In Badhaai Ho, what starts with a conventional middle-class, North-Indian family set up turns into a heartfelt comedy. The news of the arrival of a newborn in the Kaushik family, to the middle-aged parents of a 25-year old Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana), sets in motion a string of colourful characters, laughs, emotion and drama. The film’s writers, Akshat Ghildhial and Shantanu Srivastava, explain how the script unfolded in the writer’s room. Excerpts from the interview:
How was the initial idea for the film conceived?
Akshat Ghildial: The inspiration for this idea came from my personal life. My aunt was born when my mom was 18. This idea was always in the back of my head. Shantanu and I had discussed it a couple of times over. Once I moved to Mumbai from Delhi, we decided that this has the potential to be a feature film. Shantanu had worked with Amit on Tevar. So, the first person we went to was Amit (Sharma-director). He liked it and said that we should start developing it and we took it from there.
Did you have a specific message that you wanted to get across when you began writing?
AG: There was no message as such. But the theme of the film is that sex between the elderly is also okay. The idea was to show the embarrassment that arises out of a situation like this and the focus was on how the people would react to it, within the family and outside the family. We wanted to write something that was entertaining and engaging yet had something to offer.
Shantanu Shrivastava: One of the things that we focussed on was looking at the story as a coming-of-age for the entire family. To show how the family rallies around after the initial embarrassment and later comes to terms with it.
Speaking of embarrassment, Nakul and Dadi’s characters go through a major transformation. Their acceptance comes through being in similar situations.
AG: As Shantanu said, it was also a coming of age for the entire family and nothing unites a family like an outsider bitching about one of the members. That holds true for both Nakul and Dadi (Surekha Sikri) when they defend Priyamvada (Neena Gupta). The characters in the family are mirror images of each other. They just function differently because of the generational gap but their notions and values remain the same.
Tell us about weaving humour into the situations
AG: It’s pretty much a situational comedy. You observe these characters and their traits. You realize that there are certain things that you can use to evoke a little bit of humour without trying too hard for it. For instance, when the couple has to break the news to Dadi, it seems natural that an old lady must have a hearing aid and she removes it when she goes to bed. Can we mine that situation a little bit to get a few laughs and bring down the tension? But we don’t try too hard to insert things into the screenplay or the story to get extra laughs. The awkwardness of the situation makes a lot of lines work for themselves.
SS: At no stage did we think that ‘beta selfie le le’ in the end will get laughs from people. I think by that time the audience also shares a connection with the family. It’s a very simple line coming from someone from that background. But that was never meant to be a joke.
There seems to be a significance behind the scene of the gay man dancing at the wedding. What did you have in mind?
AG: In many places, we have tried to draw parallels. The Kaushik’s and the gay man are both under society’s scrutiny at the wedding. I think that bit is beautifully performed by Neena ji. The expression that she has on her face when she looks at him (Gajraj Rao) says “Samjha lo ise.. Samjha sakoge?”. She is accepting the fact that this kid is not heterosexual and the pressure on him to act like one is unreal, just the way their kids expect them to be parents but not sexual beings.
How important was it to give the film a happy ending? Did you ever have an alternative ending in mind?
SS: An alternative ending was never on the cards, we never discussed another option. With the arrival of a newborn in the family, everything is bound to turn out fine, irrespective of how old the parents are or at what stage in life Nakul is. There is a new member in the family who needs to be taken care of. That’s what families are for.
What’s next for you?
SS: There is something that we are writing together for Junglee again. It doesn’t have a name yet. But it’s completely opposite to Badhaai Ho. It’s a crime-thriller.