102 Not Out never shrugs off the feeling of made-for-stage or garbled, lost-in-translation Gujarati texture. Every single gesture is overdone and extra boisterous like Bachchan's inflated exuberance and screaming prosthetics, reminiscent of the 1970s when he'd masquerade as a grey-haired old man playing to the gallery. Rishi Kapoor is what sustains our interest when the humour evaporates and 102 Not Out slumps in a cesspool of soppy disclosures and exploited emotions.
102 Not Out’s heart is firmly in the right place. The film knows its territory and the emotions it wants to evoke. It’s just that a few important characters don’t get enough play and they are sacrificed to make space to Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor. But are the two veterans worth it? Definitely. They form the soul of 102 Not Out and its youthful exuberance. The film’s 101-minute duration is enough to convey its high spirits and liveliness. Its message is loud and clear though it comes at the cost of some unnecessary villainy. What a joy to watch two fantastic actors working in tandem in a performance-oriented film!
The primary issue is that 102 Not Outis too static. This lack of dynamism is both physical and emotional. 102 Not Out is, a sweet film. It's nice to see an old Bachchan picture on the wall, circa Abhimaan, just as it is fine to see a photograph of a Khel Khel Mein Kapoor teaching his son math. Yet despite Bachchan and Kapoor - and young Jimit Trivedi, who plays the enthusiastic domestic help with infectious enthusiasm - the film relies too heavily on prosthetics, with liver spots being used either for laughs, or instead of character details. All we ever know about Dattatraya is his decrepitude. For a film about living a full life, that feels rather toothless.
To tell the neglected story of the ‘other’ side, though, maybe those like Shukla need to move beyond populist, sitcom-style setups. It is easier to concoct a vegetarian tale by hiding behind the considerable statures of Rishi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan – Hindi cinema stars who seem to be more than happy being paraded as shiny objects of nostalgia.
The unique and refreshing concept of ‘102 Not Out’ is its strength. t does not deviate into thrilling scenes or make our jaws drop with unexpected twist, it never tries to be pointlessly clever. And in doing so, it manages to give the audience, the best of what it has to offer. The highlight of this film are the performances by Amitabh Bachchan and Rishi Kapoor. The ease with which the film portrays the bittersweet relationship between its characters is fantastic. Such films are like soft serve ice cream on a sparkly Sunday afternoon. They make you happy. There are parts in the film where emotions run high, but it’s never too overbearing. It’s just a happy and healthy entertainer that tells you that living in the moment and making the most of everyday of your life is all that matters.
102 Not Out is uneven but heartfelt. Despite the flaws, the emotions connect. And if like me, you are of a certain vintage, you will get a nostalgic head-rush when you see Rishi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan in the same frame. Director Umesh Shukla isn’t able to make the narrative sufficiently cinematic. The treatment is simplistic and sanitized. This is a fantasy version of old age – bright and almost always sunny. Even grief is rendered in candy colors. And yet, a part of me was grateful that a film about two ordinary, old men exists.