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Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 

 

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Babloo Bachelor, Review: Bachelor and the marriage lure

Babloo Bachelor, Review: Bachelor and the marriage lure

Of all the themes that have been chosen for making Hindi films over the last several decades, marriage is the most common. Till the dawn of the 21st century, a host of film scripts were woven around the boy-meets-girl, they cannot marry due to a plethora of reasons, the most common being inequality of status, a villain was added for effect, and it all ended well. Now, with mobile phones, social media, so many mixed marriages and live-ins, trial marriages, separations and divorces, the time-trusted formula had to give way. One such attempt at treating marriage differently is seen in the latest release, Babloo Bachelor.

Babloo is indeed a bachelor in the beginning of the film, and almost halfway through, though he is 35 and the only child of a wealthy ‘zameendaar’ (landlord), who feels ashamed and outraged that his son has not yet married. A marriage-broker, a kind of priest, arranges rendezvous after rendezvous, for the most eligible bachelor to give the nod. But he remains a nay sayer, finding some fault or the other in the prospective bride. When he does feel the vibes, it is the girl, Avantika, who has misgivings. She cannot accept Babloo (real name RanVijay Singh, which means ‘the lion who wins the battle’), a man with no ambitions, who lives off his father’s estate and has no creative pursuits either. For his part, he is flabbergasted to learn that she has had five boy-friends, but does not let this nugget of knowledge lead him astray from the goal of making her his life partner. Guess what? She says “No”. But all is not lost yet.

In comes another Miss Right, a Swati. She finds him terribly attractive and makes the first move. They jell, and it is time for a banquet. Babloo’s father is thrilled to bits, as is his whole family: his mother, his ‘Phupa’ (uncle), and so on, not to forget his sidekick. On their wedding night, Swati acts coy and distant. Babloo asks her what the matter is. She says she would rather not consummate their marriage that night. Not the virile kind, Babloo has no hesitation is accepting her plea. Next morning, when he wakes-up, Swati has left a note for him, saying that she is leaving Lucknow (in North India, the locale for the better part of the story) to go to Mumbai and make a career in showbiz, which was her ambition all along. She is sorry that she had to leave like that, but she got a call all of a sudden, and she could not afford to miss out on the golden opportunity. Even as Babloo is grappling with his fate, his father insists that he should go to Mumbai and get her back, like a dutiful husband, defending his honour. Babloo lands in Mumbai, where his only contact is a relative, PP, who, apparently, is a ‘bigwig’ in the ‘industry’. Since this is about halfway into the film, a twist follows, and another is reserved for the end, to make the climax surprising and unpredictable.

It is a strange tale that Saurabh Pandey has penned, reminding us of two English songs of yore, ‘Bachelor boy’ and ‘Love and marriage’, though in this case, the father is desperate to get his son married, unlike in the Cliff Richard tune. For his part, Babloo might be given to the belief that ‘Love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage’. Pandey’s screenplay makes too much of a social norm, and even makes the father pretend he has had a heart attack because Babloo has not agreed to getting married. Then again, he trivialises it all, by making the groom-to-be say that he was against marrying, but that did not mean that the family should have not have taken care to see that his ill-fitting ‘shervaanee’ (an Indian coat like dress, often used in North Indian marriages) was better tailored. Good joke, bad place to crack it. Dialogue shows signs of inspiration, only to fall into the familiar trap of ‘Aap jaogey’ constructions, which are wrong grammar. Add to that Pandey’s liberal use of the double entendre, which often hits below the belt, and becomes a single entendre. The character of the friend seems to have been written expressly to have him mouth lines like, “I will donate my genitals” in liberal doses. Finding it necessary to have a partner to make a ‘dia-logue’, especially in the absence of female company, Pandey supplants the Lucknow friend with PP, in Mumbai. Thankfully, this character does not stoop as low as the Lucknow lad.

