Mumbai, 04 May 2018 15:25 IST
When the plot of this Umesh Shukla directoral begins to wear out, it is the brilliance of Bachchan and Kapoor that makes it worth a watch.
Senior citizens are under-represented in Hindi cinema, and only once in a while you get to see ageing characters being put in the forefront of a story that depicts their lives and struggles.
Umesh Shukla's 102 Not Out is one such. The story follows the life of a 102-year-old free-spirited and childlike Dattatray Vakharia (Amitabh Bachchan), who is unbelievably fit for his age, and his 75-year-old son Babulal Vakharia (Rishi Kapoor).
Dattatray wants to live for at least 16 more years and break the world record of a Chinese man so he can become the longest living man alive. But he needs to surround himself with happy, positive people, which means he will have to pack his grouchy son off to an old age home. "I'm strictly opposed to dying," he says at one point, even as he guards an important secret.
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 Bachchan's character puts it — 'Jab tak zinda hain tab tak marna nahi hai (live before you die), and the film is simple too.
In contrast to a cheery Dattaray, Babulal seems to be going through the motions of old age — a hypochondriac who visits the doctor every day and bathes exactly for 14 minutes because he fears he'll catch a cold if he crosses the 15-minute mark.
Dattaray gives his son one last chance to continue staying in their family home — take on the challenges thrown at him by his father over the next six months. 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. Their good natured neighbourhood medical store assistant Dheeru (Jimit Trivedi) is appointed as a witness to all the tasks.
Bachchan's character is unbelievably fit for his age with his physical and mental faculties all performing fantastically — his long hair tied in a pony tail, most of his teeth intact, he can shake a leg and blow the trumpet too! Bachchan is at his entertaining best, but he tries too hard to play the enthusiastic and excitable man on many occasions, often going overboard. Also, Dattaray comes across as an unreasonable and over-bearing father.
Kapoor's character has a lovely graph as he goes from being a grumpy man counting down his days to regaining his zest for life. Kapoor portrays his character's ill-natured personality and complexities of his relationship with his father and his own son with nuance.
Bachchan and Kapoor together are a riot though, especially in the first half. In one of the laugh-out-loud scenes Daddy Dattaray reads out a love letter written by Babulal to his dead wife — as part of the challenge — which starts off with pure Hindi words and ends with verbal abuse.
Another beautiful moment involves Bachchan's character lip synching to the song 'Zindagi Mere Ghar Aana' from the film Dooriyaan (1979) as Kapoor smiles on, evoking nostalgia of the times when the two worked together as young men. Other old songs like 'Hum The Woh Thi Aur Sama Rangeen' from Chalti Ka Naam Gaadi (1958), 'Waqt Ne Kiya Kya Haseen Sitam' from Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) and 'Main Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhata Chala Gaya from Hum Dono (1961) also appear at various points.
The film is based on Soumya Joshi's Gujarati play by the same name and several portions of this cinematic adaptation continue to have a stage feel.
What 102 Not Out should have avoided in its film adaptation is paint Babulal's son as a selfish emotionless villain and in doing so pit the young against the old.
Despite getting soppy towards the end, 102 Not Out has its funny, emotional and uplifting moments. And the credit for it goes to the brilliance of the two veteran actors who carry the plot, that slowly begins to wear out, on their experienced and able shoulders.
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