Synopsis – A devoted grandson embarks on a complicated and comic journey to fulfill his ailing grandmother’s last wish.
My Take – While the relationship between parents and children have been the basis of many heartbreaking Hindi films, very few have explored the connection a grandchild shares with his/her grandparent, particularly the perspective of fulfilling their probable final wish.
In this latest Netflix release, which is also backed by John Abraham, first time director and co-writer Kaashvie Nair, daughter of filmmaker Shashilal K Nair, known for films such as Angaar (1992), One 2 Ka 4 (2001) and Ek Chhotisi Love Story (2002), aims to explore this sentiment with an extremely ambitious idea which takes quite an offbeat path with some engineering crash course to be look palatable, yet context wise can be considered fairly fresh.
But while the concept has its heart in the right place, it unfortunately also fails to leave an everlasting mark mainly due to its loose writing. Though the story wants to tap into the sentiments of people, the film is filled with boring and unnecessary episodes which deviate the film from its course, only adding to its run time.
From the unnecessary focus on troubled relationship of the lead pair, to the scenes in Pakistan, to the way government officials of both the countries are portrayed, there are so many episodes that just feel forced. But, if one is ready to ignore these aspects, all we get is a no-holds-barred clean family comedy drama that manages to be a fun-time, one-time watch.
The story follows Amreek Singh (Arjun Kapoor), a clumsy and careless young man living in Los Angeles, running a movers and packers company called Gently Gently with his fiancée Radha (Rakul Preet Singh). When his antics and disregard for his fiancée lands him single and jobless, Amreek finds himself at a crossroads. And upon finding out that the family matriarch and owner of a successful bicycle manufacturing company, his grandmother, Rupinder Kaur (Neena Gupta), affectionately called Sardar, is ill, he heads back home to Amritsar, India, to be with her.
Back at home, when Sardar shares with him her wish of heading back to Lahore, Pakistan, to see the house she had built with her beloved first husband, Gursher Singh (John Abraham) in her youth (Aditi Roy Hydari), Amreek takes it upon himself to make her dream come true. But, matters complicate when he finds out that Sardar has been banned entry into the country for assaulting a Pakistani official, Saqlain Niazi (Kumud Mishra) during a cricket match in India years ago. However, determined to complete a task for once in his life, Amreek heads to Lahore, and decides to do what many deem impossible i.e. bring the house to Sardar from Pakistan.
Part fish-out-of-water story, part family-drama, and part-romance, the film juggles multiple stories that all seem to come back to the matriarch at the heart of it all. Alternating between the drama, emotions and humor, without a doubt, the film could have benefited from a sharper editing of at least 20 to 25 minutes. Nevertheless, for a debut feature, director Kaashvie Nair shows enough confidence as she creates a robust world of a Punjabi family, and sells an insane idea as probable.
With dialogues that references to films like Mr. India (1987) and Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001) the film makes us chuckle throughout and while giving heart to the people who suffered during the partition. Only if writer Kaashvie Nair along with Anuja Chauhan could have worked better on their loose execution.
Transporting an old house from one country to another has numerous challenges, but here the film wants to skip all that in favor of focused on Amreek’s fish-out-of-water adventures in Lahore and Sardar’s antics back home.
Despite introducing an innovative concept, the film refuses to focus on the makings, instead switching between the Grandma- Grandson camaraderie, and its concerted effort to show that the Pakistani common folk are noble, with some weeping news reporters placed in the story to make us believe that Amreek has got all the required support. While the actual relocation of Sardar’s former two-storey home, which should have been the highlight, is hurriedly depicted with the aid of basic visual effects.
The house looked artificial, but in certain sequences, you will feel like appreciating the production design and visual effects folks for making it feel authentic. The vagueness in the way they have planted an antagonist in the story is also quite lazy. When you consider ideas like this that are too difficult to convince, the foundation has to be solid.
Nevertheless, like I mentioned above, what works in the film’s favor is that it is oriented for family viewing. Filled with enough moments to connect with an entire family.
Performance wise, compared to his last few releases, Arjun Kapoor is in better form. Given enough leverage to be himself than a character he is supposed to engulf, Arjun seems to be making an honest effort for a change. Though she is hardly there in the first half, the drop dead gorgeous Rakul Preet Singh is quite good as the supportive girlfriend.
However, the film belongs to adorable Sardar played by Neena Gupta. Though her prosthetics aren’t always totally convincing, she is the heart of film nonetheless, bringing a mischievous sense of humor and a twinkle in her eye to each of her scenes. Rather than playing her role as a tired grandparent, she’s got a fire in her, cracking herself up with her antics and refusing to let anyone stand in the way of what she wants.
In supporting roles, Kumud Mishra, Soni Razdan, and Kanwaljit Singh are also effective, while in smaller roles, Aditi Rao Hydari shines like always expanding her range, and John Abraham leaves a lasting impression. On the whole, ‘Sardar Ka Grandson’ is a passable family entertainer shortchanged by its loose writing.
Directed – Kaashvi Nair
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 139 minutes