Director Amit Ravindernath Sharma, whose 2015 feature Tevar didn’t get credit for its attempt at creating a masculine small-town hero who respects women, creates another rather optimistic protagonist here. Khurrana plays Nakul Kaushik, the twenty-something son of fifty-something parents who finds himself profoundly embarrassed when his mother gets unexpectedly pregnant. “Tu hi bata yaar, yeh bhi koi mummy-papa ke karne ki cheez hai kya?” he demands frustratedly of his girlfriend Renee, mid-intimacy. The mental vision of his parents getting it on is enough to ensure that Nakul and his girlfriend don’t.
Nakul’s initial response is exactly what one might expect in a middle class Indian universe, where sex isn’t meant to exist except when given public ritual sanction by marriage, where it’s intended for the socially approved goal of procreation. Then, of course, the ‘success’ of a suhaag raat becomes the business of the whole family and community: think of both Dum Laga nd Shubh Mangal.
But Badhaai Ho shows us how quickly even that socially legitimised conjugal bed can turn into something transgressive. A baby bump makes visible the existence of a sex life where we’d rather not imagine it: in our parents’ beds.
Badhaai Ho sets out to be winsome, and part of that winsomeness lies in the particular parents it presents us with. Jeetender Kaushik (the marvellous Gajraj Rao) is a Northern Railways ticket collector who’s miserly with his money and his mangoes, but remains warmly attached to his spouse Priyamvada (
Priyamvada, for her part, supplements her domestic responsibilities with being the admiring audience for her husband’s amateur Hindi poetry written under the quasi-comic penname ‘Vyaakul’ (it is reading aloud his latest published poem that brings on a moment of passion). (Another recent portrayal of a middle-class couple, Love Per Square Foot on Netflix, had Supriya Pathak play an admiring wife to her railway announcer husband Raghuvir Yadav’s secret musical ambitions.)