Review : Bunty aur Babli

Bunty Aur Babli Bollywood DVD With English SubtitlesRating : Average (3/5)
Genre : All-in-one
Year : 2005
Running time : About 3 hrs
Director : Shaad Ali Sahgal
Cast : Rani Mukherjee, Amitabh Bachhan, Abhishek Bachhan, Raj Babbar, Rameshwari, Ranjeet, Prem Chopra, Ravi Baswani, Kiran Joneja, Puneet Issar
Music : Shankar, Ehsaan & Loy

BUNTY AUR BABLI : Initial promise loses steam

This Indianised version of Bonnie and Clyde, here almost Robin Hood like characters with hearts of gold, is great in the beginning and has all the makings of a quality film. Midway however, momentum is lost, and the plot derails. If I had to rate this film by the 2 halves (pre and post interval), I’d give the pre 4/5 and the post 2/5 — you get the idea.

Rakesh Trivedi (Abhishek) is the creative son of an Indian Railways Ticket Collector (Raj Babbar), living a respectable middle class life in Fursatganj in modern day U.P. Rakesh has big dreams and get-rich-quick schemes which he attempts to peddle, rebuffing all his parents attempts to place him in a “sarkari” job. Given an ultimatum by his father, Rakesh leaves home and travels to Lucknow to sell his chit fund scheme to a large chit fund company, but is spurned. At the station, he meets Vimmi (Rani) from Pankhipur, a Sardarni with hopes of becoming a model. She too is down in the dumps because she, having run away from home to avoid an arranged marriage, has missed the entrance deadline for the Miss India sub-contest.

Both decide to travel together to Bombay to further their dreams, and resort to small-time trickery to obtain money from those who had hustled them. After a couple of con jobs, and sufficient funds, they reach Bombay only to discover a mutual love for each other and the hustler’s life. They get married and take up nicknames, hustling professionally, pulling big jobs which gets them noticed as “Bunty aur Babli”. This sets the police hot on their trail, with the baton being weilded by DCP Dashrath Singh (Amitabh).

Babli meanwhile is now pregnant, and wants to revert to being a good citizen because of the child. Bunty begs for a last job, and the two decide to rob the RBI gold reserves, being transported by plane. They know that the DCP is in charge of the gold, and decide to bell the cat as a fitting goodbye to their hustling career. The DCP wary of the quick-witted duo, is on the lookout. Does he manage to catch them ?

The film is great pre-interval, comedy and pathos mixed optimally to tell the story of rustic “bhaiya” Rakesh, and fashionably “behenji-ish” Babli. Character development is adequate giving a sense of realism to the film. The supporting cast is good, with Rameshwari (resurfacing after many decades) and Babbar playing the role of Rakesh’s parents, and Kiran Joneja and Puneet Issar playing Rani’s. Old-time screen villains and charcter artistes (Baswani, Ranjeet, Prem Chopra) roped in as victims of the the Babli-Bunty escapades, add to the mirth factor. Although the first half is slow-paced it lends credibilty to the story’s rural beginnings, and the modest aspirations and genteel respectability of small-town middle-class life.

Post-interval, fate has me sitting in the theater bewildered, trying to figure out the happenings on-screen. Did they change directors mid-way or did the director just manage to lose it big-time ? Why am I flummoxed ? Because this pleasant, fun-filled film has suddenly morphed into a B-grade action flick of the 80s, complete with cliched music, hokey chase sequences, pious homilies, and odes to that venerable institution – the family. Interminable, unrequired songs, of no great listening value are squeezed into the latter half of the film. The film does redeem itself a bit towards the end, though.

Rani does an excellent job in her potrayal of Vimmi. Abhishek is a weak second, a come-down from the potential he showed in “Yuva”. And although I do admire Amitabh’s longevity in films, it is worth noting that he is an angry, young man no more. Hence the bluster and swagger of an DCP ardently in hot pursuit of the bad guys, falls flat here. The director also tries to harness the father-son synergy here, but that doesn’t jell.

All-in-all an average film, watchable for the breezy and good-humored first half. And a damp squib from the director, who promised greater things after that block-buster “Saathiya”. Although Shaad Ali does manage to get it together towards the ending, the effort is not enough to leave the departing moviegoer with that warm, fuzzy feeling you get from seeing a good film.

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