Film Review: Amitabh and Rishi are rock-and-roll in 102 Not Out

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With: Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Jimit Trivedi
Written by: Saumya Joshi
Directed by: Umesh Shukla
Rating: Four Moons

If you want to know what a “slice-of-life’ film is, see Umesh Shukla’s 102 Not Out. It’s got the best and worst of life conveniently sliced and packaged in 102 minutes of viewing pleasure. Sometimes provoking, other times insightful, but always emotionally stirring and realistic.

Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor, back together on screen after 27 years, provide the highs and lows, laughs, and life’s hurtful lessons in this middle-class Gujju family drama of Dattatraya Vakharia (who is 102) and his son Babulal (75) who are independently struggling with age, illnesses, attitude, social adjustments and awkward father-son bonding.

RECOMMENDED READ: RISHI TURNS SINGER, AMITABH, COMPOSER IN 102 NOT OUT

They stay in Vile Parle east, a predominantly Gujju locality in Mumbai, in an old rambling bungalow that looks much like the grim fortress Ram Gopal Varma had in his Sarkar series. But whereas the Sarkar stronghold was dark, criminal and forbidding, the Vakharia bungalow in 102 Not Out is sunny and cheerful and full of the good things in life. Birds twitter in the flowering garden, fairy lights twinkle on the trees at night, eclectic music plays indoors, and a telescope on the roof takes Dattatraya and Babulal into other more promising worlds.

The father and son are trying to do their own thing. Which is accept old age. Dattatraya, a rambunctious saxophone-playing, football-kicking, 102-year-old centenarian with flowing white hair and beard is trying to outlive Ong Chong Tun Peng who at 118 years, 3 months and 28 days was the oldest living man on earth. There is a grinning cardboard cutout of the Chinese at home with which Dattatraya waltzes when Babulal proves to be a boring, unenthusiastic, 75-year-old chubby and balding man not given to dancing in his pjs and jiving in the rain.

Dattatraya wants to live another 16 years and beat OCTP’s record. But he’s convinced he won’t get there because he’s weighed down by the melancholic, brooding presence of Babulal at home. He decides to pack off his septuagenarian son to an old age home. To avoid this “fatalistic” eventuality, Babulal – who is a creature of habits and suffers from hypochondria and OCD – must accept the many bizarre challenges Dattatraya sets him to do.

Umesh Shukla, who bankrolled the hugely funny OMG – Oh My God! in 2012, has done a delightful job with 102 Not Out. The director, who wanted to work with Amitabh and Rishi after seeing them as an eight-year-old boy in Amar Akbar Anthony at the Royal Opera House in 1978, has coaxed the iconic actors to step out of their comfort zones and get into characters that are cavorting and devil-may-care and grouchy and irascible respectively. Their scenes together are magic.
Adding to the director’s wizardry and spellwork is Gujarati theatre, TV and film personality Jimit Trivedi. He plays the dim-witted, friendly neighbourhood delivery boy Dhiru who referees the many showdowns between father and son.

There is a peppy soundtrack in the film by Salim-Sulaiman and songs that don’t cause the tempo to take a break, they are unobtrusive and part of what’s going on. The cinematography is intimately comforting. The sights and sounds are Mumbai, the entire film has been shot in the city, in the sunny and buzzing outdoors, with the rain sometimes providing a depressing backdrop to the heart-wrenching scenes between father and son indoors during the second half, it’s all very familiar – except the towering church, that’s certainly not from Mumbai. Umesh Shukla adapted 102 Not Out from Saumya Joshi’s super-hit Gujarati play by the same name. There’s so much a film can do to a story on screen. Wonder how Saumya Joshi managed to play it out on stage.

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