When Kapoor & Sons released to rave reviews in 2016, it was praised widely for its depiction of dysfunctional families. It also demonstrated how the facades and strong exteriors we painstakingly engineer are almost always different from what lies at our core. While the film boasts of a stellar primary and supporting cast, what has stayed with me over the years is Fawad Khan's visceral, moving portrayal of Rahul Kapoor. He is a closeted man languishing under the weight of perfection. His mother, Sunita (Ratna Pathak Shah), calls him "Mera perfect beta," and that's who he truly is for most of the film. Always his parents' first thought, the apple of their eyes, and the pride of the family. As a successful novelist settled in London, Rahul has reached the pinnacle of middle-class aspiration. His finances are sorted, he is level-headed, mature, and bankable, so when his grandfather (Rishi Kapoor) suffers a heart attack, the first call goes to him, not to his younger brother Arjun (Sidharth Malhotra), who is almost always an afterthought.
Rahul's parents are responsible for unknowingly creating a rift between the two brothers; the tension that simmers on the surface but is concealed under cordial smiles metamorphoses into a full-blown volcanic eruption in the climax. When they meet at the airport after a long time, Arjun is unsure if he should hug his elder brother or a simple perfunctory handshake would do. Such incidents understandably push Rahul away, further thrusting him into a feeling of seclusion even though it appears like he is living the dream. The act of coming back home, thus, is not simply a way to meet his ailing grandfather but also to stitch broken relationships that seem to have been irreparably ripped apart over time.
As we learn with each passing scene, Rahul has constantly been reeling under the pressure of perfection, and failing was not exactly an option, ever. Arjun does not verbalise his tight financial situation, but being the responsible man that Rahul is, he senses the unspeakable and offers Arjun money for the flight. Thus, from the very beginning, Rahul has an innate urge to shoulder responsibility, fix things, and introduce tranquility in situations that look like a hailstorm has just battered them. He is the first to notice that his parents sleep in different rooms, and the plumber must be paid even when the entire house turns into pandemonium. He always thinks about others, shoving his own truth and reality into the bleak background.
Amidst all the chaos and cacophony surrounding Rahul, a storm has been brewing inside him for many, many years. His identity – who he really is and not who he is pretending to be – is something that has been hidden from his family forever, and there is no appropriate moment that can help him get through to his family. Even when he thinks, pauses, and heaves a deep breath before deciding to come out to his brother, it is already too late, and Arjun has already been snatched away by sleep.
Rahul's true feelings remain suffocated and suppressed, as does his sexuality. He keeps up the deception of living with an unnamed British girl who he talks to on video calls, but in a family defined by multilayered lies, the moment of inevitable truth cannot be far behind. In the particularly poignant scene Rahul shares with his mother, he particularly emphasises, "Come and see who I live with, at least," but she turns down the offer saying, "You are my son. I already know all about you." The strain and heartbreak on Rahul's face is vivid; the words ring hollow in his ears.
Fawad gets ample screen space towards the end when his 'reality' comes to the fore. There is the strain of an impending confrontation with his otherwise doting mother, yes, but at the same time, a sense of relief washes over him when he realises he will no longer have to maintain the deception. His other virtues still distinguish and define him, and his sexual orientation cannot lead to a fall from grace.
Homosexuality is a part of his life, but not exactly his entire life, setting him apart from other similar characters in Bollywood films who are prone to be written as wearing an awful shade of pink and talking in an embarrassingly unbelievable tone. Rahul is portrayed differently from all of them. He is real, raw, and unfiltered, and a man who is always all heart, his sexuality notwithstanding.
Much of the character's allure comes from the actor playing him. Fawad Khan has a loyal fanbase swooning over him all the time (guilty and proud), and this absolutely immaculate man is a treat to watch on screen. He plays the role to absolute perfection – from essaying the emotions of vulnerability and emotional breakdown to feelings of being stuck. This author-backed role gives Fawad much to experiment with and go all out as an actor, and he delivers on every single front, making it a pleasure to root for him throughout the film.