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Amitabh Bachchan’s Goodbye is a satire on death. Bollywood is catching up with grief

Amitabh Bachchan steals the show, and is only challenged by the iridescent Neena Gupta in Goodbye.

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Vikas Bahl’s Goodbye is an exploration of the many stages of grief after losing a loved one. The film manages to hinge on terrific performances by Amitabh Bachchan and Neena Gupta as Harish and Gayatri, and the ensemble cast comprising Rashmika Mandana, Pavail Gulati and Sahil Mehta. The film asks the question, what is the correct way to grieve the death of a parent?

Gayatri, wife of Harish (Amitabh Bachchan) passes away after a heart attack. Their children— some adopted—are estranged and scattered all over the country. Tara (Rashmika) is a rebellious lawyer who misses her mother’s last calls and messages and is guilt-stricken even as she can’t see eye to eye on everything with her father. Karan (Pavail Gulati) is a workaholic NRI, with a stereotypical sweet but confused wife Daisy (Elli Avram), who flies in to attend the cremation. Angad (Sahil Mehta) is the loving adopted one, and Nakul (Abhishek Khan), is the youngest son who comes to know of the tragedy after the rest of the family as he is away on an expedition. How the dysfunctional family reacts to Gayatri’s death drives the film.

From October (2018) to Ram Prasad ki Tehrvi (2019), Pagglait (2021) and now Goodbye, Bollywood has been steadily exploring grief in many ways, and the results are quite commendable.


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A Bachchan show

Amitabh Bachchan, who will soon reach the 80-year milestone, steals the show, and is only challenged by the iridescent Neena Gupta in the film. Bachchan’s Harish does everything from calling up what he feels are his callous children, to making to-do lists and trying to follow all Hindu rituals to the hilt. He makes you ache for his pain.

Bachchan is at his finest as he tries to come to terms with his fear of a lonely life after dealing with the pain of losing the love of his life. Neena Gupta yet again shows us how it’s done, even as she has limited screen time with few dialogues. But the screen lights up every time in her presence, as she smiles whether she is admonishing or encouraging her husband and children.

Pavail Gulati has grown in a terrific manner in all his latest ventures. In Goodbye, he plays the role of a self-absorbed workaholic who cannot even keep his AirPods off while he carries the body of his mother to the cremation site with no lapses. Rashmika is earnest but her accent is obvious, and it is not exactly a memorable role.

Ashish Vidyarthi as the neighbour who has done ‘many cremations’ successfully is representative of neighbourhood uncles we all know and he does it well. Sunil Grover’s cameo is a refreshing watch.


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Shades of grief

Goodbye will make you laugh and cry in equal measures with its depiction of how grief can be straight-jacketed into certain rituals or have-to-dos. By showing how one responds to the news of death and what transpires in the minds of people at a cremation, the film is also a satire on death.

The grief experienced by Harish comes in waves, as he tries to process the death of the woman who held the family and his life together. An orphan, Harish experiences family life through his marriage with Gayatri, who was the ‘colony’s prettiest girl’. While he is absorbing the shock of Gayatri’s sudden death, and recalling all the good days with her, he is also angered by the perceived carelessness of his children.

Tara is almost estranged from the family due to her refusal to adhere to what she considers ‘illogical’ rituals, and for having a Muslim boyfriend. But she is ridden with guilt for having been partying and missing the last call with her mother. She is also deeply angered by the circus of death rituals overseen by a know-it-all neighbour PP (Ashish Vidyarthi). Nakul’s self-absorption belies his delayed response to the death of his mother, and only hits him much later.

There are remarkable scenes that stand out. Everyone is engrossed in their mobiles as they wait for their turn at the cremation ground and Gayatri’s friends alternate between figuring out the food to be sent to the grieving family and the new appropriate name for their WhatsApp group after Gayatri’s death. There is also the scene of an enraged Harish knocking at the door of Nakul and Daisy who are indulging in grief sex.

While the story is really promising, what it lacks is tighter editing and execution that falters in some bits. The climax could come in two hours but the last bit feels stretched out endlessly.

(Edited by Ratan Priya)

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Vikas Bahl’s Goodbye is an exploration of the many stages of grief after losing a loved one. The film manages to hinge on terrific performances by Amitabh Bachchan and Neena Gupta as Harish and Gayatri, and the ensemble cast comprising Rashmika Mandana, Pavail Gulati...Amitabh Bachchan's Goodbye is a satire on death. Bollywood is catching up with grief