Oh, but this should have been brilliant.
What is the horror of the old? It is our degradation, physical and social. And how can that play out in a big family? In our loss of power and respect. We go from leading our families, sharing the assets, and guiding the morals and behaviour of those around us to… nothing. The trailer for this film looked promising: a story of exactly those years, highlighting the hypocrisy of family who make us invisible. But what if we know a celebrity? What if one is an old school friend? And what if that celebrity is Amitabh Bachchan – and you are fictional Chandrakant Deshpande? Hmmm… AB Aani CD (2020)
Old Jack here was expecting proper catharsis – and a film to annoy my children. Vikram Gokhale plays grandpa, the nominal CD. His wife of sweet memory has died and he lives in a home powered by his adult sons, and controlled by his daughters-in-law. And life is a not-so-slow trip to irrelevance. “We should throw away all the old things,” mutter the women… CD visits his friends, all old and bickering with cognitive dissonance, while his family take down his pictures, stripping the home of him and his wife’s time. He is forgotten at family events. And his anger is dismissed.
Recognise this, fellow oldsters? It starts the moment a grandchild is born. The young recognise the strain of parenting – and mark their own importance above the redundant old folk. As CD looks back on memories of his wife, who does some quality park-bench singing, he sinks…and hits a low point when challenged in the park. He doesn’t help himself by having a go at the young for their habits and mores, but – gah! – to have an adult grandson come to your rescue, certainly a sweet thing, is humiliation on humiliation.
If the film had developed this theme, and allowed the terrific Gokhale to push through his sadness and shaming into a future he’d made, then it could have been a cracking success. Much like a life so led. You know, own the family again with wit and wisdom before the nurses come for you…
The plot contrivance of the trailers is honoured in the film to huge detriment. For CD receives a letter from AB (Amitabh Bachchan), is said to have been at school with The Big B, and the film hangs on the two meeting, remembering one an other, and moralising at a weird event. Much of the last third walks the plank of CD gaining credit and obsequiousness from his family – now persuaded by the efforts of his grandson to grant him a very modern, very empty fame. But the point is lost.
Akshay Tanksale is the grandson, Sunny, and does a nice job of making the young man’s sympathy tolerable, if not entirely unannoying. Gokhale pulls more at your soul with a look than all the flashbacks to his wife (Neelima Kulkarni). And Bachchan does ‘celebrity arrival’ with casual excellence. But – ohhhh…
AB Aani CD should have dug deeper, stayed with its core theme, its hero and his grandson. There was story in there which old Jack needed to see. I could feel the TV room leaning forward as the daughters-in-law drew blood. This was our lived experience.
But no. The film went from bittersweet light comedy to self-indulgence. The presence of AB as himself and part of the title…it was like watching a film eat itself.
Yo – Bollywood! Make it again. We’ll still be in our bathchairs and on our anti-bed-sore mattresses… waiting for our story.