Fun! The Big B as a 102 year man, happy as can be and full of the joys of life, set on hitting 115 and sorting the misery his 76-year-old son has become. You see this in these corridors all the time. Only, you know, 85 and 55 is the usual gap. A film of two halves, this gives us faintly clunky but star-fuelled laughs for an hour, then cuts a more telling tone as it examines just why Bachchan is acting this way. Underlying it all, of course, is the right of the ancient to challenge the ageing. How else do you get to 102 Not Out?
Amitabh Bachchan is in full-on Piku (2015) mode, albeit stuffed with fun not gripes this time. He lives life. Jumps in cabs and goes where the cabbie leads. Drags around a cardboard figure of the Chinese man who is at 115… Has a multi-coloured fridge stuffed with goodies he looks at but can’t eat. This ringing bells? One cask of tequila and B Wing could erupt into a crowd of boogying Bachchans!
His son is played by Rishi Kapoor, all fat, trapped routine and childhood blanket, a widower and a misery. Delightfully, Bachchan threatens to put him in an old people’s home. Ha. And so begins a set of challenges to escape fate: write a letter to his dead wife, dump the doctor feeding him pills and despair, lose the blanket from his childhood, etc….
The crux of the film is Kapoor’s life of kindness to his ungrateful son. One challenge is to go back to a church where Kapoor and his boy used to say prayers. Which is sad, not least because of the truth of the situation. The boy took the money for his education, fucked off abroad and didn’t even return at the end of his mother’s life. And now – teased by Bachchan – the ungrateful sod is on the way home because he thinks it’s time to inherit the family home.
There’s a hurdle for Kapoor in all this. Not much of one, mind. You never doubt the old man will succumb to the oldest man’s point. But – yikes – it’s a bit brutal when the moment comes. And the relationship between 102 Not Out and 76 And Not Trying isn’t quite the panacea for the fall-out that must be about to occur as the titles roll.
This film is joyous, stuffed with moments of telling comedy, quality performance and a properly refreshing conceit. It doesn’t make as much of it as it could have done. The TV room here was baying for more Bachchan-led fun and a kinder journey for Kapoor. it ends where these films with ancients usually end, but could have stood another third where Kapoor gains proper agency and visits fresh comedy on his alienated son.
But, hey-ho, it wasn’t to be. Beyond the hair, this isn’t a duplicate of Piku (2015), but is certainly another seam to mine in The Big B’s senior roles. Kapoor is a brave man in a vest. There’s a lot of laughs, a few moments of naked rage, and a brightness and charm that make this film – imperfect, certainly – a popular one in these corridors of doom.
Who’d be a decrepit grump when they can be a good-living, loud-laughing old soul still hunting down the curiosities and joys of the world, eh?
Give it a go.
Amazon Prime sorted the subtitles after a month: English is now available.