(NEW YORK – March 20, 2016)  “Kapoor & Sons – Since 1921” starring Sidharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt, Fawad Khan, and Rishi Kapoor, has generated the biggest Bollywood opening weekend of the year in North America grossing an estimated $965,000 over the March 18 – 20 period. The acclaimed Karan Johar production from Fox Star Studios and Dharma Productions beat out the $878,000 debut weekend of Akshay Kumar’s Airlift which previously held the record for 2016.

The Times of India gave “Kapoor & Sons” four stars stating “Wicked, witty and wise, Kapoor & Sons does Karan Johar proud!”  Bollywood Hungama also gave a four-star review remarking “Kapoor & Sons makes for an excellent movie that you must watch with your entire family!”

Filmfare exclaimed “there’s no way on earth you should miss this movie,” while Firstpost said “this endearing flick gives ‘Neerja’ competition for Best Hindi film of 2016.”

Shakun Batra‘s first film was an unusual romance – one in which the boy and girl didn’t end up together. Four years later, Batra is back with “Kapoor and Sons“, a family drama with Sidharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt and Fawad Khan in lead roles.

KAPOOR & SONS SETS 2016 RECORDHandout still from “Kapoor and Sons” Batra spoke to Reuters about the film, the influence of Woody Allen and Wes Anderson on his film-making and why he cast Rishi Kapoor, 63, as a 90-year-old. In a nutshell, some family films are better off as either tele-films or (finite) TV serials. Especially when the writing team and director cannot decide how much to keep real and life-like, and how much to keep overtly melodramatic.

This mix of old-world family drama told in a new-age way with contemporary and young nuances does hit the right chords off and on, but overall, the script changes graph jerkily in the second half just when we feel things are trekking back to course slowly for the harangued characters.

Of course, there is justification shown for things the way they happen, and we liked the way tragedy is graphically shown in a very ‘60s to ‘80s way yet through the cell phone, but overall, the sudden shift from the humor to the serious and even maudlin could have been better written and handled, or changed smoothly like a “Dil Chahta Hai.”

Briefly, the film’s story is about old man Kapoor, Dadaji (Rishi Kapoor), now 90, and in a hospital bed from a heart ailment, who is stubborn, naughty, endearingly child-like and emotionally strong all at the same time. He has two sons, and the second, Harsh (Rajat Kapoor) with whom he lives in Ooty, is the head of a dysfunctional family, complete with wife Sarita (Ratna Pathak Shah), who suspects his affair with ex-colleague Anu (Anuradha Chandan); his two sons Arjun (Sidharth Malhotra) and Rahul (Fawad Khan), both aspiring authors working abroad, with Rahul doing well, and Arjun always considered the un-focused loser; and of course Harsh himself.

The outsider coming into their life is Tia (Alia Bhatt), who has lost her parents in an accident, and is a seemingly happy-go-lucky lass. Both brothers encounter her separately, and Arjun suspects Rahul of also being in love with her like he is.

A welcome home-cum-90th birthday party is held by the family for Dadaji when he returns home from the hospital, but, thanks to the family’s basic temperament, the celebrations go bust. Later, all that the old man wants before he dies is a family photograph with everyone, including the other son and his normal family, who soon visit him. But with each person from Harsh’s family having either a skeleton in their closet or a grudge, will that ever happen?

Though not too long, the film could have still been sharper, more concise and not so retro whenever it decides to suddenly veer towards melodrama, flip-flopping between real and ‘filmi,’ and being unnecessarily dark in its cinematography — Ooty never looked so unappetizing! The music, shoddily used and content-wise not up to the mark, fails to boost the movie. The background score is just about serviceable.

The dialogues do work most of the time. But when financial problems are given so much prominence in the beginning (as one of the root causes of conflict) and then suddenly disappear, and the family seems to be having a luxurious lifestyle, we wonder what the scriptwriter was (not) thinking. Also, Arjun buying property was something vague too, again disposed of at convenience.

Shakun Batra scores far better vis-à-vis his debut film “Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu” and handles the emotions well in most sequences, but, as we said, the totality does not add up. He extracts wonderful performances, in particular from Rishi Kapoor with his spontaneous one-liners, Fawad Khan and Ratna Pathak-Shah. Bhatt is good but scores over everyone else in the cast in her breakdown sequence — the build-up and her expressions are incredibly heart-tugging. The rest of the cast does a good job, though Malhotra has only a sketchy role.

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