A film that invokes thoughts on varying subjects from single parenthood, rare diseases to politics. And it does so successfully. As if that weren't enough it is all put together in a relatively unusual plot and has one superb performance by Amitabh Bachchan which overshadows brilliant performances by the rest of the cast too.
When I start writing my opinion of a film, I usually close my eyes looking for that one thought that is a wholesome description of the film. In most cases, where an actor's name does the deal, the film doesn't have a substantial plot. It would fall apart if that actor was not playing the said character. This doesn't hold true for Paa. The first thought and the last one are Amitabh Bachchan and Amitabh Bachchan only. But what comes in between is extremely valuable to the audience's experience and to the core of the film. Sure, there are many aspects pertaining to the challenges a single parent faces while managing a child with a rare disease. But, there are enough nuances touched upon to make the viewing worthwhile. That is, if such a performance is not gratifying enough.
My apprehension before the film was that the entire do will become about Amitabh Bachchan, the star or the real life father-son relationship or equally worse, a combination of both. I'm so glad my apprehensions were absolutely uncalled for. You realize Auro is Amitabh Bachchan only when you make yourself think about it. Else you wouldn't even realize its him. Of course, a lot of that is due to the make-up artiste. Any talk of the film without a salute to the make-up person and the costume designer would be a complete disregard for these art forms. And yet, none of them would have been enough if it wasn't for the stooped shoulder, the expressive eyes, the quivering lips, and so on.
Now, before this piece becomes an essay on the Big B, let's move on to the other aspects of the film. You but cannot refrain from nodding your head in approval at the portrayal of politics even if it is mostly over-idealistic. Amitabh's performance along with Vidya Balan's elegant composure completely overshadows Abhishek Bachchan's depiction of the young, dynamic politician we so badly need.
And despite dealing with such heavy topics as these, the entire film has a very light tone, right to the end. Every time the going gets a little serious, little Auro, has something hilariously spontaneous to say - just like children always do.
Then there are these things which are over-simplified. Like the overall compassion with which people from all ages and backgrounds treat an abnormal child. Also, the social acceptance of an illegitimate child and his mother was a tad too uneasy to digest. It is obvious that these issues were intentionally left out of the equation to help focus on the characters and their relationships. But these issues are conspicuous by their absence.
Similarly, the whole comment on parents' complete disregard to anything creative as a source of living was in bad taste. A wee bit exaggerated it was, in order to get those extra laughs. Also, the maturity that 12-13 year olds show seems a bit beyond their age. The climax too seems a little too melodramatic compared to the tone of the rest of the film.
Usually, films that deal with topics as varied as politics and rare genetic conditions leave you with a feeling that it should have been 2 different films, but this one blended the two together very well. Or they are interesting enough that you don't mind seeing them at one go. It was almost as if these are the two burning issues R. Balki wanted to talk about and he had only one film to do it in. At the very least, Paa documents the state of media and current affairs of the country in the naughts.
For the longest time now, I've been waiting for an Amitabh film that I really enjoyed. Finally, it's here. I wouldn't want to adjoin any more superlatives to his performance and the challenges he must have faced in getting it all right, I would want you to go and find out for yourself. Yes, you there…go get those tickets for you and your family!
- meetu, a part of the audience