Friday, September 30, 2011

Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster 

Hinterland Hijinx

Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Haasil proved that he has a feel of the pulse of small town India, the part of the country almost forgotten by Bollywood, and glimpsed occasionally through the cinema of Prakash Jha or Vishal Bharadwaj.
Now he reworks Bimal Mitra’s classic Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam the way Vishal Bharadwaj adapted Shakespeare in Maqbool and Omkara or Anurag Kashyap reworked Devdas as Dev D.  He sets his film in a fictional ‘kingdom’ still under the control of the erstwhile ruler (Jimmy Shergill), whose fortunes have depleted, and he now has to compete for crumbs of government contracts and other unsavoury work with the nouveau riche upstarts like Gainda Singh (Vipin Sharma).  His once glorious army of loyal foot soldiers is reduced to one, Kanhaiya (Deepraj Rana).
He has to beg his stepmother for funds to keep his mistress Mahua (Shreya Narayan) in comfort, while in his crumbling haveli, his wife (Mahie Gill) is literally going nuts.  Into this already simmering cauldron enters Babloo (Randeep Hooda), as a driver to replace his wounded uncle. He is Gainda Singh’s plant—a cocky, English speaking, guitar strumming man, who was dumped by his girlfriend because he has no class.
Babloo and the wife quickly start an affair, while around them politics, corruption and bloodshed colour the landscape.  The ‘Saheb’ losing his prestige and the loyalty of a minister (Rajeev Gupta), needs Babloo as an amoral henchman, and the guy moves around everyone like an expert chessmaster.
Dhulia layers the story with an observant, if not always disapproving look at how the other India lives—lawless, hypocritical, greedy and brutal.
Babloo is the classic opportunist, “mauka-terian” as he calls himself, but also a reckless fool in love.  The wife gets a contemporary makeover in this film, and even though Mahie Gill is not able to do justice to the complex character, she is an unusual woman.  Jimmy Shergill brings dignity to his part by underplaying to the right degree and he is supported by a cast of wonderful actors, even in small parts.  But the film belongs to Randeep Hooda, hovering on the fringes of Bollywood for so long, and giving such a fantastic performance when he gets the chance, that he should now get his due.
Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster is not a mindless entertainer, and is quintessentially desi, full of  heat, dust and colour.  


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