4 May 2018

102 Not Out: Flawed But Watchable Slice of Life Story

Dattatraya Vakharia (Amitabh Bachchan) is a perky, full-of-life 102-year-old who returns home one day with a declaration. He wants to break the current record (of a late 118-year-old Chinese man) for the oldest person in the world. To achieve this, Dattatraya wants his grim, sullen 75-year-old son Babulal (Rishi Kapoor) to either agree to do some assigned tasks or move to an old age home.

With the part-time (dumb, charming) servant Dhiru (Jimit Trivedi) as a witness, a comical tug-of-war begins between Santa Claus like father and a hard-boiled Humpty Dumpty son.

Sensitive Bright Story, Stuck in Stage Mode
102 Not Out begins with a heavy redundant narration. The scene transitions are terrible, the editing uneven. Adapted from a Saumya Joshi play, director Umesh Shukla retains the stagy, play-like effect. The stunted treatment limits the film's scale and impact.

There is no trace of cinema, this might well be a TV movie. Technical expertise is woefully absent, but for an impressive rain recreation bit. The songs are breezy, but not used effectively with the visuals.

No additional characters add to the crackling celebration 102 Not Out could have been. The screenplay doesn't go adventurous, despite the immense scope. There is no attempt at subtlety, but for a gramophone bit and charming old Hindi film songs (despite product placements). No atmosphere either, Mumbai hardly connects as a city. They could have shot this in an auditorium, for all you know.

Rishi Kapoor Stands Out
The performances, core story and life lessons make this movie watchable. You have seen the same elements better played out in Anand (1971) and Munnabhai M.B.B.S (2003), and to some escapist, contrived extent in Baghban (2003).

There are just three main players here, and mercifully the Bachchan, Kapoor, and Trivedi interplay is lively. Bachchan's legendary expressions are limited by the prosthetics, the dialogue delivery comes off as one-note. His Dattatraya is too unreal and energetic for an ailing 102-year-old.

It is Rishi Kapoor's grim-faced, bursting angst that registers. Kapoor is at the top of his game, with great uncanny chemistry with Bachchan. His entire range of expressions and the change he experiences are all endearing and close to the bone. A spontaneous burst of a performance, 102 Not Out is among Kapoor's best work.

Jimit Trivedi is a pleasant surprise as the innocent servant. Trivedi holds his own with two great actors. He deserves more roles.

Great Potential, Partly Impressive   
102 Not Out is consistently watchable for sticking to a straight line and keeping us engaged. There are many heart-rending moments. The issues raised are still as relevant, though depth is not the film's strength.

The humor is bright and the key moment is nicely written, at least on paper. We hardly get movies totally centered on the elderly. On that note, 102 Not Out does hold out as a rare event in Hindi cinema.

What 102 Not Out needed was a lot more madness, tightness in execution, sensitive, artful cinematography, and more layers to Amitabh's underwritten character.

Smile Please!
I left the theatre satisfied, largely due to the cast, the naive simplicity, the 107-minute running time and an astounding Rishi Kapoor, whose face exhibits the disappointments of old age, tenderness, agony, anger, catharsis, coercion, and child-like joy.

Go watch 102 Not Out for an acting masterclass from Kapoor, among other smile-inducing reasons.

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