10 Life Lessons from Kapoor and Sons (Since 1921)

Kapoor and Sons, upon its release fast became a hot topic with the moviegoers. The reactions range from teary-eyed and emotionally charged up to feeling indifferent and disconnected, not to mention the slew of aunties who were disappointed with Fawad Khan playing a gay character. Whatever the feelings, the movie has succeeded in tapping into the psyche of the human mind. All of us could relate to one thing or another in the movie.

All of the main characters deal with issues in their lives, and these issues are often reflected in our Asian cultures. As a writer myself, I fell in love with all of these characters, for they are so well rounded, grounded in reality, are believable and relatable, and don’t do things out of the extraordinary.

So here goes the insightful analysis of the characters and why they behave the way they do. (If you are looking for the Top 10 Life Lessons, scroll all the way down to the end!)

Harsh Kapoor- The Father

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Harsh is a father to his two sons Rahul and Arjun, and husband to his wife Sunita. Harsh is also having an extramarital affair with a female friend, Anu. Having suffered a financial crisis, we see Harsh struggling with life- juggling the responsibilities of being the man of the house!

In the initial scene, after a squabble, he bursts out to his family that when he had a steady job, everyone was enjoying life, but when the financial crisis happened, he feels he was abandoned by everyone. What he was trying to say in a roundabout way was that he needed that support which his family didn’t give.

We have to understand that men are not expressive, and Harsh may have failed to express his fears and concerns, like when his wife suggests taking money from a relative. This also ties in with the ego of a man– as man deems it unmanly to seek help.

Harsh also favors his elder son, Rahul, the successful novelist, and doesn’t pay much heed to his younger son, Arjun, who never seems to find his footing in anything he does. Harsh sees himself in Rahul and puts his confidence behind him. This is very common in our South Asian culture where parents often live their dreams through their child.

The scenes between the father and two sons become important because they expose the fragility and sensitivity of a father’s relationship to his children. Arjun, the younger son, argues with his father why he never scolds the older brother, a common complaint from the younger siblings in families. Again, as a parent, it becomes important to treat your children as equals, without favoring one over the other.

When the two brothers are out on a drive, and Rahul accidentally crashes the car, the father automatically assumes the younger son did it, since his preconceived belief was the younger son is good for nothing, and the elder can do no wrong because he’s the “perfect” son. The father shouts and scolds Arjun, until the moment when Rahul confesses he did it. The father simple stops scolding and just leaves– finding it difficult to admit his mistake. Naturally, Arjun is upset about his dad’s reaction. This unfairness and unequal treatment meted out to both children have an adverse effect on the younger one.

Harsh has a secret that he has hidden from his family. Rahul finally confronts his father about his infidelity, and the father becomes helpless. Rahul feels betrayed that his father had lied to him and the family. Harsh chooses to be with another woman and not his wife. Perhaps the spark and romance have died out in his marriage, burdened by financial pressures and money not coming in, adding to the responsibility of looking after the ailing grandfather in the house (house bills, hospital bills etc). Harsh seeks solace with another woman outside his marriage, his family, and his house– he’s found a safe place where he’s not judged, is loved (perhaps lust is a better word here) and emotional fulfillment.

There is a tender moment between Harsh and Sunita, his wife. She asks him whether there is a way they can go back to what they had initially in their marriage. He merely answers: we can try. He even apologizes and encourages his wife to start her catering business. However, he ends up at his mistress’ house the next day.

Sunita Kapoor- The Mother 

Sunita is the obedient, recessive wife. She loves her family and wants to maintain that image of a perfect family. When the sons come back home after five years of staying away from the family, Sunita tells Rahul that he is her “perfect child.” That sums up the desire the mother has for her family. She is the one who disciplines her sons, gives a stern look at Dadu- her father- to behave, and cooks meals that brings everyone together.

She does have her weakness though. She suspects her husband of having an affair. She complains to her husband about lack of finances in the house. She is unhappy, though she puts on a brave face. At Dadu’s birthday party, she confronts her husband about his affair with Anu and this creates a discord in their relationship. Any married couple will tell you that trust and communication are key elements to a happy marriage, and both Sunita and Harsh had none of these two elements. There is always mistrust and lack of communication. Sunita is afraid to speak to her husband for fear of finding out the truth.

