Treetop Entertainment, Benchmark Pictures & Sony Pictures Networks present “102 Not Out”

Produced by: Treetop Entertainment, Benchmark Pictures & Sony Pictures Networks

Directed by: Umesh Shukla

Written by: Saumya Joshi

Music: Salim-Sulaiman, Amitabh Bachchan & Hiral Brahmbhatt

Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Jimit Trivedi, Dharmendra Gohil & others

Dattatraya Vakharia (Amitabh Bachchan) is 102 when he gets inspired by a Mr. Wong a Chinese (probably modeled on the real grandmaster Lu Zijian), who lived for 118 years. Perky, full of life and a mental 26, he decides to break the Chinese man’s record as there are “only 16 years” to go.

However, a Google finding for him is to know the secret of Wong’s record-breaking longevity – removing all negativity from his life. The only negativity around him is his 76 years-old grumpy son Babulal (Rishi Kapoor), who is boring, cynical, hyper-fastidious and a hypochondriac as well. He has accepted old age but cannot find any reason to be cheerful in life.

The only option left for Dattatraya, therefore, is to get rid of this negativity by sending his son to the old-age home – and becoming the world’s first-ever father who will do so! Babulal is horrified at the mere idea, and so Dattatraya lays down six tests that he must pass within the next few weeks if he wants to avoid that. What happens next?

In one sense, “102 Not Out” is a thriller. Not just a thriller – though there is no crime here! – but a first-rate one! For the real story behind all this is something completely different, so unexpected that even a hint would be a spoiler. Suffice to say here, without letting anything out, is that the father manages to change his son’s attitude towards life.

And in the process, the second half becomes a tad heavy. Had the funny or even hilarious tenor (mixed with apt emotions) of the engrossing first half been maintained almost to the end, the film would have been a delight.

It still is, but for some needless melodrama in the end. I also did not care for some sequences that seem a bit “off” for the pitch of the film, like the scene where, for example, their common young friend Dhiru (Jimit Trivedi) talks about condoms in a random context to created forced humor for the audience, the doctor’s nameplate needlessly falling down due to the father’s antics (if that was symbolism, sorry, it does not work for me!) and a couple more that will be spoilers to reveal again.

However, the airport scene is a whopper, as is the hilarious way Babulal’s love letter is read out by his father, and even the initial banter between father and son and even the friend is plain superb.

With technical values up to the mark (I loved the meticulous production design by Mansi Dhruv Mehta) and George Joseph’s background music serviceable, the film’s animation sequences’ brilliance is restricted to the opening credit titles. After that, the use of such graphics seems a totally superfluous waste of resources.

Umesh Shukla recovers from “All Is Well” (his 2015 calamity), yet stops short of the heights he reached with “OMG: Oh My God!” in 2012. His dexterity here is mainly seen in the way he directs his powerhouse artistes. Saumya Joshi’s script is excellent in concept and very good in most of the execution. His dialogues bring the house down often, but the eomic undercurrent could have been maintained almost throughout.

Sorry for the repeat of this patent grouse, but for me it stymies the heights this film COULD have reached, for the best messages are always given with humor!

Jimit Trivedi is excellent on home-ground as a Gujarati who has a role that almost matches the father and son duo in length. The “bai” or maidservant (Kapoor told me that the character was introduced at Kapoor’s behest by Shukla as there was no female otherwise seen in the entire film!!) has just a passing scene or two.

For Amitabh Bachchan, this is the third film in the category of “Baghban” and “Bhoothnath” of a father-son conflict, but on a decidedly lighter level. He is superb in his Gujarati, but here and there, Dattatraya’s mask drops, and we see Bachchan the star for a few seconds or minutes. This is where both Bachchan and Shukla could have been on guard.

Rishi Kapoor, on the other hand, is flawless as Babulal. He is not only note-perfect, but it is only his vocal timber that slips on an occasion or two, though his Gujarati does not really measure up despite his best efforts. His body language and expressions are truly unerring and magnificent. The sequences where he comes to know of his father’s diabolical plan to keep him in an old-age home (and also the confirmatory sequence where Dattatraya has a hilarious phone conversation with the old-age home person, with his son listening in!) or the scene where Dhiru speaks about Babulal’s death in future tense are magnificent more examples of what a world-class talent Kapoor has always been.

This is an endearing film despite its flaws. Go watch it and, as Wodehouse would often say, “warm the cockles of your heart.”

Rating: **** (Almost)

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