It’s Sidharth Malhotra’s directorial debut but We Are Family (WAF) reeks of Joharism in every single frame of the film. This family has all the essential values of an A-class Bollywood production: A-list casting (Kajol, Kareena Kapoor and Arjun Rampal), foreign locales (Sydney), the NRI (non-resident Indian) angle and the ever-important disco track (a brilliantly Indianised version of Elvis Presley’s Jailhouse Rock). Costumes and cars are all spiffy and everything screams of a new age India — as did Kal Ho Na Ho, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, My Name is Khan and even Dostana, which like WAF, only Johar produced.
This film is entertaining and yet the Family is still dysfunctional. As apparently dysfunctional as a new age India that refuses to let go of time hardened and obsolete traditions.
Maya (Kajol) and Aman (Arjun Rampal) have been divorced for three years and Aman is living with his new, much younger love Shreya (Kareena Kapoor) while Maya is full time mother to their three kids, Aleya, Ankush and Anjali. Their lives are balanced until Aman attempts to bring Shreya into contact with the kids. They strike an immediate, mutual dislike, love triangles and jealousies are riled up and all balance is tipped over when Maya shares that she has a terminal disease and needs Aman to take responsibility of the kids.
Interesting in theory, the lack of back up leaves pit holes in this potboiler of a film. That Aman, so passionately in love with Shreya, can just get up and leave her for his ex-wife is disturbing. It doesn’t say much for relationships. That Shreya, so passionately involved with her fashion designing, can give it all up to help Maya and the kids (who initially make her life living hell) after Aman has broken up with her is way too idealistic. Hello, Mother India! And most of all, that three kids being raised in Sydney should have indigenously south-Indian accents and absolutely no acclimatization to the idea of divorce is stretching the Indian ideal a bit too far.
Stereotypes in WAF are equally irksome. Mothers are portrayed as asexual beings, having no passion other than packing the kids’ lunch boxes. When single women take on the role of a mother, they too lose all passion. Any chemistry that Aman and Shreya share in the first three minutes of the film quickly dissipates once they take on roles as dad and stepmom. The kids are cut out of the same mould as those in Thora Pyar Thora Magic and Tara Rum Pum. Are all kids this annoying, one is forced to ask.
The character Kajol portrays is the biggest stereotype of all. From WAF to Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham and My Name is Khan, Kajol has played the Mother India card to death.
Kajol is wasted on this film and one feels sorry for Arjun Rampal who has very little character to work with. If you thought Ed Harris was spineless in Stepmom, you’ve got a rethink coming. By the end of the film you feel Aman’s the one with cancer, not Maya. The only saving grace is Shreya (Kareena) who applies herself to the role to perfection. It could be attributed to her own life and adapting to Saif Ali Khan’s children or simply the fact that she continuously blossoms as an actor and has incredible screen presence. This is Kareena’s film through and through.
But despite having all the fabulous credentials, We Are Family fails to rise for its unconvincing (albeit legal) adaptation of the 1998 Hollywood blockbuster Stepmom. It is a very diluted version of the Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts starring original, diluted in impact while unbearably strong on influence. For people who have watched and enjoyed the original, it is a dampener to constantly have to experience an English to Hindi translation. WAF perfectly fits the adage: ‘lost in translation’.
That said, those who have not watched the original have much to look forward to. In its songs, dances and rare comic moments, it boils down to being a popcorn entertainer, to be avoided though if you don’t like popcorn! – Aamna Haider Isani
Cast and Production Credits
Year – 2010, Genre – Drama, Country – India, Language – Hindi, Producer – Karan Johar, Hiroo Yash Johar, Director – Sidharth P. Malhotra, Music Director – Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani, Loy Mendonsa, Cast – Kajol, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Aanchal Munjal, Nominath Ginsburg, Diya Sonecha