Sunday, March 20, 2016

Kapoor and Sons (Since 1921) -- a tale of bruised minds, hurt hearts

The dark humour and the mordant tones point to trouble lurking beneath the surface. The old man (an effect of laboured and sophisticated make-up)played well by Rishi Kapoor and his macabre antics and the unnaturally normal reaction of the daughter-in-law played superbly by Ratna Pathak Shah leave enough room to indicate at the very beginning that it is going to be a witty ride replete with acerbic dialogue. All the laughter in the movie, especially that of the lonely girl played by Alia Bhatt, has a lot of nervous energy, making it clear that it is not happiness but a mere mask for unhappiness. As the story moves along, the family tensions and quarrels break out to break the brittle normalcy of the family in the scenic hill-station. Rishi Kapoor almost seems to play a one-man Greek chorus to this tragedy-on-the-brink, which settles down to a quiet sadness at the end.
It should remind in a way the relentlessly fatal self-destructive strife in a a family of Eugene O'neill's play which was made into a film, "Long Day's Journey Into Night". But it would be unfair to criticise Batra for failing to infuse "Kapoor and Sons (Since 1921)" with the poetry of "Long Day's Journey Into The Night". But there are enough moments of truth in the lives of the characters in the movie. The unfaithfulness of the character played by Rajat Kapoor echoes that of a similar situation in Arthur Miller's "Death Of A Salesman". Of course there is some sort of a resolution to the mental suffering of each of the characters at the end of it all. We have seen this motif of happiness being a thin veil of unhappiness in Federico Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" as well.
What leaves the viewer is puzzled and dissatisfied is the feeble attempt on the part of the director to allow the troubled family a bit of happiness, as though seeming to argue that after all the trauma they deserve a moment of peace and a hint of happiness.
This is a theme if handled well enough should have made the film a minor classic. The reason that "Kapoor and Sons (Since 1921)" misses it tryst with greatness is because of the director's attempt to maintain forced humour and joy as a counter-point to the agony of the family members. The boisterousness strikes a discordant note. It does not go with the semi-tragic theme of guilt and unhappiness. Batra is a young director, and he cannot be faulted for faltering in handling the Dostoevskian story-line, where there is little hope of Tolstoyan redemption at the end of of it all. The family portrait at the end is much too out of place.

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