The bonding between the parent and child to the sad turn of events at the sunset of the parent's life, have been depicted in various films in the past.
B.R. Chopra's BAGHBAN, directed by Ravi Chopra, takes a look at the delicate relationship between parent and child. In terms of story, it comes very close to three films ï¿½ ZINDAGI [Sanjeev Kumar, Mala Sinha], AVTAAR [Rajesh Khanna, Shabana Azmi] and SWARG [Rajesh Khanna].
Despite similarities, BAGHBAN works, mainly because of the rich emotional appeal it has to offer.
BAGHBAN is the story of Raj Malhotra [Amitabh Bachchan], his wife Pooja [Hema Malini] and their four sons [Aman Verma, Samir Soni, Sahil Chadda, Nasir].
Just like a gardener ['baghban'] who plants a sapling and nurses it till it blossoms into a tree, in the hope that he would be able to bask in its shade when he grows old, Raj and Pooja have raised their sons, all well settled in their lives, with utmost care.
But equations change when Raj retires from his bank job. None of the four sons are ready to take their parents' responsibility.
The sons work out a strategy: The father would live with the eldest [Aman], the mother with the second son [Samir]. And after six months elapse, they would shift to the third and fourth sons [Sahil, Nasir].
Raj and Pooja, who love each other dearly, are separated in their old ageï¿½
If the separation of the parents bears a striking resemblance to ZINDAGI [Sanjeev Kumar and Mala Sinha underwent a similar situation in this 1977 film], the pre-climax [adopted son Salman Khan, an orphan, entering the scene] and the climax [in a turn of events, the parents become rich and the greedy sons re-emerge on the scene] is very similar to AVTAAR.
Yet, despite the comparisons and the feeling of d? vu, BAGHBAN rises to the occasion. The emotional quotient in the film is enough to overcome all shortcomings.
Director Ravi Chopra, who has attempted various genres in the past [ZAMEER, THE BURNING TRAIN, MAZDOOR, AAJ KI AWAZ], is most comfortable attempting this genre. Not that the film is without its share of flaws ï¿½
From the script point of view, the reason that compels the parents to live separately looks baseless. For, barely 5 minutes ago, at the farewell party hosted in his honour, Raj Malhotra [Bachchan] had publicly announced that he'd want to spend the remaining life with his wife, not working in an 8.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. job. Why, he even refuses a two-year extension by the bank manager on these grounds.
Moreover, there is no solid reason for the parents to accept this kind of an arrangement. They have a beautiful house [bungalow] to live, a kind-hearted landlord [Sharat Saxena], good friends [Avtar Gill, Asrani] and most important, the love for each other to walk into the sunset of their lives, holding each other's hands.
A few more flaws ï¿½
The in-film advertising/surrogate publicity of ICICI Bank and Tata Tea in the first few reels should've been done more classily. Showing close-ups of Tata Tea pouch over and over again looks odd.
While the first half is short and sweet, things go out of hand in the second part. Ideally, this 20-reel-film should've been shorter in length. A lot could've been conveyed in a concise format definitely.
There was no need for the Holi song, Valentine Day song and the telephone track ['Main Yahan Tu Wahan'] ï¿½ these tracks could've easily been avoided. If deleted, it would only prove beneficial to the film.
Salman Khan's characterisation is straight out of a fairy tale. In a film that tries to depict reality, the character that Salman portrays should've been more realistic and identifiable.
Fortunately, the film is rich in emotions and a couple of sequences linger in your memory even after the show has concluded ï¿½
* The meeting between the four sons and the strategy they adopt to keep their parents separate, is straight out of life.
* The interaction between Amitabh and Samir Soni on various occasions ï¿½ when Amitabh accidentally breaks his glasses and the typewriter sequence ï¿½ are well penned and well enacted.
* The 'karwa chowth' sequence holds tremendous appeal for ladies.
* Hema visiting Aman's office to wish him on his birthday and the argument that ensues subsequently is another sensitive sequence.
* Lilette Dubey reading Hema's letter to Amitabh, since the latter has broken his glasses accidentally, is rich in emotions.
* The climax ï¿½ when Amitabh talks about the parent-child relationship ï¿½ is simply outstanding. It's bound to draw applause.
Achala Nagar's script draws inspiration from life and besides some well-penned sequences, the dialogue compliment the narrative beautifully. Amitabh's oration in the climax is brilliant.
Aadesh Shrivastava's music gels well with the mood of the film. 'Meri Makhna Meri Soniye' and 'Pehle Kabhi Na Mera Haal Aisa Hua' [Salman, Mahima] are melodious. Cinematography [Barun Mukherji] is striking.
Amitabh Bachchan delivers a wonderful performance. Although the veteran had enacted the role of the family head in the recent past [EK RISHTAA, K3G], this one towers above the rest. It's yet another memorable performance in his illustrious career.
Hema Malini looks elegant and conveys the pathos convincingly. The actress hasn't lost her sheen at all. Paresh Rawal and Lilette Dubey are lovable.
Amongst the 'sons', Aman Verma stands out. Samir Soni is alright, while Saahil and Nasir get no scope. As for the 'daughters-in-law', Divya Dutta scores full marks. Suman Ranganathan is passable.
Yash Pathak is cute and confident. Rimi Sen [leading lady of HUNGAMA] doesn't get any scope. Also, casting her as Aman Verma and Suman Ranganathan's daughter looks ridiculous. Nakul, Avtar Gill, Asrani and Sharat Saxena perform their parts ably.
Salman Khan has a song and sequence in the first half and comes on the screen only towards the pre-climax. He does an okay job. Mahima Chaudhary doesn't get any scope.
On the whole, BAGHBAN has strong emotions as its trump card, which will appeal to the family audience more than the youth. At the box-office, if the word of mouth catches on, this 'gardener' [BAGHBAN] will be rewarded with fruits, like its predecessors.