Hindi cinema these days is consciously focusing on stories based in the Hindi heartland. The diaspora is no longer the primary target of Hindi filmmakers and as a result, we are witnessing a surge in the number of films that are set in north-central India which enjoys a Hindi-speaking majority. Amit Sharma’s Badhaai Ho is the latest in the series. While the film is set in Delhi, it primarily centres on middle-class characters hailing from the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Like most films of its kind, Badhaai Ho examines the middle-class aspirations and the challenges that come with them.
The premise of Badhaai Ho is pretty straightforward. A grown-up man and his school going brother face embarrassment in society when they discover that their parents are expecting their third child. Despite her fairly advanced age, the mother is against aborting the child and the husband supports her decision. The rest of the film is about various members of the family trying to grapple with the reality in their own ways. We have a grumpy patriarchal grandmother (essayed by veteran thespian Surekha Sikri) who puts the blame on her daughter-in-law’s dark lipstick shades. The elder son blames it on his younger brother for not sleeping in their parents’ room. Everyone else puts the blame on the father’s hyperactive libido.
What works really well for Badhaai Ho are its supporting characters which add colour to the story. Consider an elderly doctor who is more concerned about his reputation than his patient’s health. During a scene wherein a patient complains about stomach pain he keeps rebuking her for her eating habits without ever trying to get into the root cause of the problem. Then we have the old grandmother with a great appetite for mangoes whose razor-sharp tongue doesn’t spare anyone. While the dialogues do pack a punch, it is the film’s nonverbal moments that are most powerful. The expressions and gestures often end up saying so much more than the dialogues.
Badhaai Ho is an engaging film with some great moments of humour. The film succeeds in exposing the hypocrisy of the society that we live in. However, there are far too many slip-ups as far as the accents are concerned. There are instances when the actors completely forget about their accents, occasionally leading to monotonic flat dialogue deliveries. Apart from that, the acting is solid all around. But the real star of the show is Surekha Sikri who is an absolute treat to watch as the feisty grandmother. The clever choice of music and songs add to the film’s appeal. While there are moments whenBadhaai Ho appears a little preachy, the intelligent screenplay doesn’t let it down. The end result is a film that succeeds in living up to its promise.