Director: Umesh Shukla
Cast: Rishi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan, Jimit Trivedi
102 Not Out is a testament to the talent of Rishi Kapoor. To paraphrase a line that Shakespeare wrote about Cleopatra – age cannot wither him nor custom stale his infinite variety. Here he plays Babu, a cantankerous 75-year-old who wants to be left alone in peace so he can die with a scowl on his face. Or as his father, the 102 year-old Dattu describes him – a thakela, pakela, boring insaan. Woh aadmi jo zindagi se bhi darta hai aur maut se bhi. The film, based on a stage play by Saumya Joshi, is about the awakening of Babu – to both life and death.
Rishi Kapoor plays this frankly forgettable character with unforgettable finesse. His anxiety about his health – yes, among other things Babu is also a hypochondriac – is the stuff of comedy but his grief is also sharp. When he finally expresses anger, you instinctively want to applaud. And it’s a joy to see Rishi Kapoor lock horns with another actor who age can’t seem to wither – Amitabh Bachchan. His character is the outsized life-force who must teach his son how to seize the day.
But I think Mr. B got the short end of the stick. He has been saddled with prosthetics that are so clumsy and distracting that it’s hard to focus on his performance. His character is pitched at a broad, one-note. In some scenes, his eyes convey his anguish but in others, Dattu comes off as the louder, less interesting sibling of Bhaskar da from Piku.
This is a fantasy version of old age – bright and almost always sunny
There’s also Jimit Trivedi playing the third spoke in this wheel. He is Dhiru, the simpleton who works at the neighborhood chemist shop and befriends the fighting father and son. Jimit’s perplexed expressions add humor to every scene he’s in.
These three help you to overlook the many soft spots in the film. Saumya adapts his play for the screen but the telling remains stagey. Most of the action takes place on one location – the sprawling home where father and son live. The first half especially is stilted and tedious. Director Umesh Shukla isn’t able to make the narrative sufficiently cinematic. The treatment is simplistic and sanitized. This is a fantasy version of old age – bright and almost always sunny. Even grief is rendered in candy colors.
And yet, a part of me was grateful that a film about two ordinary, old men exists. Cinema, the world over, is obsessed with youth and beauty. We don’t see wrinkles and failing bodies often enough. It’s almost as if filmmakers have made a pact to pretend that we aren’t all heading to this stage. It’s refreshing to note that one of the brand partners here is an adult diaper brand. What’s less pleasing is that this is an entirely male universe. Female characters are mentioned but we don’t see them. We see a maid but she doesn’t have a single dialogue.
102 Not Out is uneven but heartfelt. Despite the flaws, the emotions connect. And if like me, you are of a certain vintage, you will get a nostalgic head-rush when you see Rishi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan in the same frame.