Indians are known to be obsessed with marriage and children, but as Amit Ravindernath Sharma’s comedy “Badhaai Ho” (Congratulations) illustrates, they are equally concerned about timing.
Marriage and procreation must happen at the right time for them to be markers of happiness or success, and Jeetender Kaushik (Gajraj Rao) and Priyamvada (Neena Gupta) find themselves on the wrong side of the conventional timeline. He is close to retiring as a ticket checker in the Indian Railways, and the couple have two grown-up sons. Nakul (Ayushmann Khurrana), the elder one, is employed and dreams of marrying his office sweetheart, Renee (Sanya Malhotra). When Priyamvada suddenly announces she is pregnant, no one is more embarrassed than her sons.
The family becomes the butt of jokes in their small railway colony and Nakul becomes embarrassed to face Renee. Jeetender’s cantankerous mother, who surveys the goings-on from her bed in their cramped home, doesn’t hide her disgust.
“How did you even find the time?” she asks her sheepish son. But for all his discomfiture, Jeetender can’t hide his pleasure at the news and is secretly proud of his prowess. He showers his wife with tender love - reads poetry to her, tries to protect her from his mother’s tantrums, and smiles bashfully at her from across crowded rooms. Their relationship is the highlight of the film, but the director doesn’t focus enough on it.
Instead, he focuses on Renee and Nakul’s relationship, and the cosmetic fight that breaks out between them over his mother’s pregnancy. The second half falters and the comic moments become sporadic, but Akshat Ghildial’s screenplay retains its charm. Family and the bonds that tie us together matter more than societal approval - this is the simple message the film puts across. There is no big conflict or triumph, just a peek into the life of a family as they navigate their way through a ‘bump’ on the road.
Of the cast, Gajraj Rao and Surekha Sikri as the matriarch shine through. Khurrana plays his role with ease and Neena Gupta makes do with what seems like a truncated role. It’s ironic that a film that shows a 50-year-old woman getting pregnant makes it about everyone else but her. We see her pregnancy from the perspective of her husband, her kids, her mother-in-law and even the neighbour – everyone except her own. It is the film’s one great failing. If you can forgive that, then “Badhaai Ho” is a satisfying ride.