Review: 102 Not Out Attempts to Change the Conversation Around Ageing in India

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Worth spending your money on ticket, popcorn and coffee to watch 102 Not Out? Hamida Parkar of cinemaspotter.com gives you the complete lowdown on this movie now playing in theatres.

At long last, a pair of old men headline the cast of a mainstream Bollywood entertainer. The two share the driving seat in an emotional movie ride. Statistics tell us that women outlive men. But what happens when their partners depart earlier and the men are left alone in the empty nest?  With 102 Not Out, director Umesh Shukla makes a gentle but entertaining attempt to find out.

Shukla seems to have a preference for picking socially relevant subjects for his films – his earlier cinematic forays include the religious satire Oh My God! and the family comedy All Is Well. With 102 Not Out, an adaptation of Saumya Joshi’s play for the big screen, he attempts to change the conversation surrounding elders in Indian society.

He starts out by creating the character of 75-year-old Babulal Vakharia (Rishi Kapoor), a crabby old man quite the opposite of Rishi’s colourful 90-year-old daada in Kapoor & Sons (2016). Babu leads a routine and predictable life, which is anything but fun. He is introduced to us in a shower – water washing over his head as he stands listless and weary.  We soon learn that he must finish in 14 minutes, in case he gets a cold if he goes over the mark of 15. He has set three reminders to switch off the geyser, visit the doctor at the same time every day, use the same blanket he has slept with for years… and so the list goes on.

It is obvious that he has given up on life and expects no surprises, like many other septuagenarians in real life do as well. As lonely parents, they are left to pick up the remnants of their children’s childhoods and sacrifice their old age support to flights of success. Life becomes about surviving rather than living. In this day and age, however, is it time for that conversation to change? Perhaps parents must learn to still find some meaning in a fragmented world when their children chase ambition and money? Perhaps children must strive to stay connected with their folks even if they live on different continents?

Back to sad man Babu then, who lives with his sprightly 102-year-old father, Dattatraya Vakharia (Amitabh Bachchan) in their family home. Much to Babu’s annoyance, his father loves life more than him. After being at loggerheads, they have managed to establish separate lives in the same house.

Babu’s anxiety amplifies when Datta wants to shake things up, including his regimen, and threatens to send him to an old age home unless he mends his ways. Datta’s threats in the form of conditions force a reluctant Babu out of his comfort zone. Witness, assistant, and in-charge of the project is Dhiru (Jimit Trivedi), a kindly young man who delivers them their medicines and some daily amusement.

The idea is for Babu to get in touch with his emotions so that he can learn to deal with them. The parts where Babu tackles his challenges after Datta’s prodding are executed wonderfully. I wish some of these parts were explored in more depth as well as length. Some of them are extremely fleeting. Others are a tad predictable, especially when Datta delves into the past narrative.

There is enough substance to keep you hooked. Some of the later scenes are done well, especially the Waqt Ne Kiya sequence. Amitabh and Rishi make a good father and son duo and it is lovely to watch them recreate their Chal Chal Mere Bhai magic. Datta is an entertaining character who has made it to 102 in good shape and only wants his son to take care of himself in body and spirit. Watching him laugh and care as he slowly brings his son out of his dark space, is endearing. A celebratory dance and song between the pair is in order, and it’s heartening to watch them find their spark again. Love is about who is in your life to share your steps, and not about who isn’t.

Amitabh Bachchan gives a delicious performance as Datta, with no trace of his angry man voice in this outing. In its place is a softness and sweetness, almost reminiscent of his character Sukumar Sinha in Chupke Chupke. He gracefully supports Rishi, stepping back from the limelight.

As for Rishi, he has always been a cut above the rest when it comes to his acting craft. Babu is even more adorable with him at the helm and Rishi plays him with the quietest of dignity, humour and grace. He steals most scenes with his effortless act. More of him in such roles please.

Like a good film does, 102 Not Out makes you think but doesn’t necessarily have the answers to the pertinent questions it raises. It tries to dig a little deep but stays mostly on the surface. A neatly wrapped and spirited entertainer, the film leaves one with both hope and smiles.

 

About Author

Hamida Parkar

Hamida Parkar is a freelance journalist and founder-editor of www.cinemaspotter.com. She writes on cinema, culture, women, and social equity.