A trigger-happy Nawazuddin Siddiqui with plenty of swag and a hint of angst, sporting cheap aviators, speaking in sassy one-liners and punctuating his sentences with expletives – sounds familiar? This is not Faizal from Gangs of Wasseypur, but Babu Bihari from Babumoshai Bandookbaaz.
Director Kushan Nandy’s film is at best an aspirational noir. It has the look, a quirky set of characters, and the mood. But no airtight script. Even if you are willing to forego the whys and the hows and just go along for the ride, it’s not quite there.
Set in a small town of Uttar Pradesh, Babu Bihari is a go-to hitman who has a special fondness for Kishore Kumar songs. For Rs 25,000 (Rs 5,000 goes to his handler – a constable with a piles problem), Babu will kill nonchalantly without getting blood on his hands. He is a contract killer with ethics, who promises to kill the target with no collateral damage. He shifts his loyalties between a libidinous businessman (Anil George) and a foul-mouthed local politician (Divya Dutta).
During one of his jaunts, he meets Phulwa (Bidita Bag) and falls for the no-nonsense girl. After some banter and a favour, the two end up in bed together. Enter Banke (Jatin Goswami), who claims that Babu was his guruji and the inspiration behind him taking up this profession.
This leads to a competition between the sharpshooter and his protégé.
The first half of the film feels like a comic caper with many chuckle-inducing moments and crisp dialogues. You cannot miss the irony when the two assassins talk shop and complain about the rising costs, or when the hapless cop (played brilliantly by Bhagwan Tiwari)’s wife calls him in the middle of a shootout asking him to get onions and potatoes on his way home.
It is in the second half that Ghalib Asad Bhopali’s script begins to falter. It turns into a somewhat predictable revenge drama without the chutzpah. In fact, the karmic ending feels a little too forced – as if there’s a hurry to tie up all the loose ends. The music too seems misplaced and unnecessary at times.
But Vishal Vittal’s beautiful cinematography gives Babumoshai Bandookbaaz a much-needed lift in this somewhat dull affair.
At the cost of sounding a bit like good ol’ Pahlaj, expletives, cuss words, and the perpetually lustful men were probably used in an attempt to make the film look and sound more gritty and badass, but in many places, it comes off like schoolboy humour.
And the much-hyped steamy scenes between Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Bidita Bag – it was much ado about nothing.
That Nawazuddin Siddiqui was effortless as Babu Bihari is hardly surprising. He owns the role, but this is a character he has played a little too often. Jatin Goswami looked only too happy playing Siddiqui’s sidekick and their bromaraderie was quite enjoyable.
The talented set of actors (Divya Dutta, Bhagwan Tiwari, and others) who play the side characters shine in their half-baked roles.
Like most Hindi films, even this one disappointed while handling complex women characters. Both Phulwa and Yasmin (Shraddha Das) were portrayed as women of grit with a brutal sexual past. But that’s about it. Their motivations or their relationships with the men in the film pose many questions, but deliver few answers.
Comparisons with Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur are probably unfair, but inevitable. Babumoshai Bandookbaaz has the perfect recipe of a noir – the comedy, the romance, the gore, the drama, and the revenge.
But somehow, the dots don’t connect.
The Babumoshai Bandookbaaz review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the movie. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site.