Sunita also plays favorites with her two sons. Rahul is the perfect child, while Arjun is the son who she thinks will never achieve anything in life. Which is what leads her to pass on Arjun’s work to Rahul, giving Rahul much success in life.

In a heart-wrenching moment, when Arjun confronts his mother that she has always favored the elder brother. She tries to pacify him, but Arjun is not convinced. Playing favorites backfired for the mother. Again, just like the father, the mother need not play favorites. Children can feel the different treatments and it affects them.

Sunita world comes crashing down when she finds out that her elder son– the perfect child– is gay, and she wants to break off all ties with him. Her picture-perfect image of her son is shattered. In an earlier scene, Rahul invites his mother to come to London and spend time with him. She denies that and instead tells him to find a girl and settle down. Rahul is disappointed at her reaction. Here we have a son asking his mother to come be a part of his life, where he lives, where he works and so on, and the mother doesn’t really pay heed to that. As a parent, it becomes important for the mother (and father) to be a part of their child’s life.

As a parent, it’s important to realize that your child can never be the perfect child. Mothers may have that desire to raise the perfect children, and expectations are raised. When the expectations are not met, there is a disappointment.

In the Asian culture, there is a lot of emphases placed on what university your child goes to, or what job your child has in a particular company. Parents like to brag and show off their children’s achievement, in an attempt to portray the perfect image. Parents like to fulfill their dreams through their children– while taking away the children’s own personal desire. How many times have we heard of children saying they wanted to do one thing, but were coerced into becoming doctors/ lawyers/ engineers because their parents wanted them to do so?

It’s important to know that there is no such thing as a perfect family: all families are imperfect, and that is where you find perfection.

 

Rahul Kapoor- The Perfect Son 

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Rahul is the successful novelist living in London. He is mature and sensible and he is also gay and in a relationship with a man. But he is not one of that flamboyant gay man like Ricky Martin. Instead, he is the studious type, the kind who keep to themselves. He is so straight acting that one could never identify him as a gay.

Except there are so many clues in the movie that drops hints at his sexuality: His ability to talk to Tia so easily as opposed to his younger brother who struggles to get across to Tia; when introduced to a potential wife to be, he is pretty bold and straightforward, and tells the woman his shoes are not orange, but tangerine (something a straight man would not necessarily say); his dress sense is impeccable, whereas his brother is more casual and messy and so on.

Rahul knows he is living a life of lies. He struggles to be accepted by his family. He longs for their love. He wants to be loved for who he is. There is a moment when he is close to confessing to his brother, but his brother has fallen asleep. Rahul wants validation and acceptance from his family. He wants their love. But he is scared for perhaps being disowned or shamed.

When the mother does find out Rahul is gay, she confronts him and wants to break all ties with him. Rahul gets down on his knees, and tells her that he is willing to say sorry for everything he’s done, but how can he be sorry for something that he has no choice over? This brings up a very important point in the movie– how can one be sorry for something they are?

Ultimately, several months after his father’s death, his mother does come to terms with his sexuality, and in a very sweet moment, he asks his mother to sit down beside him. She does. She asks him how is his “friend?” Rahul doesn’t answer, but merely takes her hands and hugs her. He makes this moment about him and his mother, and they reconcile.

 

Arjun Kapoor- The Other Son 

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Arjun is the younger brother, who doesn’t seem to find his footing in anything he tries, so he is working at some online job and part-time as a bartender. He aspires to be a novelist but is always under his brother’s shadow. He suffers from the “I was always ignored” syndrome, which younger siblings go through. Throughout the movie, in all the fight scenes, Arjun is relegated to the side and shown no importance. When he butts in and tells the family he is willing to give money, everyone shoos him off.

He doesn’t retaliate much, and more or less accepts his fate. He will always be the lesser known brother in the family. He does make peace with his brother and they spend time together in some of the more endearing set pieces.

Arjun also develops feelings for Tia Malik, the vibrant young woman in the area. As with puppy love, he’s not able to express his feelings to her fully. He wants to say so much to her, but he’s not able to. Returning from a date, Tia tells Arjun to stay for a few days more. He declines. She tells him to stay back for their bodybuilder friend, to which he suddenly says he will stay. Indirectly, he is saying I will stay for you Tia. This scene is important because it shows the vulnerability and fear that people in love develop towards one another: they become scared that if they say the wrong thing, they might lose the other person. Sometimes, so much confusion can be avoided if people in love just speak their hearts and minds, instead of staying quiet. Again, communication is the key element here.

