Goodbye starts off with Tara Bhalla (Rashmika Mandanna) celebrating her first victory as a lawyer in Mumbai. She ignores the calls and messages put up by her mother and father. Her father Harish Bhalla (Amitabh Bachchan) was calling to break the news that her mother, Gayatri Bhalla (Neena Gupta), had died suddenly of a heart attack. Tara instantly flies off to Chandigarh to be with her father. The duo have never seen eye-to-eye as she’s too independent and he’s too old fashioned. She hates rituals of any kind and fumes about how her father is blindly following the advice of a family friend PP (Ashish Vidyarthi), when it comes to last rites. Her elder brother Karan (Pavail Gulati) flies down from the US with his American wife Daisy (Elli AvrRam). Karan is a workaholic who has ear pods on even while acting as a pallbearer. Another brother Angad (Sahil Mehta), who is the mother’s favourite, is flying from Dubai. He’s a bit of a foodie and his father overhears him ordering butter chicken and garlic naan while they’re conversing on the phone and guilt trips him into ordering khichdi instead.
She has another brother called Nakul (Abhishekh Khan), who is on a climbing holiday at the Himalayas and only learns of his mother’s passing very late in the film. The dysfunctional family connects with each other during the 13 day mourning rituals. They realise the importance of being there for each other despite their differences. Tara doesn’t believe in rituals but a chance encounter with a pandit (Sunil Grover), makes her see them in a new light. He explains that rituals have a story behind them and in a way remind us that we leave nothing but stories behind when we depart. She gets closer to her father as they share Gayatri’s memories. She’s always been the bond that held the family together and her death further strengthens it.
The film can best be described as a tearjerker with elements of black comedy thrown in. For instance, while being gathered to offer their condolences at the Bhalla’s bungalow, the neighbors aunts keep eyeing the chairs as they don’t want to sit on the lawn. They are busy clicking selfies and decide to form a Whatsapp group in the memory of their departed friend. Gone Gayatri Gone, Lonely Harish ji, Harish ji needs us – are some of names they come up with and ultimately settle on Chandigarh Bubblies. When Harish objects to Karan having sex the night of the funeral, he counters saying he was only doing his duty as a son, as her mother’s last wish was to be a grandmother. Daisy casually picks up an apple to eat while the havan is on – and so on.
Juxtaposed to them are moments created to coax you into using your handkerchief. Harish’s encounter with his wife’s father, his monologue at the ghat, or even the simple memory of the family eating gol gappe together pack an emotional punch. The interactions between family members are woven with care into the narrative and infused with warmth and humour. Kudos to the actors for making it seem all real and relatable and for keeping the melodrama to the minimum.
Given the chemistry and camaraderie that Amitabh Bachchan and Neena Gupta have shared in the film, it’s a mystery why no one ever thought of pairing them before. They give off vibes of a happily married couple who have over the years have accepted each other, warts and all. Their scenes together are the best thing about the film. They deserve another movie together, where their portions are bigger. Neena Gupta departs the film too soon and we’d definitely have liked to see more of her. Amitabh Bachchan plays a grouchy patriarch with a heart of gold yet another time in a film and yet manages to bring a novelty to his performance. He’s always made acting look easy and his professionalism seems to have rubbed off on his co-stars as well, as everyone seems to be at their best sharing screen space with him.
National crush Rashmika Mandana has made her Bollywood debut with this film and fits right in into her role of a rebellious daughter. Her scenes with Bachchan, and with Pavail Gulati, the sibling she’s closest to, are as natural as can be. She manages to leave an impact even in this non-glamorous debut. Pavail Gulati shines as the elder son who learns he has to take up more responsibilities and Sunil Grover also makes a mark in his short but important role. Elli AvrRam, who’s made a name for herself as a dancer, has proved here that she can act as well.
Last year, we saw films like Pagglait and Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi which dealt with families trying to cope up the loss of a loved one and Goodbye is another addition to the same tradition. While it isn’t saying anything shockingly original, the film does manage to be a feel-good dramedy about dealing with death and loss. Watch it for the inspired acting by the entire cast and don’t forget to take your hanky along…
Renuka Vyavahare, October 6, 2022, 7:37 PM IST
Synopsis: Engrossed in celebrating her first career milestone with friends, Tara Bhalla (Rashmika Mandanna) misses her father Harish’s (Amitabh Bachchan) phone calls. Her world falls apart when she wakes up to discover that those calls were made to inform her of her mother Gayatri’s (Neena Gupta) untimely demise. What transpires after, forms the story.
A funeral drama, tragicomedy, satire on death, conflict between old and new values and closure…Vikas Bahl’s film tries to juggle genres and time. His coping with grief tale with a comic twist has a poignant premise, something it shares with films like Paglet and Ramprasad Ki Tehrvi. Unlike the other two, characters here are one-dimensional and superficial.
Goodbye is not an easy watch if you have lost a parent or are dealing with an ailing one. The thought of losing a parent itself is difficult to fathom but the execution struggles to establish a tone. The film shuttles between moods and past-present with multiple characters thrown in and stringing it all together feels episodic and scrambled. The story oscillates between some heart-warming moments and then something absolutely irrelevant. The conflict between the family members is more Baghban than Piku, though it tries to lean towards the latter. The story also feels stagnant beyond a point.
What works for the film despite the occasional distractions is its quiet observation of people and society at large when tragedy strikes. The story speaks volumes when silence is allowed to enter the chaos. The process of the family progressing to conversing with each other from simply talking, is impactful. Huge credit goes to actor Sunil Grover who becomes the face of that change in the story. The actor infuses life into the dates and gets a clever and compassionate character to portray.
While you wish there was more of Neena Gupta in the film, she makes the most of her endearing part. This territory isn’t new to Amitabh Bachchan, but in his 80th year, he once again reinforces the fact that a good actor can elevate a script. Despite his massive aura and stardom, he never forgets that this is essentially an ensemble film, giving enough room for others to flourish. His cartooning of sorrow and loneliness is heart-breaking. Rashmika Mandanna in her debut Hindi film struggles with the accent as she sounds too south for a Punjabi role but gets the essence of her character right. Pavail Gulati, Ashish Vidyarthi and Elli AvrRam have their moments as well.
Goodbye is a story of a family coping with grief and laughing through their pain. Keep the tissues handy before watching this one.