Even though convincingly sentimental, Goodbye is a religious and patriarchal film that unnecessarily blames children.
It’s no secret that Indian families are often glued messily with guilt. The guilt of not earning enough, spending time with friends instead of parents, not giving them grandkids; the list is long. So, from time to time, we get movies that make us regret not being satisfactory children. ‘Goodbye’ is in the same league; a modern Baghban.
Meet the Bhalla family – the father, Harish (Amitabh Bachchan) is an angry old man, Tara (Rashmika Madanna) is a feminist daughter, sons Karan (Pavail Gulati) and Angad (Sahil Mehta) live abroad and another son Nakul (Abhishek Khan) is away. The family unites when the mother Gayatri (Neena Gupta) passes away. The film begins with classic guilt trips – Tara is partying when Gayatri dies. Karan, a workaholic, wants to return as soon as he “wraps up” Gayatri’s funeral. Angad orders butter chicken on the way to the funeral. Typical brats!
Goodbye’s trailer begins with Tara arguing with Harish that she wants to become financially independent. But he gets angry because he finds it arrogant. “Dhang see baat karna seekho pehle,” he screams; something we often hear our parents often say. In desi households, disagreeing with elders is deemed to be disrespectful. Karan works even while carrying Gayatri’s arthi and has sex with his wife Daisy (Elli AvrRam) after the cremation. Daisy is shown to be absent-minded. She wears black at the funeral, eats fruit kept for pooja, and more. The caretaker’s daughter Delna (Payal Thapa) willingly becomes the caretaker for the Bhalla family. She is devastated upon losing Gayatri; she is like a daughter. However, she is still a worker who does chores.
The neighbors are no good either; they (women) gossip during the funeral. Cousin Chetan is called “Motu” and Tara’s boyfriend Mudassar (Shivin Narang) is disapproved of because he is Muslim. The family resolves their issues when they meet Pandit (Sunil Grover) in Haridwar. He enforces the idea that science is appreciated but religion is superior because it gives you stories; “Kahaniyon se duniya chalti hai”. Suddenly, the feminist daughter ceases questioning and starts accepting superstitions. The characters and the plot both feel too superficial to be effective.
Despite being a guilt-ridden affair, Goodbye touches you and makes you weep thanks to its cast. But none of the actors could salvage the film’s shallow concept. Bachchan effortlessly plays the patriarch, Gupta is graceful but she deserved more screentime though. Madanna’s Punjabi character speaks with a South Indian accent, and Grover’s delightful acting and gentle demeanor could not rescue his simplistic character. Goodbye is also endlessly long as it keeps meandering. For quite some time, it is difficult to understand what the film is trying to say. The songs ‘Maaye’ and ‘Beautiful’ are soothing, but there are too many songs.
Goodbye appeals to your emotions. Its propaganda works; you do feel guilty. It takes you painfully slowly through the funeral, which is unpleasant to watch. It makes you face reality; we don’t have forever. It makes you want to stay close to your parents, and appreciate your family while they are here. However, it is also thoroughly religious and patriarchal. It simplistically implies that kids are brats and need to meet their parent’s expectations to be accepted. A patient analysis of the complex dynamics of Indian families, which the film promises to provide, is missing. To its credit, it has some tolerance to seem impartial; Harish also accepts a thing or two about his children. However, the debate is tilted in the favor of parents and authorities. The film could have made its statement without blaming only the children. Goodbye is lifelike, but problematic, just like Indian families.
Goodbye is currently streaming on Netflix.