Director: Umesh Shukla
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Jimit Trivedi
In Umesh Shukla’s 102 Not Out, Amitabh Bachchan plays 102-year-old Dattatraya Vakharia: a man who wishes to live as long as possible and has the zeal of a 12-year-old. His energy is infectious and so is his laughter. He is a father to a 75-year-old Babulal Vakharia, played by Rishi Kapoor. Babulal, unlike his father, is grumpy, more practical and as Dattatraya puts it, is “pakela, thakela, boring.” Despite the debatable acceptance of his “budhapa”, he is as cute as a teddy and makes you feel for him and with him.
The story unfolds within the four walls of Shanti Niwas, but amicably establishes Mumbai as a character as it goes along the way. As an attempt to beat the record of the longest living Chinese man, Dattatraya makes a decision to send his son to an old-age home to keep at bay the potential life-destructing vibes. Oh, the irony! Unhappy with the decision, Babulal argues and finally agrees to an agreement of sorts, wherein Babulal will have to fulfill a few stipulations - one at a time - that will allow him to remain in his home. Helping Dattatraya in this agreement is Dheeru (Jimit Trivedi), who works at a nearby general store but considers Dattatraya’s words as his ultimate Vitamin D. The mission is two-fold, actually three, but saying anything more about it is like giving out spoilers.
It is refreshing and extremely pleasing to see Indian cinema stalwarts Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor experiment with their characters even at a time when complacency is one of the easiest things that could have overcome them. Wine only gets better with age and their performance, rather their partnership, is testimony to that. Their shared camaraderie is as warm as the said concept of a 102-year-old father and his 75-year-old son, based on a Gujarati play of the same name. To know when to hold back and when to give in is something that drives this film forward. Like in one of the scenes, Dattatraya forces Babu to dance with him to an old classic and as he reluctantly agrees, you get the vibe that, somewhere, he wants to do it, but is also apprehensive. And to convey an emotion like that is a feat in itself.
The film also gains from Laxman Utekar’s cinematography. Despite casting two of commercial cinema’s forever-favorite front-runners, the cinematography and Umesh Shukla’s direction render a certain art-house vibe to it.
The film, however, falls down on more than one aspect. One, the Gujarati accent. Except for a few moments where the dialect seems effortless, most of it is slight unimpressive.
Second, it is pretty much a one-dimensional take on family relationships and after a certain point, it feels like it’s a modern take on popular family drama Baghban. Owing to the fact that it’s simplified and over-simplified at times, the film also begins to sound a tad bit preachy towards the end. But then again, because it’s a one-sided take on family and bonding, the other side might be another story altogether. This part was taken care of in Shukla’s previous directorial OMG - Oh My God! wherein the filmmaker gave enough time and weight to both sides of the story. Here, it seems he just tossed the coin and wanted a certain side to come up regardless.
Third, while a part of the unusual take on father-son bonding is fresh, a part of it is all too known and the latter part really sets the film on a downward trajectory and sets the over-dramatic ball rolling. So while Big B and Kapoor push the envelope, the film doesn’t.
But despite its shortcomings, 102 Not Out is a simple sweet watch and offers many little moments. And it is moments like these that warm your heart. It’s the kind of film your parents and grandparents would relish on a Sunday afternoon with each thing simplified at its best. The simplification, however, is subject to personal beliefs and experiences.