Mutual trust, respect, space and brutally honest conversations make a family a home that people can come back to!
We watched Shakun Batra’s very sensitive, brutally honest, Kapoor & Sons (Since 1921) yesterday. It had more than fifty shades of what some families witness – imperfection – written all over it: everyday squabbles emerging from a lack of trust, absence of honest conversations and an incessant tendency to interpret rather than understand each other. Most important, three of the four members of the Kapoor family were living a lie. The only one, Arjun (Siddharth Malhotra), who was honest with himself and with rest of the world, was suffering from a huge inferiority complex, having been constantly ‘branded’ ‘the imperfect one’.
I come from a dysfunctional family. And I have always been ‘the imperfect one’ – son and brother. The reason why I was branded so was, as I perhaps realize now, because I was always calling everyone’s bluff. So, I can relate to the big message that Batra so matter-of-factly, unpreachingly, delivers through the film: if people in a family are living a lie it makes them a ‘familie’ – dysfunctional, fractious, unhappy!
Fundamentally, we must review our understanding of what a family must be. A family is not just a congregation of people – which, in fact, it physically is. A family is an opportunity for this congregation to be home to its people. It is where people must disagree, agree to co-exist, come back to each other, be there for each other, hold up mirrors to each other, fight, break-up, make-up and move on. It is where people must be allowed to be who they are. And where they must be invited to be true to themselves and to each other. So, conceptually, a family is never going to be perfect. It will have its share of upheavals. And these upheavals do not happen because of one person or the other. Upheavals are a part of Life – of the passage of time – and are inevitable when people live together. Just as they happen in – and to – communities, they happen in – and to – families too. Yet, a family becomes dysfunctional when its people cease to have honest, brutally honest, conversations and choose to always interpret, than understand, each other. Mutual trust, respect and space are integral to nurture a family. If people in a family cannot offer each other the space to be who they are – and sort out themselves whenever they feel lost, while being available for each other no matter what – then the very idea of family becomes irrelevant. Then people may as well live in a ghetto or in isolation! But the unkindest cut of all that a family can ever be subjected to is when people are dishonest with each other to the extent that they live in denial, live a Life of lies and, worse, imagine they are the perfect family – because all families are imperfect; imperfection is the new perfection, you see!
Batra’s Kapoor & Sons (Since 1921) is unpretentious even in its last scene when it makes a very fervent appeal – do not squander away the time you have together in pettiness, for we are all speeding towards our death, albeit at different speeds! In my opinion, since I come from one, dysfunctional families are beyond redemption especially if people continue to be dishonest and manipulative. But if an honest conversation can salvage your family please go ahead and attempt having one – now! But if you try and don’t succeed, at least step out of such a ‘familie’ – so you are not living a lie anymore and so that you exercise your opportunity to live happily ever after!