The plot for “Baghban” was actually conceived around thirty years ago and Ravi Chopra had planned to have the title role enacted by Dilip Kumar. The plans fell through at that time and it is only now that he dusted off his story idea and offered the role to Amitabh Bachchan. No matter how technically polished the film is, the essence of the story and screenplay is something that seems to have jumped straight out of the era of 1980’s family sagas.
Amitabh Bachchan and Hema Malini are Raj and Pooja Malhotra, a couple who have been married for forty years. And in their marriage, they have sired four sons who are played by Aman Verma, Samir Soni, Sahil Chadda and Nasir. They also have daughter-in-laws who are married to three of their sons and the fourth one (Nasir) is not married yet. Presumably the casting director ran out of supporting actresses and decided to leave him as a bachelor instead. Ah yes, we must not forget the adopted son Alok (Salman Khan), who in a flashback is shown as a sweet little orphan living on the streets with a perfect grasp of Hindi and talking like a grown-up. Aman needs a loan and Amitabh readily offers it to him even though he is retiring. He does this because he believes that his successful sons will do anything to take care of their parents.
Then comes the ingenious twist in the story. Mama and Papa want their sons to take care of them. Bete and bahuranis are fidgety at this idea… so fidgety that they demand a few hours to pace up and down the room to mull over this one. Eventually some bright spark suggests that they ‘share’ their parents. They can take turns to look after one of them for six months each. The Bright Sparks only came up with this plan because they thought that Mama and Papa would refuse this offer and tell them to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine. But they do the opposite and the Bright Sparks’ mouths drop. Incidentally, all the sons and their wives seem to adopt identical expressions when they are in the same scenes together. When it is like that it is so easy to lose track of who’s who, especially since these actors are not wellknown (except maybe Suman Ranganathan… oops did I forget to mention her before?). Oh how one pines for Himani Shivpuri and Johnny Lever! Uhm, well, not really.
Upon tearfully leaving their house, Amitabh and Hema are followed by their landlord, played by Sharat Saxena, who is shedding even more tears (maybe he is asking for the overdue rent). But wait! Who will take care of those two lovely dogs in the garden? Any volunteers? The youngest son (the Bachelor) goes running to take those adorable little pets home. He is the same one who said that he does not have the time to look after his two parents. Geddit? Did you get the irony? He can’t look after his parents but is excited about caring for the dogs! Ha ha! Oh never mind.
So Hema gets the short end of the stick and goes to stay with the most annoying daughter-in-law out of hell. Yes that dreaded Suman Ranganathan and her charmless husband. What is even strange is that they have a daughter, Payal, played by Rimi Sen who looks like she is only five years younger than her mom. It just would not have been biologically possible for a five-year old girl to give birth so I sense that something fishy is going on here. Seems like the casting director fell asleep during the casting session and just mumbled “yes” to anyone who came through the door. Anyhoo, Rimi has a very very bad boyfriend who she goes chilling out with. She is too engrossed in everything that shows her reflection to even notice that her Very Bad Boyfriend says “hello gorgeous, would you like a ride in my car?” to anything that wears mini-skirts. The curtain-twitching Gran sees all this from her window and off she follows them to the nightclub. The obligatory scene follows where Rimi screams as her Very Bad Boyfriend rips her shoulder pad off because he is lusting after this sati-savitri (his name for her). Only Super-Gran turns up and gives that wimp a piece of her mind. Bechara is scared out of his wits. Well, we all would be, wouldn’t we? If you have seen Hema fight all those villains and vamps in “Seeta Aur Geeta” then you also would not want to see her in a bad mood. Granny power rocks!
“Baghban” is Amitabh Bachchan’s movie all the way. This is his best performance so far as the family patriarch and it stands above “Ek Rishtaa” and “Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham”. His sensationally emotional rendition of his monologues deserve applause. Hema Malini’s acting is okay but she is a great choice because she has so much chemistry and energy onscreen with Amitabh. It is refreshing the way that “Baghban” is about their romance and their life together. For once, here is a romantic film that focuses on a middle-aged couple and not on some beautiful young things. Salman Khan and Mahima Chaudhary are there to fulfil the gap of a younger lead and they carry out their parts sincerely in their short screen time. Out of the supporting cast, it is Paresh Rawal who shines the most as the friend who comes forward in the hour of need. The script makes use of his comic and dramatic talents. It is surprising to see Rimi Sen in a worthless role after “Hungama”. She is completely wasted. The rest of the cast do their jobs ably.
The main problem with the film is that it is just too old-fashioned and does not offer anything different or new. Ravi Chopra has stuck to the same old tried and tested formula of trying to make audiences weep with contrived scenes. The villainous characters and squeaky-clean characters are unrealistic and tend to come across as being cardboard cut-outs. Also, there are holes in the screenplay. Why on earth do Amitabh and Hema’s characters bother separating when they say they cannot live without each other? It is not as if they were in dire financial circumstances in the first place. Chopra probably was in a hurry to move the plot along but had he given more attention to this crucial turn in screenplay, the separation of the two main characters would have made more sense. The only part that offers something new is the interesting ending, which at least offers us something to distinguish this film from other family social melodramas.
“Baghban” is an average film that is enlivened by the two leading stars and Aadesh Shrivastava’s melodious music.