Hindi Reviews

Bob Biswas Review: The New Bollywood Film Turns an Iconic Character Listless

For most of Bob Biswas, Abhishek Bachchan looks like an empty man. He stares at objects and people, his eyes giving away a misplaced sense of bafflement. Mind you, it is not the same confusion that his character, a hired killer struggling with memory loss, undergoes. Bachchan cannot hide that he, the actor beneath that hideous wig and oversized spectacles, does not empathise with Bob Biswas. He wanders through the film’s surface, sometimes like a parody of Saswata Chatterjee’s iconic portrayal of Biswas in Sujay Ghosh’s Kahaani (2012).


This is not to say that Bachchan, 45, is a subpar actor. He had delivered an enduring performance in Anurag Kashyap’s Manmarziyaan (2018), putting to use his innate introversion to bring to life the second fiddle in a tumultuous love story. Kashyap’s screenplay was loaded with emotional eruptions and dramatic moments that Bachchan could sink his teeth into. Here, in Bob Biswas, a prequel to Kahaani, directed by Diya Annapurna Ghosh and co-written by Ghosh, Bachchan is a lead actor with no substantial working material in hand.

Biswas, about to settle into peaceful family life with his wife (Chitrangada Singh), son and a step-daughter, is puzzled when a bunch of bad guys, who claim to be his former employers, approach him. The men, laughing sardonically, reveal to him that he had been an expert hired killer in the past, which Bob finds unbelievable. Later, he discovers fascinating secrets about himself, that he can assemble a gun and shoot a man to death without a twitch or much remorse. “Am I a good man or a bad one?” he asks his wife and a trusted few. None of the answers seems satisfactory.

The filmmakers convert this promising story thread into a crime drama in which there are no fascinating revelations about the people or their milieu but tone-deaf re-staging of familiar moments. Consider the opening scene where the movie establishes its core amoral universe. A peddler asks a young college-goer, desperate for an expensive drug, to slap an old passerby. As the young man executes the order, the camera turns towards the bad guys watching the scene from a distance, laughing at the man and the boy. The background turns goofy, interpreting the moment as a cheesy Bollywood gag.

The film grapples with an acute identity crisis, unable to decide whether Bob Biswas is an underdog or a mastermind criminal. The first few scenes of murder are interesting. Bob shudders when the men drop dead, as though he was not expecting the gun to fire. Immediately after the killings, he moves on. Somewhere in his brain, the sight of blood and dead bodies are registered as parts of a routine job. Enter a police officer who magically zeroes in on him as a murder suspect. The scenes of investigation are devoid of any charm or acumen. She goes around asking the suspects the most mundane questions as the viewer waits for a revelation to happen.

The film’s pivotal domestic moments are equally unimaginative. Biswas loves his wife who, as per an essential mainstream movie trope, is kind, pure and well, Chitrangada Singh-like gorgeous. A sub-character calls her ‘Mother Mary’ who can redeem and heal them all. Such a unidimensional and dull character could mean only one thing in our cinema – she is a tear-jerker device. Each family member has a personal problem – too typical to emotionally invest in – that Biswas would solve, albeit secretly.


The film makes Biswas wear that cloak of moral uprightness by claiming that he returned to the killing profession to keep his family safe. Later, he embraces his identity as a killer, again, for the family. Why not just say he returned to killing people because he liked it? An aversion towards fundamentally corrupt human minds must be a mainstream movie syndrome. The film refuses to dissect the delicious darkness of Saswata Chatterjee’s Bob Biswas. Instead, it turns him into a banal, readily discardable figure.


This Bob Biswas 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.