Film Review: We Are Family

Directed by: Siddharth P. Malhotra

Starring: Kajol, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal

All pictures courtesy of We Are Family – Official site: http://www.wearefamilythefilm.com/main.html

Ok, let’s get it over with straight away. Yes, this film is an adaptation of the Hollywood film Stepmom. Yes, Hollywood knew about it – there is a Colombia ident at the start of the film as well as explicit acknowledgment in the opening credits. Now for those expecting a frame to frame remake, look elsewhere as if the makers have gone as far as to purchase the remake rights, it would be silly to just make a carbon copy of that film (although that’s not to say there are a few nods to the original “recreated” in the film).

Right, now that is out of the way, its back to the film. I was rather anxious when watching the trailer for We Are Family as it did have more than a whiff of tu-tu-main-main which is one reason why I can’t sit through many Indian television dramas (and that I don’t have Sky, so it really is physically impossible for me to watch such dramas at home). Also, when I heard of the casting, whilst I thought Kajol and Arjun were perfect, I was dubious about Kareena playing  the Julia Roberts role – I always thought Preity Zinta would have been a perfect fit but that was before I saw the film. Going directly to the screening after a tiresome working day, the cinema was relatively full as it was the early evening show on the opening day, which for me, most of the time, bodes well as I am in the right frame of mind to watch a film.

WAF revolves around Maya (Kajol), a mother of three, Aman (Rampal) her ex-husband and Shreya (Kapoor) his new girlfriend. As Maya and her children struggle to accept Shreya into Aman’s life, things take a turn when Maya learns she has cancer and is forced to consider Shreya as a potential stepmother for her children.

WAF is a very watchable film that moves at brisk pace and concentrates solely on the drama, with comedy and tragedy nicely woven in. Whilst the source material is evident throughout, WAF does manage to create its own identity with the amazing chemistry between the leads and imbibing the film with a strong Indian identity – even though the film is set in Australia, this fact hardly gets much attention.For me, the film falters when it tries too hard. Post interval, when Maya convinces Shreya to move in, I felt the film dragged, only picking up when Shreya finally cracks and has a go at Maya. I was also disappointed by the bench scene which was great until Maya says every woman has the formula to be a mother – I thought it would have been interesting to explore why Shreya doesn’t want children and though Shreya later reveals she lost her mother when she was six months old (which adds an interesting dimension to the film), I felt WAF puts out a daring premise but then chickens out at the last minute in executing it. The film also pushes the emotional buttons too far at times so that it goes from genuinely touching to overwhelming and whilst this is one of the film’s trump cards, it is also used as a smokescreen to hide behind.

Technically, the film is fantastic; I loved the way the camera gave us some nice medium close ups (and also the crazy continuity where Kajol is not pregnant and then pregnant in real life) and also note the birds eye view angle when Aman lies with the two youngest kids in the garden at the start of the second half – it is a touching moment and one that really stands out in the sea of emotion. Of course, as it’s a Dharma Production, we can’t ignore the styling, which is in perfect sync with the film. The interiors are drool worthy, especially Aman’s apartment, and will inspire many a makeover. Similarly, I liked the way Kajol and Kareena were styled – whilst Kajol wears bright coloured basics (with lots of jerseywear) with jeans and a nice Gucci bag, she looks every inch the trend aware working mother. Similarly, Kareena wears metallic motif tees with denim skirts and gladiators and tye-dye/print smocks with leggings. I thought both actresses looked gorgeous in ethnic garb and that Kajol’s make up in the film looked awesome. I also like Arjun’s Burberry look with military details and deep rich colours, which contrast with Kajol’s and Kareena’s wardrobe.

Performance wise, I’ll admit Kareena proved me wrong – she suits the role quite well and really does give a strong performance, playing the role sympathetically but at the same time, with a suitable haughtiness and bravado that make for a nuanced and quite intelligent performance. I also liked Arjun in the film, I thought he gave a trademark understated turn, giving his role intensity and control that makes for a solid base for WAF to build on. I thought he had good chemistry with Kajol and Kareena and wasn’t overshadowed by them though at the same time, he doesn’t steal any scenes but on the back of Raajneeti and Housefull, 2010 is turning out to be Arjun’s year.The child actors are cute rather than irritating and quite believable, which made for a good change.

As expected, the standout performance comes from Kajol, who is the nucleus the film revolves around. If My Name Is Khan saw a nuanced subtle performance, WAF sees more of the same – Maya is a likeable character who immediately gets the audience onside and the viewer understands how Maya shows a strong exterior but inside, is vulnerable and scared like anyone in her position would be. Kajol brings an amazing warmth to her scenes with the children and is totally believable. The scene where she breaks down is simply note perfect, encapsulating the helplessness that Maya feels about her situation. For me, this is one of the standout female performances of the year and is perhaps the strongest asset WAF has.

Like I said before, I was worried that WAF was going to be over the top melodrama but thankfully, what we have instead is a  a good drama with strong performances, presented in a way that will appeal to modern audiences and is a worthy addition to the family film canon in Bollywood. I have to say, I was surprised I was so moved by some parts of the film and will give this another watch on DVD to see if it elicits similar responses on a repeat viewing.

One wonderful thing is how the film has been sold as Kajol and Kareena film and whether or not the film is liked or does well, I hope we see more mainstream woman centric films and that these films go from strength to strength. WAF won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but I have to say it is a decent adaptation of Stepmom and as Stepmom has stood the test of the time, there is no reason why WAF shouldn’t. Recommended.

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