‘102 Not Out’ film review

They are an invisible and fossilized lot in Bollywood films, but the marginalized geriatric demographic has just been given a new lease of life in director Umesh Shukla’s family drama, 102 Not Out.

Two consummate actors, Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor, do the heavy lifting in this brisk dramedy as they play an endearing father-son pair who are past their 70s.

Bachchan is the jaunty 102-year-old Dattatraya Vakharia who loves to seize every waking moment, while his son is an emotionally constipated 75-year-old who is jaded from his life experiences. This kind of unique generational conflict is new and makes for an interesting concept. It’s not every day that you get to see a centenarian dad ask his son to live it up a little.

The scenes in which the aging father is desperate to send his son to an old-age home as he fears that having a cloudy person may affect his own mortality is delightful and well-enacted.

Kapoor does a neat job of playing a balding cranky old man, while Bachchan seems to be having genuine fun with his role. The father here wants to impart a few life-lessons to his fun-averse son. The first half of the film is all about their chemistry and their efforts to establish peace between them. Kapoor is given a set of challenges laid down by his sprightly dad who threatens to send him to an old age home. The challenges set down by the centenarian father are lame but still endearing.

While Bachchan puts a smile on your face as this lanky, full-of-beans patriarch, it’s Kapoor who steals the show in the emotionally-charged confrontational scenes. While they are both remarkable and earnest in their roles, it’s Kapoor who has a more layered role. He shines in the scenes which show him as a helpless dad who years for his son from the United States to visit him occasionally (more on that later).

What sets 102 Not Out apart is also how it has strayed away from the traditional Hindi film format.

This is one of the few movies in Hindi which doesn’t have a traditional love story between a young man and a woman thrown into the mix. There are no unnecessary songs delaying the climax. Barring one predictable melodramatic twist towards the end, Shukla manages to keep the movie upbeat and life-affirming.

However, there’s no denying that 102 Not Out is a testosterone-charged drama, albeit of the tired and weathered kind. But it never cops out, and credit has to be given to director Shukla for never straying towards familiar cinematic tropes like old folks playing victims.

While the first half of the film is cheerily brisk, the second half turns a tad bleak as it dives deep into the crucial inter-generational conflict about sons who migrate to the West, leaving behind their aging parents. It shows neglect by children in a manner that never turns didactic.

To our relief, there is not one preachy bone in this film which is often simplistic and idealistic in nature.

While it may not shake you to the core, the film has the power to put a smile on your face as you watch the Vakharia men learn a thing or two in the sunset of their lives.


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