The problem with superstar films is that one tends to slot them in a particular category much before release. Such was my take on Bajrangi Bhaijaan, hereafter termed BB. I am so used to the fodder dished out by the Khan brothers who tend to produce and direct complete crap, that I automatically put BB in the same genre. So you can imagine my horror when Joy announced his intent to watch the film, within a few hours of my return home after a week of travel. My sputterings of ‘You want me to watch a Salman Khan film’ were met with ‘No I want you to watch a Kabir Khan film’. Not content with dragging me to watch this alleged monstrosity, he had also decided we had to go to Chandan Cinema, the only single screen theatre nearby. I grumbled about booking tickets online, convinced there would be nobody in the theatre on a Monday noon.
We entered the cinema to see snakelike queues at the ticket counters, making me suddenly thankful for the online booking! My initial assumption of the crowd being the ‘typical’ Salman fans was dispelled very quickly when we met quite a few friends and acquaintances who had also decided that the real fun in watching a Sallu film was definitely at a single screen theatre. We realized the ground level was totally sold out while the balcony where we sat was about 80% occupied.
Let me quickly tell you what the fans may not enjoy in the film. Salman remains fully clothed throughout. There were a few moments I could have sworn he would strip, but did not! There is very little romance. Yes there is a romantic angle with Kareena Kapoor Khan urf KKK (ooooffff to be so politically correct!) but it is just a thin layer in a film dominated by a simple story of a lost little girl.
I really enjoyed watching BB. It is not a great film, not by a long shot, but it is a fun film that manages to not go over the top save a couple of instances, a rare credit for a mainstream movie. The story, as mentioned before is not complicated. Shahida is a little 6 year old Pakistani girl who’s mother gets her to Hazrat Nizamuddin Auliya’s dargah in Delhi so that she starts speaking. Unfortunately Shahida gets left behind in India and manages to reach Kurukshetra on a freight train. There she meets Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi (Salman Khan), a devout Bajrangbali worshipper who is working hard to get married to Rasika (KKK), the girl of his dreams. Shahida refuses to let go of Pawan and after some twists and turns accompanies him to Delhi where she is ensconced in Rasika’s home while he figures out a way to reunite her with her parents.
The songs are superb and I will wager anything that they will have everyone humming and tapping the feet, unless they are tone deaf! The poignant ‘Tu chahiye’ by Atif Aslam is a lovely foil for the fantastic ‘Chicken kuk doo koo’ by Mohit Chauhan and the soulful ‘Bhar do jholi meri’ by Adnan Sami. I am actually listening to the Chicken song as I type 😀
Director Kabir Khan who has given us some dark films like New York and Kabul Express manages to deliver some very simple but eloquent messages without much fanfare in this fun film with mass appeal. The revelation of the little lost girl being a Pakistani is achieved through a series of funny incidents. Prejudices and stereotypes are revealed so simply that you do not quite know whether to laugh or despair. The trials and tribulations faced by Pawan as he tries the normal and legal avenues to return Munni to Pakistan are depicted without much melodrama. The humour in the film is rather genuine and the one liners had us chuckling all the way. Using the long winding wired Indo Pak border and journeys of the main characters as metaphors, the film aims to touch certain chords within and manages to do that quite well. It is with reason that a particular reviewer has nick named the director Kabir Hirani Khan.
But what truly makes the film worth watching is the inspired casting of two people. Harshaali Malhotra as Shahida/Munni, the little Pakistani girl who gets lost in India and Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Chand Nawab, the hapless Pakistani journalist who becomes Bajrangi’s guide and ally. A lot of hindi films tend to grate on the nerves since the children cast are way too precocious and over smart. The last superstar mega film where I wanted to gag the child after giving him a haircut was Ra One, coincidentally with KKK in the female lead. But Harshaali manages to steal your heart and hold it in her little fists right from the first frame. And that Nawazuddin gets as much whistles and catcalls as Sallu at his entry clearly establishes his stature as a star. He, like Irrfan Khan is a beacon of hope for the common man, since neither look like a star but manage to steal scenes and at times the entire film from under starry noses.
Kitschy and unreal, this is a complete feel good fairy tale that tells you that things can change if we change. It is not a must watch, but if you want to spend a fun three hours without having to get bored or gritting your teeth much, feel free to watch BB. Or wait for it to show on television 🙂
Copyright © Taraa Vermaa Senguptaa July 2015
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