The philosophy behind Umesh Shukla’s comedy 102 Not Out is that age doesn’t matter. The director takes this message to heart, casting 65-year-old Rishi Kapoor as the 75-year-old son of Amitabh Bachchan’s centenarian, who actually appears to be closer to the actor’s real age (75 years). The filmmakers tell us that Dattatrerya (Bachchan) is 102 years old, and we need to bury our disbelief at the bottom of the Arabian Sea since Dattatrerya’s physical and mental faculties are perfectly in place, he moves about without assistance, and can even twirl his waist when required.
Dattatrerya’s miraculous vigour is attributed to his sunny temperament and unending optimism (unconvincing, but never mind). His son Babulal (Kapoor), by contrast, is a grouch who can neither live nor die in peace. Dattatreya threatens to send Babulal to an old age home if he doesn’t cheer up. When his son protests, Dattatreya and family hanger-on Dheeru (Jimit Trivedi) design a series of challenges to draw Babulal out of his shell. This list includes getting Babulal to write a love letter to his dead wife and overcome his hypochondria by cutting ties with his doctor.
The bar for humour is on the same low level as the degree of difficulty of Babulal’s challenges. The movie, based on Saumya Joshi’s popular Gujarati play of the same name, sticks so closely to its stage origins that it feels as though we are actually watching a filmed play. In the final bits, the cheesy humour makes way for cloying sentimentality, giving Bachchan an even broader canvas to massively overdo the winsome grandfather number and say “Yo” as though the word has recently been invented.
Bachchan’s performance barely measures up to role he played in Piku (2015) as the father with a digestive tract crisis. Kapoor fares better, and is far more believable as the curmudgeonly Babulal who simply wants to be left alone. The heart goes out to Babulal, who is under the thumb of his domineering father at all times, and develops a brain of his own very late in the day. Daddy knows best, even when he is over a hundred.