Arjun also shares with Tia that he never confronted his elder brother about his novel being so similar to Arjun’s work because if he did confront him, it would break the family apart, something that the mother didn’t want: the break down of a perfect family.

Arjun does have his moment in the end when he finds out his mother betrayed him by giving away his work to the elder brother. He cries and tells his mother that it’s not about his work, but it’s about the way the mother treats him. She cries and realized her mistakes, but Arjun’s had enough of being the inferior one. This is the effect a child has when parents favor one child over another.

Arjun’s reaction to his brother is also so understandable. When Rahul tells Arjun that he is gay, Arjun merely says “I don’t know what to say.” Rahul asks him to stay back for their mother, Arjun tells him that he needs “space.” This is something that can help family members reconcile and heal. Sometimes seeking space from one another can be extremely beneficial. Boundaries need to be drawn even between family members.

 

Tia Malik  – The Girlfriend 

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Tia Malik is that hyper-energetic, vibrant and bubbly personality. She personifies optimism and sheer happiness. On several occasions, she tells Rahul and Arjun that she’s funny. She loves to laugh and crack jokes. As any psychologist will tell you, those who laugh a lot in life often hide the deepest pain.

In Tia’s case, she has lost her parents at the age of 13. It was her birthday and she was very angry at her parents for not being there. It just so happened that her parents die in a plane crash, and two days later she is finally told about them after their bodies have been discovered. It was this pain she had that she was angry at them when all she really wanted to do now was to speak to them and tell them she loves them. Losing both parents is a traumatic thing to go through, and Tia’s personality is a by-product of that pain. It is only when she shares her pain that she is able to heal and move on with her life.

Dadu – The Grandfather 

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Dadu, is a 90-year-old grandfather, with a heart like that of a child. He reminisces about a movie heroine he used to see as a young man. He talks about running away with his wife. He pretends to shoot his two grandsons, who pretend to die. His mind is almost like that of a child: innocent and naïve. He has only two desires in his life at this stage: to be buried in an army burial with his friends, and two, to get a family portrait taken.

Dadu is the person holding the family together. He also brings in his sense of humor, namely by pretending to die only to cheekily come back alive. This is his way of breaking the ice and reuniting the family members, even though they all know he jokes around.

It is Dadu who breaks the ice and starts the apology session after the fiasco at his birthday party, where Sunita confronts her husband. Dadu reminds us that it takes guts and courage to get up and apologize. He lets go of his ego. This is an important life lesson to learn: let go ego and apologize if need be. Also, having a sense of humor will help you immensely in life’s problems.

Plumber

This is one of my favorite scene in the movie. The entire drama of the family is unfolded in front of a complete stranger.  A plumber is hired to fix a leak in the bathroom. The scene plays out so naturally, where the parents are fighting and the two sons are involved, all the while the plumber is trying to fix the pipes. This scene has to be seen to understand the cleverness of it all.

Two other favorite scenes of mine are when Rahul and Tia hang out at the Chinese restaurant, where they banter and flirt, discussing nose poop and kissing a bald head, and eventually teach other dance moves. They bond on such a personal level, even though he is not straight, that the whole scene felt so natural and organic.

The other favorite scene is when Arjun takes Tia on a date to the graveyard. It was such a stark contrast to see a young couple in love standing in a graveyard, discussing what they want to be written on their tombstone instead of being in a disco. It just made for such a profound moment: two mature, young people discovering themselves in a graveyard full of dead people.

So to cut a long story short, here are some important life lessons (yes, I am taking life lesson from a Bollywood movie after all!):

  1. Conquer your fears
  2. Communicate clearly
  3. Eliminate favoritism between children
  4. Let go of Ego
  5. Be ready to apologize
  6. Have a sense of humor
  7. Don’t hide behind lies
  8. Share your pain 
  9. Understand no one is perfect
  10. Sometimes, being there for each other is all we need

If there is one thing this movie teaches you, it’s that life is unpredictable. In an initial scene, there is an impertinent dialogue: make each day count. This is a very important dialogue for it sums up the way we should be living our lives by making each day count.

You never know what life has in store for you: love, laughter or loss.

 

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