Director: Vikas Bahl
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Rashmika Mandanna, Neena Gupta, Pavail Gulati, Elli Avrram, Sunil Grover, Ashish Vidyarthi
Released in cinemas.
Whenever my parents would come back from someone’s funeral, they’d often talk about the weird things that they noticed people doing. As a child, I used to wonder how bizarre this is. People seldom talked about serious things. They’d often crack jokes, and pass remarks in a hush-hush. I saw that when I was old enough to go to a funeral. I guess at a funeral one can notice life’s paradox at its epitome. I wonder if the dead knew how quickly people forget him/her, he/she wouldn’t have spent his/her life trying to live by what others said or expected from him/her. But it’s easier said than done. What do films like Goodbye, or Ram Prasad Ki Terahvi try to show? How fleeting life is, maybe.
We are all but stories and memories. And Vikas Bahl’s Goodbye captures that sentiment quite beautifully with a lot of heart. For someone like me whose parents are in that age bracket as Amitabh Bachchan and Neena Gupta are in the film, it’s quite difficult to watch the film. I had a lump in my throat throughout the film; shed a few tears too. The story of Goodbye revolves around the Bhalla family. Gayatri Bhalla (Neena Gupta) dies of a sudden heart attack. The dysfunctional family tries to cope up with the loss and that’s how the narrative unfolds with many flashbacks.
The feeling of the pain of having lost a loved one or even the fear of losing a loved one makes it difficult to process films like Goodbye. I watched this film at a preview screening. I noticed a pin drop silence during the tear-jerking scenes. There were a few sobs heard in between. And the laughter that would erupt in moments in between had the strain of those sobs. Director Vikas Bahl brings his A-game in handling these emotions on screen. Although there’s a lot of choreography involved in scene design the action flows organically. It doesn’t look staged.
Films like these rely heavily on dialogue and in that department, Goodbye is quite impressive. The film was shot during the pandemic and effects of it are visible in some portions and performances. Mr. Bachchan is remarkably sincere except for a couple of scenes where hamming takes over. Rashmika Mandanna tries her best to overcome the accent barrier. But to sound like a girl from Chandigarh seems like an uphill task for a girl from Karnataka. Pavail Gulati is reliable as always. Elli Avrram is fun as the American daughter-in-law. Ashish Vidyarthi as the know-it-all uncle from the neighborhood is hilarious.
I enjoyed the cameo by Sunil Grover as Pandit Ji. Grover’s banter with Mandanna about logic versus rituals are some of the film’s best moments. After all, we Indians often find ourselves stuck between science and traditions. This banter puts forth quite a few points on those matters without getting preachy. Grover delivers the takeaway line from the film, “Jo cheez samajh na aaye, zaroori nahin hai ke woh cheez galat ho.” (If you don’t understand something, that doesn’t mean it is wrong.)
Amit Trivedi’s music is achingly beautiful. Jaikal Mahakal (penned by Swanand Kirkire) is haunting and enriching at the same time. Maaye (Mother) track is used every time the film goes into a flashback of Neena Gupta. One can debate over its use to manipulate emotions. But hey, Hindi cinema has been using Mother characters to keep you invested in the narrative for ages. Even Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra needed a Waheeda Rehman as R. Madhavan’s mother in Rang De Basanti to make you feel the gravity of the situation of R. Madhavan’s character’s death, despite the audience already being invested in him and his ensemble cast of friends.
Bahl marries the senses and sentiments very well. A second viewing might expose its loopholes or tricks, but hey that’s not the purpose of watching a film, right? Did the movie hold your attention in the first viewing is all that matters. And my answer to that question is yes, Goodbye kept me engaged throughout. It made my heart heavy as well as full. What more do you ask from a movie?