The success of My Name Is Khan is a tough act to follow, yet Karan Johar and Kajol hope Siddharth Malhotra’s We Are Family will do just fine when it releases this weekend, mere months after the Bollywood producer/director and actress last worked together with Shah Rukh Khan in the Fox Searchlight release. Also starring Kareena Kapoor (a.k.a. “Bebo”) and Arjun Rampal (Rock On!!), We Are Family is a Bollywood twist on the Hollywood production of Stepmom, which starred Ed Harris (The Rock), Susan Sarandon (Dead Man Walking), and Julia Roberts (Eat, Pray, Love). Releasing worldwide on September 3rd, We Are Family was produced under the banners of Dharma Productions, UTV Motion Pictures, and Sony Pictures.
Far from an overly dramatic tale or a frame-by-frame remake of Stepmom, Malhotra’s We Are Family does have a lot in common with its 1998 Hollywood predecessor. The overarching story of We Are Family is about a family dealing with a terminal illness. Specifically, Maya (Kajol) has only months to live and struggles to give up the reigns as a loyal wife and loving mother. She reluctantly allows Shreya (Kareena), a struggling designer with a peppy attitude, into her family’s life. Coincidentally, Shreya falls in love with Maya’s ex-husband, Aman (Arjun), himself a busy professional who worries about not being there for his ex-wife.
With Shreya moved in as a “step mom” and Maya and Aman living together as a family, despite their divorce, to look after the children (portrayed by Aanchal Munjal, Nominath Ginsburg and Diya Sonecha), We Are Family spends the better part of two hours traversing through a myriad of questions Siddharth Malhotra tries to fully answer by film’s end.
A family drama laced with obvious hints of social commentary, We Are Family is what one would come to expect out of a Karan Johar production. And, unlike My Name Is Khan, both Johar and Malhotra steer clear of making the story overly serious or melodramatic. Sure, both the plot and character development are predictable, but that is not necessarily a bad thing, thanks in large part to the fresh face that is Siddharth Malhotra. Indeed, the debutant director interlaces a few novel (and well-timed) twists and turns, ergo preventing We Are Family from being predictable and formulaic for all the wrong reasons.
There are three elements that worked well for We Are Family: balance, acting, and writing.
Malhotra does a swell job of balancing the film’s more serious aspects with lighthearted and entertaining scenes, including witty jokes and playful interactions among cast members. Speaking of cast members, the overall acting performances were, at the very least, above average. Finally, as evident by the plot development and dialogue, the script is well-written.
Even with the balance of serious and lighthearted moments, Malhotra does not fall short when he does tackle the film’s more dramatic scenes. Of note are the confrontational scenes between Maya and Shreya. Not only were Kajol and Kareena masterful in delivering solid performances over all, but Malhotra did a fine job of making the audience feel the tension between the two characters at vital points of the story’s development.
Further, just as with John Abraham’s gradual change in physical appearance was accurately captured on screen in last week’s release of Aashayein, Malhotra, too, correctly depicts Kajol’s physical transformation that is both believable and consistent with the character’s ailment.
As with any film, there are weaknesses. For some reason, Bollywood films in general tend to lag, stall, or drag somewhere in the middle, when the first hour transitions to the second hour. We Are Family is not immune to that, as there are definitely moments where the story disconnects from the audience at the beginning of the second hour.
Shot on location in Australia, the cinematography is better than one would expect. As mentioned earlier, the dialogue is first-rate and, at times, positively weighted with a strong sense of realism. Also featuring the work of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, the music is not too shabby.
Ultimately, what makes We Are Family a worthy watch are the acting performances. Kajol is her usual amazing self, believably playing a character who is not only riddled with a seriously life-threatening illness but also struggling to come to terms with her reality while being headstrong in doing all she can to hold her family together.
Meanwhile, Kareena is starting to hold her own as a legitimate Bollywood actress, continuing in her steady rise to the upper echelons of masterful performances demonstrated in other blockbuster films such as Jab We Met and 3 Idiots.
While Kajol and Kareena definitely steal the show, Arjun is quite impressive himself, holding his own even in the most difficult (and emotional) of scenes. Indeed, he is proving himself an actor who consistently delivers solid performances, what with his rendition of Aman convincingly silencing any critics he may have had after notable roles in Rock On!!, Rajneeti, and Housefull, among others. Not to be left out, the three child actors portraying the children — Munjal, Ginsburg, and Sonecha — are cute and fun to watch.
All in all, We Are Family is every bit a movie as it advertises itself to be — a solid family-themed film with good acting and a heartfelt story. Yes, We Are Family should indeed be watched with the entire family. We Are Family opens in theaters worldwide on September 3rd.
Buzzine Bollywood recommends this film enthusiastically.
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