Director: Vikas Bahl
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Neena Gupta, Rashmika Mandanna, Ashish Vidyarthi, Pavail Gulati, Eli AvrRam, Sahil Mehta, Shivin Narang and Abhishekh Khan
‘Jai Kal Mahakal Vikral Shambhu
Jeevan Ho Ya Mrityu Dono Hi Tum Ho’
This song by Amit Trivedi comes close to the finale, but carries the import of Vikas Bahl’s Goodbye in its lyrics by Swanand Kirkire. Life and death, two sides of the same coin, inextricably linked, for what is living will die for sure. Many a heartfelt and thoughtful film around death has been woven, in more recent times Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi and Pagglait.
Goodbye, as the title suggests, too treads similar ground. At the very onset, we learn about the death of matriarch Gayatri (Neena Gupta) of the household. As the father Harish Bhalla (Amitabh Bachchan) breaks the news to his daughter and sons, there is palpable tension and animosity. Death of a dear one can either break or cement family ties. Though we know which direction the film will take…it plays out the death rituals for little too long and the morose morbidity hangs far too heavy. Sure, interspersed with humour, the friends’ gang at the funeral does spice it up.
The film is supposedly set in Chandigarh though one doubts if it’s actually shot here. Nevertheless, the banter of the Chandigarh Bubblies’ (that is what they name their whatsapp group after Gayatri’s death) at the mourning is familiar, relatable and amusing, but can’t quite counter the tragic underpinning.
However, the film truly lightens up after intermission. Sunil Grover as the computer-savvy pandit in Haridwar not only manages to break the ice between family members, but also decodes what is science and what is faith, the line often too thin. Not that the lines he gets are totally original. But the succinct one liner jo samajh nahi aata woh zaroori nahi galat ho…does establish the tone and tenor of the film. While in the beginning, the narrative questions the ritualistic practices associated with death through the rebel daughter of the family Tara (Rashmika Mandanna) in the final take it does not debunk them either.
In fact, there are moments when both the storyline and the direction seem caught in a loop…But after the final loop when yet another son of the family makes it home, it suddenly breaks free. Life is meant to be lived and coping with the death of a family member is art of that living. The message is indeed heart-warming and you leave the auditorium with a smile, not tears. Yes, there are deliberate tear-inducing moments in the film. And not all work, especially Amitabh Bachchan’s monologue/dialogue with his dear departed wife. That is not to say Big B is not in full form. But more than playing the cantankerous father, a part which he aced in Piku, in Goodbye he comes into his own when he begins to understand his children.
Actors playing his children are on point. South superstar Rashmika Mandanna, who makes her debut in Bollywood, is earnest. Pavail Gulati as the US-based technocrat gets the entire gamut of emotions right. His reel wife, essayed by Eli AvrRam, has the necessary twang to fit in as his firang wife trying to keep up with Indian traditions. As for the focal point of the film, Gayatri, undeniably Neena Gupta breezes in like a breath of fresh air and impregnates the film’s solemnity with her radiance. Only the film does not sparkle through and thorough.
Sunil Grover, competent as ever tells us, “It is stories that live with us forever’. This slice-of-life film with sweet-salt moments, may not be that story but does offer some significant life lessons.