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Shakun Batra’s Kapoor & Sons’ deftly weaved together the mainstream Bollywood ethos with naturalism

As director Shakun Batra turns a year older, a look back at the subtle family drama Kapoor & Sons.

Shreya Paul
Jan 03, 2022
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Shakun Batra’s 2016 family drama Kapoor & Sons redefined the genre as depicted in Hindi cinema with a dysfunctional family unit at the centre. It wasn’t as much the story of a “dynasty” in a marble-encased mansion in Mumbai. 

Instead, the story is set in the leisurely Coonor, where locating sweet cigarettes, watching bodybuilding competitions or taking a trip to the burial ground constitutes one’s days. 

Specifically, that of Arjun (Sidharth Malhotra), the younger son of Sunita (Ratna Pathak Shah) and Harsh (Rajat Kapoor), who arrives in his childhood home along with his more successful elder brother Rahul (Fawad Khan) after their nonagenarian grandfather Amarjeet (Rishi Kapoor) suffers from a heart attack.

Unspoken resentments and disappointments fly high at the Kapoor household, more so after the sons’ ghar-waapsi. Rahul’s stability as a novelist and Arjun’s lack of it make the parents pick favourites, even if unintentionally. 

Harsh and Sunita, on the other hand, are trapped in a bitter marriage. Their financial distress does not help. They both blame each other for not being a good-enough partner while maintaining a semblance of normalcy for the world outside.

Kapoor & Sons isn’t as much about the story as it is about living, breathing people with differing personalities trying to co-exist under the same roof. The film especially resonates in the pandemic era, where many have had to head to their family homes and reluctantly share the spaces with family members. 

This is captured masterfully in one particular scene in which a plumber becomes an unwitting witness to a family argument. In the scene, the tension slowly builds, escalates and then ruptures in front of the outsider, who nonchalantly delivers possibly the most hilarious dialogue in the movie.

Nothing feels inorganic and unnatural in this universe. From overlapping conversations to people storming in and out of the house, none of the action feels choreographed. These characters are as real as one’s own family — who are at each other’s throats one second and hug each other in the next.

This is possibly what makes Kapoor & Sons so warm and tender. Every relationship is explored, excavated and nurtured. Everyone blames the other person for not being responsible or caring enough, and yet, it is evident that they all care, in their own ways. 

Arjun and Rahul bicker and fight, but they also share a cigarette together while reminiscing about their grandfather’s porn stash that their mother had accidentally discovered in the toilet, or damage their father’s car in an attempt to teach the other how to drive. 

An inebriated Harsh breaks into Chaand Si Mehbooba as Sunita blushes in childlike glee. Amarjeet’s antics keep the family on toes — they are equally frustrated and endeared by the old man’s vivacious and dramatic spirit.


Alia Bhatt’s Tia, a young woman and the owner of a tea estate in Coonoor, embodies the aloneness that one might feel after the death of their parents. Despite the character’s cheeriness, she often talks about missing her family and being unconditionally loved or pampered. 

But Batra does not idealise the family unit. Kapoor family is as flawed as they come. What Batra does is make a case for flawed individuals who may or may not want to co-exist, but fiercely love their own.

Tonally, the film shifts from comedy to wry drama and then finally melodrama. But the shift is surprisingly subtle. The latter half of the movie, in which Amarjeet’s younger son and their family come to live with him, will remind one of Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding, another dysfunctional family drama created with affection and a keen eye towards authenticity. 

The film beautifully blended the razzmatazz of mainstream Hindi cinema with song and dance sequences and the ethos of arthouse movies, with a steadfast focus on naturalism and fine-tuned emotions. Kapoor & Sons is a cinematic predecessor of Monsoon Wedding, weaving together its foot-tapping Kar Gayi Chull-s and Let’s Nacho-s and silent reflections with a deft hand.

Kapoor & Sons is cathartic. Through tears and confrontations, the film makes you believe that you can heal, nurse your heart, if only you are ready to reach out.

Watch the film here

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