The only confusing thing about Kandasamys: The Baby, Netflix’s latest South African comedy-drama, is probably its very abrupt tonal shifts. One moment it’s a cringe-worthy comedy backed by crude humor, then it’s suddenly a drama built upon grave, relevant issues. Unfortunately, it fails at most things it attempts. However, considering this is the fourth entry in the Kandasamys movie series, I am sure the franchise has an audience. If you have randomly watched the latest one and find yourself in a mildly perplexed state, then this article is going to clear all your doubts. I don’t think the film would have left you with too many, though.
Plot Synopsis: What Happens in the Movie?
Jodi and Prishen are about to become first-time parents. The couple is about to get a visit from both of their parents, traveling all the way from South Africa to Mauritius. The couple is less than enthusiastic about their families meddling in the whole pregnancy affair, and considering how suffocated I started to feel within fifteen minutes of being introduced to Jodie’s mother, Jennifer, and Prishen’s mother, Shanthi, I can understand why. It’s a South African movie, yes, but the characters are of Indian origins, so the Kandasamys (Jodie’s family) and Naidus (Prishen’s family) are basically two kinds of overbearing Indian parents. While Jen is this heavily accented upper-class English-speaking aunty with constant disapproval for her own daughter, Shanthi happens to be a typical mollycoddler to Prishen and a negligent mother to her younger son, Deshan. The husbands, Elvis (yes, named after the icon) and Preggie (not sure what happened here), married to Jen and Shanthi, respectively, are mostly background characters, playing the roles of boomer dads who have good intentions for the kids. There’s one other person in the Kandasamy family, Elvis’ mother Aya, filling in the shoes of a colorful granny, which is required for a movie like this.
What Happens When The Families Reach Mauritius?
Prishen plays it really smart, as he sidelines the families by setting them up for an all-expenses-paid Mauritius trip. Of course, his intention is to keep the parents away from him and Jodie, but that is still quite a nice gesture, right? Well, not to Shanthi and Jen, who quickly figure things out and barge into the hospital right after the baby is born. The two women are also surprised to find out the involvement of Anjali, Jodie and Prishen’s next-door neighbor, in the couple’s lives. Given Anjali coming off as a rather pleasant, quite nice person overall, it does make a lot of sense.
Anyway, there’s not much of a conflict in the first half of Kandasamys: The Baby other than Prishen and Jodie trying their best to keep their parents away. A hefty dose of cringe comedy is infused to move the narrative, most of which involves Aya. This ranges from Aya losing her set of false teeth accidentally in Jodie’s breast pumping machine to her making tea for everyone with breast milk.
Meanwhile, Prishen seeks help from the fathers in order to keep the mothers away. Elvis and Preggie both understand the assignment and come up with a plan involving their tour guide and tour manager, Moothoo. What they don’t know is that their wives are also in cahoots with Moothoo. Aya is also scheming against both sides with the tour guide as well. This whole arc is insignificant to the actual story other than moving the narrative forward.
How Do Things Turn Sour Between The Couple And Their Respective Parents?
As I have already mentioned, the movie suddenly changes course when Jodie is hit by postpartum depression, and like what always happens with brown parents, the elders fail to understand the struggle. Elvis and Jen suddenly decide to hand over their entire business empire to Jodie, which only makes things worse for her. As if this wasn’t enough, Jennifer (and Shanti) suddenly start to show a lot of appreciation for Anjali, which makes Jodie feel jealous and humiliated. However, Prishen does stay by her side, like a rock. This is clearly a fictional great husband thing, I suppose.
A heated exchange of words was bound to happen at some point in the movie, and what’s better than an auspicious event like the naming ceremony of baby “Arya” for that? Jodie was already fuming as their parents randomly got it all arranged, and Prishen was trying to calm her down, but at the ceremony she couldn’t take it anymore after hearing some snide remarks about parenting from her own mother as well as her mother-in-law. Prishen and Jodie walk away from the scene with their baby in their hands, leaving their parents dumbfounded.
Does The Conflict Between The Couple And Their Parents Get Resolved?
There is a particular kind of Indian movie (across multiple languages) that follows this particular structure of messy, dysfunctional family dynamics, which all turn out happy and healthy by the end. It is grossly unrealistic, but people do take comfort in this kind of cinema. As Kandasamys: The Baby is cut from the same cloth, I was not at all surprised to see everyone’s dancing to a Bhangra number at Arya’s one-year birthday celebration in the final scene. But how do they all reach there? Through the power of self-reflection, followed by realization. Jennifer suddenly remembers her own struggle as a new mother, when Aya made her life miserable as an unsupportive mother-in-law. The two make up, and that seems to be enough for Jen to turn into a much better mother to Jodie.
On the other hand, there’s this story arc involving Prishen’s brother, Deshan, getting into trouble after bullying a classmate, and his mother continuing to live in denial. Deshan does find redemption in rap, where he candidly shares how unloved and unappreciated he feels, thanks to his parents habit of comparing him to his elder brother, who is hailed as the epitome of success. Seeing a video of the rap melts Shanthi, and thus, she also comes around.
I don’t have a problem with films that actually want to talk about relevant social matters in our world; in fact, I support them on the contrary. However, the primary goal of cinema should always be to tell the story correctly, which is where this film, in my opinion, falls short. I’m glad that everyone found happiness by the end of Kandasamys: The Baby, but I wish that I hadn’t ended up with a headache after going through their journey.