When I last saw the movie Baghban, perhaps a couple of years ago, I was, predictably, moved by it. Hema Malini had never looked more beautiful, and the romance between the aging protagonists appealed greatly. Their sons and daughters-in-law were all expectedly villainous, and Amitabh Bachchan's powerful and emotional speech near the end was extremely moving. Nothing but nothing could justify the sons' cruel behaviour. The kindness of the Gujarati couple played by Paresh Rawal and Lilette Dubey, of their adopted son and his wife(Salman Khan and Mahima Choudhry), and even the bank manager and their old landlord stood out in marked contrast- those with no blood ties proving to be far kinder and more compassionate than their own offspring. The aged are often, sadly, ill treated, and it is indeed tragic to see what cruelty their own children can perpetrate.
However, being my nitpicking self, I did start worrying about this film. Even when I first saw it, I wondered at the protagonist's utter lack of financial acumen. Even though he worked in a bank, he had virtually no savings by the time he retired, since he'd been so busy fulfilling his sons' needs. What kind of lesson was he teaching his sons anyway? To be dependent on your parents beyond your basic education? To be unable to delay gratification
(the youngest one needs to buy a car) until you yourself can afford something? Even if he needed funds for the down payment on the car, there was no talk of repaying the parents at a later date. If Raj Malhotra was infantilising his sons to such an extent, how on earth did he expect them to be a support in his old age?
I then started worrying even more about the lack of family history in the film. Maybe the senior Malhotras were both orphans, and the kids had never had any dealings with any of their grandparents. Their terrible behaviour isn't justified even if they lacked role models, but it did make me wonder. Surely if they had seen tenderness towards the aged in their own childhoods, some remnants would have stayed on with them. The saddest thing was that the Malhotras were not actually old, with any of the attendant genuine problems of old age, which can make dealing with the aged rather difficult at times. They were merely inconvenient, by virtue of basing their lives on a false premise of expectation.
Although they adopted a fifth son, he is educated in a boarding school, and then makes his way abroad for higher education. We don't know if he shares any closeness with his 'brothers'. His attitude towards the Malhotras is one of gratitude, love, and respect, as he knows that his life has been transformed by their intervention. The other sons, in contrast, take their parents for granted, which most of us do anyway, to a greater or lesser extent. I really hated it that when the kids come over for their parents' fortieth wedding anniversary, the parents sleep on the floor. They seemed comfortable enough, but it didn't seem right to me.
I wondered at the parent-child communication in the film. The father's desire to stay with his sons seems to come across to the sons (and their wives) as a huge, unwelcome surprise when he retires, though he has broadcast this idea to his friends and well-wishers often enough. Raj Malhotra's response to the suggestion that he and his wife stay apart, in different cities, for prolonged periods of time, is authentic. Unfortunately his wife's 'kasam' prevents him from speaking his mind and brushing off this ridiculous suggestion for the patent nonsense that it is. The 'maa-ka-dil' once again shows itself responsible for much that goes wrong in our society.
As my eldest child says, why couldn't she prioritise and think of her life with her husband before the kids?
The parents are shown living in a huge and beautiful house in an unnamed small town. The landlord is so kind to them that he refuses to rent out the premises to anyone else, when they are leaving. They seem to be so out-and-out prosperous and privileged, with their huge house, garden, and beautiful dogs, that it is hard to imagine them as virtually penniless.
There was so much in the film that was genuine. If the parents had been stricter and more practical in their earlier days, perhaps they would not have needed to disown their offspring later on.
As you can see, this was indeed a thought provoking film!