9 July 2009 | Peter_Young
Mixed feelings: sometimes moving, sometimes overdone
Baghban is generally good, thought-provoking and moving, but it's never outstanding. This is the story of Raj and Pooja (Bachchan and Malini) who are married for over 40 years and have four sons living in India and one adopted son living abroad. The first half portrays the love of the entire family and particularly the longstanding love of the elderly parents. But then, when Raj retires and asks their children to take care of him and his wife, they get a shocking reply. The sons offer them to live separately, each spouse with another son, and change residence every half a year to another son. This is quite unbelievable and unrealistic. Would any child have had enough courage to act so cheap with their parents and separate them despite knowing how much they love each other? I don't think so. I was surprised that after all, the parents decided to accept their children's senseless conditions. I wonder, how is it possible? Why wouldn't they have stayed together in their house and forgot about their children? Well if they had done this, this film probably wouldn't have been made, so that's pretty sums it up.
And that's the particular period on which the story focuses: the first six months they live separately, Raj in the house of the second son, and Pooja in the house of the elder son. The film portrays their loneliness and suffering without each other, but most importantly shows how they discover the true colours of their children. Their children don't care for them, treat them badly and don't show any respect. Their daughters in-law are even worse. This part of the film is only reasonably well-done. The main problem with this entire concept is that you wonder how come they never get to meet during these six long months. Before they moved, they always had parties and dinners with the entire family and now they suddenly don't? Are they in prison or what? The saviour comes in the form of Salman Khan, their adopted son who literally worships them. I did not really understand the need to show such an enormous love from Salman to his parents. It was, though ironic, extremely cheesy and hard to believe.
In spite of the many of its flaws, the film does have its moments and it manages to touch your heart on more than one occasion. For instance, the Diwali phone conversation between the couple; there is nothing to eat in the fridge and Raj pretends to be eating, yet his wife understands that he is lying. The scene is moving (although it is, again, hard to believe that a common family's fridge would be completely empty). I loved the scene in which Hema asks her son how he can be moved by his wife's tears but doesn't give a damn for his mother's tears. Hema Malini was spectacular in both of these scenes. What I particularly liked, however, is the nice interaction between Raj and the new people he meets in a nearby restaurant in which he spends most of his time, including its young clients and particularly its owners, a childless couple played by Paresh Rawal and Lillete Dubey.
Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini, who have worked together many times, totally rise above the script and bring so much experience, sensitivity and depth to their respective roles that the otherwise poorly-handled portrayal of their love becomes convincing. Paresh Rawal and Lillete Dubey play their roles to perfection and make for an extremely sympathetic couple. Salman and Mahima are wasted, and all the four sons, their wives and children, are strictly average. The film belongs to the main lead and it's nice to see an out-and-out commercial Hindi movie in which the lead pair are 60 years old.
Baghban works in parts. Sometimes it's exciting, but sometimes it's boring and unwatchable. It generally works as typical Bollywood entertainment. The story had been tackled in Bollywood too many times before in films like Avtaar. Yet there is something very refreshing and new about the way it's presented in a modern-day India, even if it's not completely convincing. The irony conveyed through this film is too evident: strangers treat them better than their own children. I guess this was made to shock the audience and convey a striking message. The music is average, but the fact that Bachchan performs his own songs is good for the film. The ending is dramatic, overdone, but still somehow works on you. Maybe it's the best thing about this film; the moral taught in it and the good acting are stronger than any of its weaknesses.