Believe me when I say this, I had not gone to this movie to nitpick. No! I was expecting a nice little film, if not anything path breaking.
I remember reading R.Balki's interview, where he had mentioned this. He had been to Amitabh's office one day and there he saw Abhishek getting all wise and parent-ish while Amitabh was very child like. This made him think how would it be if Abhishek plays Amitabh's dad. This is where my friends, like it happens not too rarely, an interesting one line idea fails to shape into a full length feature film. If role reversal was the only thing, a decade back Balki could have casted Dimple as Twinkle's daughter or Esha Deol as Hemamalini's mom.
*** SPOILERS ALERT ***
Any film that has Jaya Bachchan acting all Guddi-ish, reading credits with fake sweetness is a huge turn off. But I told myself not to get too influenced by this little gimmick. The next scene where the MP Amol (Abhishek) arrives at a school to judge the Vision of India contest and delivers a rather nice speech to the kids and declares that the kid who designed the blank globe is the winner. Fine till here. Slowly, and surely, we are shown Auro (Amitabh, in an elaborate prosthetic extravaganza) coming to collect the prize. When a subdued background score or even silence would have been the ideal decision, all the kids start chanting "Auro Auro Auro" (Had his name been Rahul, I would have assumed I was in some SRK movie!)
Next we are shown Auro's house, where he lives with his single mother (Vidya Balan) and grandma (Arundhati Nag) This is perhaps the phase where I was almost jumping with joy, because truly when was the last time you had seen a typical middle class home in a mainstream Bollywood film? And a mainstream heroine wearing "nightie" to sleep?
And then the downward spiral starts. Vidya sees Amol giving the prize to Auro on TV and she goes into a flashback mode. Within one breezy song, Vidya (a medical student then) and Amol (an aspiring politician) bump into each other, exchange names, and as Woody Allen might have put it, body fluids as well. After the song, Vidya realizes that she is pregnant and Amol refuses to take any responsibility. Vidya moves out of his life and raises the kid all by herself.
After this starts a very predictable ride where Auro and Amol's paths cross and they develop a bonding. Auro's health fails, which leads to a rather elaborate and cliched climax.
Instead of going scene by scene, I will just tell what worked for me and what did not.
- Arundhati Nag. What an actress, really! Her styling, accent, expressions - flawless. (See the scene where she comes to hospital with a blue plastic basket - priceless!)
- Vidya Balan is good in a well written role and her scenes with Arundhati Nag are perhaps the best in the movie. They might have actually called the film "Maa", but hey who are the producers anyway?
- Paresh Rawal is entertaining after a long time. The scene where he asks Abhishek "Are you gay?", nobody could have bettered that scene.
- Ilayaraja's music has a refreshing sound to it, very enjoyable.
What did not work:
- Abhishek Bachchan. What in Muruga's name was that? Just styling in whites, a la Murli Deora and Sachin Pilot, is not the be all and end all of a performance. And why oh why is that funny accent. I am sure Katrina Kaif has a serious challenger. See him pronounce "Avo" (for Auro) and "Khoo" (for cool)
- The writing is also the culprit when it comes to Amol's character. A caricature of an ideal politician, even a fifth grader would find immature, who swings between two mental states - "Shit, this is the problem with this country" and "I am going to remove all the evils from this country". Just to give an example of bad writing, when Amol discovers that Auro is seriously ill, he comes to the hospital, sees Vidya there, realizes that Auro is actually his son. And if the news got out, media would finish his career and he would not be able to solve all the social evils in the country. Imagine the enormity of the situation and the mental turmoil a person would be going through. Right after this, he meets Paresh Rawal and lamely delivers the line in a very happy tone "I have a son" - his expression as if Priyanka Chopra has promised him to be her flat mate without even having to pay the rent.
- Why the hell does Abhishek speak so much English, that too for someone who is a politician? Even Sonia Gandhi has learnt Hindi.
- Auro's character, I would say is mediocre in terms of writing. We are not shown the anguish that a differently looking kid faces in school (but everyone chants "Auro Auro Auro" here), or the kid of a single parent facing the identity crisis, what he feels to know that he is gonna die. All we are shown is a kid who is almost Buddha-like, very cool, unperturbed. And to make it sound cute, he is made to talk lot of English, like telling "Round round round" for "Saath Phere".
- A kid on deathbed trying to hook up an estranged couple is way way too cheesy for me. Does not work. At all. I expected the film to get me moist eyed towards the end, but there I was sitting totally disconnected - which I would call the biggest failure of the film. (I am not the "never moved" person. For example Munnabhai apologizing to Circuit in Lage Raho Munnabhai still brings a lump to my throat)
- Is it a huge effort to sit for 4 hours for your prosthetic make up? Yes. Is Amitabh almost unrecognizable? Yes. His baritone voice never comes in? Yes. Does it mean it automatically qualifies for great acting? Nope, not really. Everyone is hailing Amitabh as if this is his best performance. I would not count this even in his top 10 performances. In an urge to praise the effort, everyone is overlooking the outcome, which is nothing great as such.
In fact, progeria is not at all a major element in this story. This would have worked better with an actual 12 year old kid with some fatal disease and what the dying kid, the single mother and the estranged-now-returned father would go through. It would have made a compelling drama. But then, we do not have a great reputation in making movie with kids, do we?