One of the perks of being the editor of a youth magazine is - you get invited to preview shows of almost every major movie. And once in a while, I take the opportunity to spend three hours in an a/c away from office "doing office work". Like I did yesterday - watching Bunty and Babli.
In my review for JAM, I was rather charitable. I gave the film 3.5 stars out of 5.The thing is, I went to see BB with a very positive disposition. Given the colourful and kitschy publicity campaign, the rap song with Big B and the Bonnie and Clyde inspired premise I was expecting a fun and frothy film. Which it is - but only in parts.
Borrowing a line from Bunty's philosophical musings in the film - "Yeh jo world hai na, isme do kism ki films hoti hain - good aur verry good". Bunty aur Babli, unfortunately is merely good, not great.
Rakesh a.ka. Bunty from Fursatganj and Vimmi a.k.a Babli from Pankinagar are small town kids with bigtime dreams. While Bunty thinks he too can be a Tata-Birla or Ambani, Vimmi aspires to be a Miss India. They set out in search of fame and fortune, but end up having more fun playing 'con banega crorepati'. By the intermission, Bunty and Babli have fallen in love and marry.
Now here's the problem - from a con caper the film degenerates into pyaar-mohabbat, melodrama and unnecessary song sequences shot in Switzerland (yes, I know it's a Yashraj film but still!)
Post interval, the bidi-smoking, chana-chewing policeman Dashrath Singh (Amitabh Bachchan) is hot on their trail... Now the plot gets thicker (and I mean that not just literally but in terms of the IQ level). Bunty and Babli pull of the mother of all cons with the 'sale of the Taj mahal'.
Unfortunately the way in which it's executed is really not very interesting. It's neither intelligently funny nor slapstick funny. (Except for the bit where a pointless morcha is staged outside the tourism minister's house - that's hilarious!)
Fun + message = confusion
Actually, throughout the film the audience was merely smiling - not laughing full throatedly. Which kind of tells you something.
The makers of Bunty and Babli wanted to make something more 'meaningful' than Kya Kol hain hum kind of mindless comedy ie They wanted the film to reflect the aspirations of small town India, the clash of values - izzat and sharaafat vs quick and easy money which youngsters want today.
Yet, in attempting this duality (comedy + message) they did not end up with a product as endearing as Munnabhai MBBS (which I think can be watched again and again). Bunty aur Babli is well marketed and packaged and given the star cast (the Abhishek-Rani pair really rocks on-screen) - it will be a hit. But it won't go down in the annals of Bollywood as a 'classic'.
Highs and lows
The scene where Amitabh and Abshihek are sitting at a bar and 'Umrao Jaan' is suggestively playing in the background. Aishwarya appears in an Umrao Jaan-type outfit and shakes her booty. Really - it should be edited out!
And Rani, who looks lovely otherwise, should take care not to bare her less-than-flat tummy.
Amitabh and Abhishek on-screen together, incidentally, is one of the highlights of the film. But though Amitabh plays his role well, you can't help but feel he doesn't come across as a 'bumbling' cop. Paresh Rawal might have done the bumble bit better. Big B is part bumble, part sinister. Which is a bit confusing for the audience.
Net: net - the movie has a fair bit of flaws but is nevertheless watchable. I only wish as much imagination had gone into scripting the cons as went into Babli's clothes (which are simply amazing).
By the way, the 'disputed' outfit (which Suneet Varma accused designer Aki Narula of plagiarising) is seen on screen for all of 5 seconds.
Bottomline: I may have given the film only 2.5 stars had it not been for the last 5 minutes - when the scriptwriter redeemed himself. Just for that - an extra star. And given that Dhoom is getting a sequel - I think room has been left for a part 2 here as well.