खोसला का घोसला
What do you do when someone steals your dream - not to mention your life savings - out from under your nose? Dibakar Banerjee's Khosla ka ghosla ("Khosla's nest") pits a family against one such thieving scoundrel, and over that backdrop delivers an affectionate take on the complex of relationships between a father and his grown son.
Khosla (Anupam Kher) has worked hard for decades, saving up for his dream - a plot where he plans to build a grand house for his entire family. When the family visits their new property, though, they find that a wealthy developer named Khurana (Boman Irani) has claimed it for himself. Khurana, ever gracious, is willing to sell Khosla the property - for just half of what Khosla has already paid for it! Khosla tries the available legal channels to assert his ownership - but the police, lawyers, and even charities just want to shave their share off the deal, rather than saving Khosla from the extortionate demand. Khosla's older son Bunty (Ranvir Shorey) turns to strong-arm tactics, without making much headway. Finally Khosla's younger son, Cherry (Parvin Dabas), comes up with a plan. Cherry's relationship with his father is strained to say the least - but Cherry is determined to help his father one last time before he takes off on his planned emigration to the US. So with the help of a small-time con man (Vinay Pathak), Cherry's friend and frustrated paramour Meghna (Tara Sharma), and Meghna's theater troupe led by her mentor Bapu (Navin Nischol), Cherry plans a con of a lifetime, hoping to beat Khurana at his own game.
While watching Khosla ka ghosla I couldn't help but compare it to Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, another recent film that looks at what happens when nice people find themselves treading the waters of Indian corruption. I criticized that film for its "two wrongs make a right" message. But as the same thoughts cropped up during Khosla ka ghosla, I realized that as an outsider, I just don't have the right perspective to judge this sort of movie theme. If you live with the daily effects of corruption on a small and large scale, in both public and private spheres, it might be very satisfying indeed to root for a hero who beats that corruption by becoming just as corrupt and beating the swindlers at their own game. It leaves an uncomfortable taste in my mouth - but I am not the target audience. And unlike the loveably naive gang in Rocket Singh, who never seemed quite to understand that their actions were wrong, many of the characters in Khosla ka ghosla have serious qualms about their blatantly unethical scheme. That makes the story a little easier to swallow, even if that thread is dropped by film's end.
At any rate, Khosla ka ghosla is only half about corruption - it is also about family, and it nails that theme with perfect pitch. Khosla's relationship with Cherry is the real sleeper star of this movie. Cherry is proper, uptight, and straight-laced, yet he rebels more stridently than his hapless older brother. And his attempts at asserting autonomy - his desire to change his name, his secret arrangements to emigrate - leave Khosla bewildered and hurt. Meanwhile Cherry's sudden obsession with recovering the stolen property for Khosla seems almost a misguided gesture; by the time the scheme underway, Khosla himself is all but resigned to the loss, and is disappointed at Cherry's imminent departure. Father and son seem doomed to miss the mark in their efforts to reach out to one another, even when their hearts are in the right place.
The relationship between parents and their grown children is not an uncommon theme in Hindi films, of course; with the prevalence of joint households, Indian adults have far more quotidian interaction with their parents than I or most of my US contemporaries. Still, Khosla ka ghosla is an unusual look at this theme, because its tension hangs on what's inside hearts and heads, rather than on more common hooks like parental disapproval of lifestyle choices or romantic partners. Anupam Kher is an actor of unlimited depth, and his performance as Khosla is tender and moving. The young actors hold their own as well; Parvin Dabas is especially endearing in his rendering of the tense, slightly discombobulated Cherry.