Saturday, May 28, 2005

Bunty Aur Babli 

The guy does not want a railway job like his father, he wants to be rich and famous. The girl does not want to marry the head clerk chosen for her, she wants to be a model. When their small town ordinariness does not allow them to pursue their dreams, they turn to crime to fuel their ambitions. And Shaad Ali Sahgal, director of Bunty Aur Babli expects audiences to applaud these two Uttar Pradesh ‘outlaws’ as heroes.

The director (and writer Jaideep Sahni) has attempted a Hollywood-esque caper on the lines of The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox and Catch Me if You Can. But it lacks the pace and wit of a caper movie, or the astute social comment of cult films like Bonnie and Clyde and Natural Born Killers. So Bunty and Babli is neither thoroughly enjoyable nor particularly thought provoking.

Rakesh/Bunty (Abhishek Bachchan) and Vimmi/Babli (Rani Mukerji), escape their humdrum existence, meet by chance, fail in their legit efforts to reach their goals and decide to go to Bombay, where the money and action is. To fund their rail tickets, they commit a series of cons, but then they realise it’s the thrill they are addicted to not the money, and decide to continue with life of crime.

At some point, a cop Dashrath Singh (Amitabh Bachchan) gets on to their case and ultimately catches up with them, after a particularly audacious heist. It would be a spoiler to reveal the end, but it is extremely implausible, not to mention highly irresponsible.

Bunty Aur Babli, stylishly shot by Abhik Mukhopadhyay, is too wordy and too cocky for its own good—as if it were stopping at every available mirror to preen and tell itself how ‘cool’ it is. If the crimes the two pull off were funny or thrilling, the movie would have been a bit more watchable—but in today’s times, only a very stupid person would buy the Taj Mahal, and it is very tough to carry out a robbery from an airplane with such ease.

Bunty and Babli also appear mostly without disguise and hire armies of helpers for their activities, so it doesn’t seem likely that the cops can’t get portraits of them done from witness descriptions! Instead of the audience getting that suffocating feel of the police net tightening around the criminals, you have the supposedly smart cop doing a drunken dance with Bunty (and Aishwarya Rai in an item number). There are a few lines of casual dialogue that suggests that Bunty and Babli have become legends and youth idols, but the widespread impact of their crimes, or the media’s role in glorifying them is not touched upon-- and that would have given the film some depth, or at least an additional contemporary dimension.

Ultimately, it is left to the combined charisma of the three stars to pull the film through, which they manage up to a point, despite ill-defined characters. But if the film they are in, is both shallow and senseless, good performances don’t go too far.


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