Director Amit Ravindernath Sharma's Badhaai Ho deserves kudos. It not only dares to tackle a tricky theme, it does so with laudable finesse. This film is a worthy addition to the raft of adventurous, sure-handed genre-benders that the Mumbai movie industry has been delivering of late in a welcome rush. Badhaai Ho is a far cry from Sharma's debut film, Tevar, which was all fire and brimstone, a small-town love-and-vengeance concoction that allowed itself to fall prey to excess. In sharp contrast, restraint is the key in his sophomore effort. From the first outing to the second, he has clearly come a long way.
Badhaai Ho is a sweet little gem informed with gentle wit and infectious warmth. The slice-of-life storytelling, which is appreciably enhanced by solid performances from a wonderful cast, is marked by control and sensitivity. The screenplay by Akshat Ghildial (who is also the dialogue writer) is shorn of clichés - an attribute that lends the film a veneer of freshness. It lasts all the way until the very end and helps it tide over the more difficult elements in the plot. With the actors on song, Badhaai Ho has a smooth, even feel that makes it an easy watch.
Badhaai Ho is fashioned as a comedy of manners, as it goes about showing us nosey neighbours and nasty relatives and garish weddings in the very middle-class society that the Kaushiks inhabit. And as long as the film is in the hands of the veterans, with Gupta coming up with a pitch-perfect performance as a loving wife, mother, dutiful daughter-in-law, while also being her own person, and Rao keeping in step with her, it works. We gasp just as they do when they hear the ‘good news’, we smile when we see the tender sizzle between the two: just for the fact of showing that parents can have sexual feelings for each other, Badhaai Ho needs to congratulated.
Where it slips is when it takes off on a tangent, with Nakul (Khurrana) sparring with his wealthy girl-friend (Malhotra), and her snooty, pastel-hued mother (Chaddha). This film understands that a good punchline is hard work, which is why Ayushmann Khurrana’s Nakul practices hard in front of a mirror to make sure he gets his line just right.
Ayushmann has played the woebegone middle-class child before, but he is impressively consistent here, and his anger and his awkwardness feel very real indeed. Sanya Malhotra plays his well-to-do girlfriend, and while she may not have as much to do here as she did a few weeks ago with Pataakha, there are a couple of moments — one when she can’t stop laughing, one when she’s righteously angry in bed — where she sparkles....