best to get his son to cheer up and start living his life with the same zest that he used to as a younger man. The beauty of the film is that none of its pitfalls eventually matter. The film wins you over with its innocence and simplicity. Some clever dialogues, particularly the ones in the love letter scene, are hysterical and with the right amount of dramatic ingredients, the film rises above most regular films. On the technical front, the cinematography is simple, but goes with the flavor of this film. At times the shots and transitions get a bit repetitive, but perhaps that’s what happens when you only have three central characters, and one main location.
The songs are well shot, and the music noteworthy. However, what the film could have avoided is to take a predictable part of painting Babulal’s son as a selfish emotionless villain and in doing so pit the young against the old. I also did not care for some for some of the forced humor that seem a bit off, for example, like the scene where Dhiru talks about condoms in a random context. However, the effortless performances of the veterans, coupled with their intoxicating screen presence make this film worth watching.
Amitabh Bachchan is in a great form as always and delivers an outstanding performance. It’s amusing and endearing to see him playing a centenarian and still preferring to live life to the fullest. Even in the emotional scenes, he shines a lot. His Gujarati accent comes out well, but it’s not too in-your-face. Rishi Kapoor is perfect as the ill-tempered son who, as we learn, has many reasons to be bitter. His body language and expressions are truly unerring and magnificent. The sequences where he comes to know of his father’s diabolical plan to keep him in an old-age home (and also the confirmatory sequence where Dattatraya has a hilarious phone conversation with the old-age home person, with his son listening in!) or the scene where Dhiru speaks about Babulal’s death in future tense are magnificent more examples of what a world-class talent Kapoor has always been. It’s a nuanced and real performance. The two actors share a remarkable chemistry that’s proof that talent can outlive everything. Jimit Trivedi (Bhool Bhulaiyaa) gives a yet another bravura performance. It is through him that we get an insight into the characters, and playing the simpleton with such aplomb requires talent and this man has oodles of it. On the whole, ‘102 Not Out’ is a hilarious and heart-warming family entertainer uplifted by its strong performances and emotional moments.
Directed – Umesh Shukla
Rated – PG
Run Time – 112 minutes