Scoring higher in the camera department, Agnidev Chatterjee makes an average outing in his alter ego ‘avtaar’ as the director. The locales are grand, both outdoors and indoors, and they are captured well by his lenses. He makes no attempt to glamourise the lead actors, and that is the right approach for this subject. Casting is a bit odd – you could even call it ensemble, only most of the actors are lesser known faces. Babloo is shaped as an ill-defined, unsure, confused character, though, maybe, that was the general idea. The two women have better-written, better-directed roles. Most actors turn-in sincere performances, only some of the dialogue is too loud. A veteran of 14 years behind the megaphone, he has made most of his films in Bengali and this is most probably his first full Hindi film. Choosing a subject like Babloo Bachelor shows some courage and a penchant for the uncommon. Yet, he will have to be careful in ensuring that being different is nice, but it also needs to be impactful and engaging.

Playing a 35-ish Babloo, 42 year-old Sharman Joshi (Rang De Basanti, 3 Idiots, Mission Mangal) makes the cut. He generally underplays his part, while exuding a quiet confidence. There are times when he looks a bit lost, which happens when the film, momentarily, loses track. Not the chocolate-boy, nor the macho six-packer, he manages to create his own space. As Avantika, who gets to claim screen space mainly in the second half, Pooja Chopra (Femina Miss India 2009; Commando: A One Man Army, Yea Toh Two Much Ho Gayaa, Aiyaary) has been around for 12-13 years, which does not reflect in her output. Commando remains her big claim to fame. Having unconventional looks, like those of her leading man, she does instil a good dose of sincerity in her performance. More buxom of the two is Tejashri Pradhan, as Swati. She comes from a Marathi TV serials background and had done Marathi films too. Like Pooja, Tejashri began her foray into filmdom around 2008-09. Both the positive and the negative shades of her persona are well-handled by this confident artiste, for whom Babloo Bachelor could be the first or second film in the Hindi language, taking the Covid 19 Coronavirus lockdown for a year-and-a-half into account.

From the supporting cast, Rajesh Sharma as Babloo’s father is good, but the clowning gets the better of him. Only a veteran like Asrani could prevent the marriage-broker’s role from sinking into caricature. Akash Dabhade plays the Lucknow pal of Babloo, and carries the most revolting lines with aplomb. Mercifully, the Central Board of Film Certification has muted a few of these expletives, but mind you, only a few. Manoj Joshi, as Phupa, has no role to talk about, and seems to have walked on to the wrong set. As Babloo’s mother, Leena Prabhu has little to do.

Editing by Parth Y. Bhatt makes good use of the snap-fade to add some pace, yet the film drags a bit. At 130 minutes, it is about 15 minutes too long. Music, for a refreshing change, throws up at least two good numbers. Due credit to composer Jeet Ganguli and singers Arijit Singh and Pappon. Three lyric writers are used: Kumar, Rashmi Virag and Ashish Pandey. Among the dedications is one to legendary choreographer Saroj Khan, who passed away in 2020, but not before doing her bit for Babloo Bachelor.

Made for an audience that has a taste for the off-beat, Babloo Bachelor uses familiar tropes and some risqué jokes to push the story along, although the three main twists in the plot were sufficient to carry it forward. Rated UA by the CBFC, the film deserved an Adults only certification. But who is to say? The more we are changing, the more the mores are a-changing.

Rating: ** ½

Trailer:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MkZutkt2KM0 

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Babloo Bachelor was the first film I saw at a press preview in a long, long time, at a show held on 21 October, at Sunny preview theatre. The delay in posting this review is due to a complete crash of my computer, for three days. I am told that only three preview theatres are functional in Mumbai, and that some shows were held there in the recent past. Covid lockdown is about to be lifted, and I hope that films like Babloo Bachelor, which was delayed for about two years, and newer ones as well, start coming to cinema halls pretty soon. One enterprising producer had taken a whole busload to Surat, about four hours’ drive from Mumbai, to hold a press show, some time ago, since he could not hold the show in Mumbai. Babloo Bachelor was seen in DCP quality, not .mov, and it made a difference in the projection. DCP costs more, but if you want your audience to experience your movie in pristine quality, choose a good theatre, and stick tom DCP.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


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