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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for 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. 



Badlapur Boys, Review: Noble cause, familiar ploys

Badlapur Boys, Review: Noble cause, familiar ploys

After films about cricket, hockey and football, here comes one about the indigenous game called ‘kabaddi’. The Badlapur Boys (BB) is named in the tradition of league games, getting popular in the India of the 2000s. A group of kabaddi hobbyists try to seize the opportunity to bring fame to the remote village in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh by participating in a kabaddi tournament and hoping to win against top-ranked teams from other parts of the state. Moved by his passion, Vijay’s landlord-employer frees him from his oath to eschew kabaddi, and he is ready to join the team. But his goal is not the victory itself, nor the cash prize that goes with it, rather, he wants to meet the Chief Minister of the state, who is the chief guest at the event, and impress upon him the need to provide irrigation to Badlapur and surrounding villages. Once known for cultivating some of the best basmati rice in the country, the village has been facing drought for successive years, and there is no provision for irrigation. In fact, almost in the beginning of the film, the protagonist Vijay’s father commits suicide by self-immolation, in an attempt to raise awareness about the burning issue.

Vijay has been forced to give up kabaddi because he needs to earn a living and support the two member family of himself and his widowed mother. Whenever he has time, he watches his friends play the game, with a forlorn look. Meanwhile he falls in love with a city girl who is visiting the village fair, and they hope to meet again at the next village fair, to solemnise their relationship. It is just about then that the kabaddi enthusiasts come across the news of the tournament, and, as a godsend, the coach of the champion Indian Railways’ kabaddi team visits their village, delivering an inspiring speech on the game of kabaddi. Galvanised, the ragtag bunch start preparing for the big time games, by taking their own playing seriously. But what chance does a team, that has lost every game it ever played, have against the best of the best?

Annu Kapoor plays the role of the kabaddi coach, a bit too polished and condescending for the ambience of the film and the nature of the character itself. Nishan (Vijay), who hails from Coorg in south India, has acted in the films David and Cycle Kick, along with many other Malayalam movies. One of his Malayalam films impressed the BB director into casting him in this film. He does a fair job and his Hindi is okay too. Sharanya Mohan, another South actress, is bright and good-looking, with expressive eyes. Kishori Shahane ‘emotes it up’ as Vijay’s mother, while Aman Verma, miscast as the landlord, tries to be loud in order to appear convincing and ruthless. Pooja Gupta (Vicky Donor, Mickey Virus, Oh My God), who has a teenager’s persona and diction, forms a potential love triangle with the lead pair. A poorly etched role, but effectively understated.  

BB marks the directorial debut of Shailesh Verma, who has worked as a writer in television and also wrote the Salman Khan starrer Veer. Some of his writing comes across as inspired, and while he has to rely on catch situations and predictable editing/camerawork ploys in the kabaddi track, he is more competent delineating the humane drama in the village milieu. Co-incidences and far-fetched story points could have been avoided stock-out as sore thumbs. Luckily, Verma eschews ingredients like item songs and contrived fights, which are often employed to make-up for strong scripts and usually tend to detract from the main plot. Quite often, though, characters generally come across as half convincing and often just stare at each other or the camera, as if waiting for their cue at the cutting points. There are few attempts at humour, and not all are convincing. Music by Shamir Tandon and Sachin Gupta, lyrics Sameer Anjaan and the singing by Sukhwinder Singh, Shaan, Mahalaxmi Iyer, Shreya Ghoshal, Javed Ali and Ritu Pathak, are good without being outstanding. Choreography by veteran Saroj Khan is occasionally reminiscent of some great work she has done over the years.

Half noble intentions, half-realised. Almost. But in cinema, as in kabaddi, you have to go beyond the half-way line to win. 

Rating: **

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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 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.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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