Acting main bhi hum tumhaare baap lagte hain… naam hain Auro
Like the first rays of the morning sun, the warmth of Paa’s characters impart a sense of relief from the typically loud and hysterical filmy characters. Like the occasional whiff of fresh air, Paa’s direction comes as a fresh respite from the string of monotonous song-and-dance Bollywood fare. And like dew drops on a flower, Amitabh’s performance leaves one moist-eyed with emotion. From its characters, direction and performance to its music, cinematography and set design, everything about Paa is refreshing and invigorating.
And yet, it is Amitabh Bachchan who overshadows everything and everybody as Auro to deliver a performance of a lifetime. It is no secret that in Paa Amitabh plays a 13-yeard-old kid suffering from a rare accelerated-aging genetic condition called Progeria; it is also well known that in an uncanny role reversal from real life to reel life, Amitabh plays the reel life son to his real life son Abhishek Bachchan. What is not known is that Amitabh so easily slips in to the shoes of a kid that one is awestruck at this effortless transformation. The ease with which he portrays the innocence of a child, torn between the circumstances in which he is born and a disease with which he has to live, makes one wonder if this really is the 67-year-old Amitabh Bachchan? This is one more role where Amitabh yet again proves himself as an actor, rather than a legendary star. Simply put, Paa is ‘a very rare star-actor, actor-star story’.
The characterisation of Auro, and most other kids in Paa, is that of a kid who asks mature questions and replies with wit and humour, albeit with a childish innocence. Although a bit exaggerated, at one level this is believable, considering the current generation of highly competitive and smart kids. Basically, this characterisation of Auro works in Amitabh’s favour because he has to look like an Adult (because of Progeria) and often even speak like one. In a nutshell, Auro is someone with a childish innocence and an adult-like childhood.
Take this scene for instance: “Bastard“, says little Auro to his father Amol (Abhishek Bachchan). “No, not you Paa. Me, I am a bastard“, says Auro. Auro indirectly hints that his status as an illegitimate child can only change if Amol marries his Maa (Vidya Balan). This scene sums up Auro’s character. Auro depicts a maturity, sarcasm and an insight in to things like that of an adult. And no, this is not because Auro suffers from Progeria — Progeria only physically accelerates Auro’s aging process, while his mental faculties and abilities remain intact.
Unlike other movies that deal with child-related diseases or disorders, Balki shies away from preaching or bringing in any sensitive portrayal of Progeria, thus maintaining a light-tone throughout the movie. Progeria is incidental to the flick’s main plot and successfully used by ad-man turned director Balki as an alibi to transform 67-year-old Amitabh in to a 13-year-old school kid.
While much has been said about Big B’s role in this review, the other aspects of Paa too deserve a mention. Paa’s sub-plot involving Amol talks about how we have become puppets in the hands of the media and a media-crazy nation. Abhishek tries too hard to play Amol — the smart, honest, brazen and pragmatic politician who takes nothing lying back. We only wish we had such politicians in real life too. Perfectly cast as the single mother, Vidya Balan underplays her character with subtlety as Auro’s single mom Vidya.
Everything else about Paa too is picture perfect. P C Sreeram’s cinematography literally so; Illayaraja’s immaculate music and background score; and heart-warming performances by Paresh Rawal (Amol’s dad), Arundathi Nag (Auro’s grand mom) and the kids at school — all put together play crucial roles lending credible support to the central story of Paa. Often this flawlessness gives one the impression of watching a lengthy “ad-film” made to lure audiences. Paa is definitely not without its drawbacks; Vidya’s character for instance might, to some, seem overtly feministic at places. One also wonders if the portrayal of kids, who speak more like adults is completely justified. Highly hyped as a son-father relationship flick, Paa connects more as a son-mother relationship.
However, all this takes a backseat because of Amitabh’s subtle, yet outstanding performance as Auro. Apparently, Auro and Amol’s characters were written keeping the real life father-son relationship of Amitabh-Abhishek in mind. And if Amitabh were to say something to his son Abhishek after watching the movie, it would be this: Acting main bhi hum tumhaare baap lagte hain… naam hain Auro.