We Are Family: A Review

We Are Family – Dir: Sidharth Malhotra; *ing: Kajol, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal

Somewhere in the darkest recesses of Karan Johar’s magical kingdom lies a secret dungeon, a site of unspeakable horrors, a place so vile and dank and nightmarish that no one dare speak its name; a place where, among other dastardly activities, Johar’s army of Rumpelstiltskin-like evil minions string up hoards of his unsuspecting audiences on medieval racks, squeeze gallons of tears from their writhing, shrieking bodies, and proceed to turn the saline deluge into mounds of big, fat, sparkly diamonds and Hershey’s Kisses.

Figuratively speaking, of course.

For K-Jo simply must get SOME perverse pleasure out of fingering our tear ducts so ruthlessly; how else to explain why each of his magnum opuses feels not so much like a movie, but a bout of emotional molestation? In his pursuit of mastery over our waterworks systems, the filmmaker creates martyrs in place of characters who in turn play out scenes of what is, essentially, self-flagellation interspersed with a bit of inflicted cruelty/guilt – so S&M really, but Bollywood style, that is, with the naughty parts removed but the resulting post-traumatic stress disorder quite intact. Yes, the Hindi movie mogul is a sentimental pervert (there are two words I bet you never thought you’d see printed together). There really seems to be no other reason for a film like We Are Family to exist; though he leaves the directorial responsibilities to an underling, Johar the writer/producer still wants to see you weep like a little girl with a skinned knee and he’ll abduct your dog and eat it for breakfast if it gets the job done, make no mistake.

Yes, the film is an ‘official’ remake of the Julia Roberts-Susan Sarandon tearjerker Stepmom, but that film looks like a staid civics studies lecture when compared to the onslaught that is We Are Family. Goodbye restraint, fare thee well nuance, and oh, off with you dirty, poverty-infested India – this tale must be told unhindered at peak soap-opera level against an utterly pointless, sanitized Australian backdrop, because we just can’t have our pretty, pretty cast cry their precious eyes out in polluted old Mumbai. Maya (Kajol), feisty divorced mother-of-three-cookie-cutter-precocious-brats, discovers she is dying of cancer and so reluctantly makes way for ex-husband’s (Rampal) hot new girlfriend Shreya (Kapoor) into what’s left of her life in order to ensure that her kids will not be left without a mother figure.  And also, most importantly, to make sure that her oldest daughter gets her gold bracelet on her wedding day because, apparently, the father can’t be trusted to do that since, I’m guessing, he’ll just pawn it to buy a PS3 or something. And so begin the endless sequences where an out-of-her-depth Shreya screws up, is reprimanded by an incredulous Maya, and then each situation is either resolved by a cloying musical montage or an emotional revelation that ‘explains’ why these people are the way they are, and we the audience get the nth opportunity to wallow shamelessly in the collective pathos.

Quite aside from the feeling of having had your soul brutally felt up (which is bad enough), one also feels let down as a moviegoer. Since there is absolutely nothing new, or even remotely Indian about this remake (apart from the two women’s seeming obsession with the issue of the thirteen year-old daughter’s nuptials –creepy much?), really, the question is why would anyone want to watch Stepmom in Hindi? The actors may be good but the script is trite and predictable; so much so that the scenes of conflict between the main characters feel shoe-horned in. And Rampal’s utter gorgeousness simply isn’t enough to make this Family worth adopting. The house of Karan Johar had better find an alternate way to entertain us, because slapping us around with a tragedy stick just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

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