25 Aug 2017

Movie Review: Babumoshai Bandookbaaz: Dark Comedy Works, Not the Revenge Tale


Babu Bihari (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is a contract killer somewhere in small-town North India, a pawn in the bloody chessboard of local politicians. Between hits, Babu cooks chicken, beds prostitutes and snoozes away to All India Radio. He falls for a village cobbler Phulwa (Bidita Bag) who accepts and moves in with him after Babu obeys her wish and kills her tormentors.

In a hit-and-miss contract, Babu encounters his rival and 'fan' Banke Bihari (Jatin Goswami). Both killers are hired to kill off three men. This leads to a 'who will kill first and most' bet between the killers. The aftermath reels in a vicious circle of revenge and vindication.

Uneven, No Character Background 
There is a lot going for Babumoshai Bandookbaaz in its first hour, from the laugh out dark comedy, editing, great story pacing, and performances. But when a killer returns from the dead, it takes a familiar heavy road to revenge.

Despite the spread, concept, and things coming full-circle, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz has no explanation for its character's actions. How Babu and Banke turn contract killers are given no believable ground. Phulwa's murder-inducing turn, a police inspector's (Bhagwan Tiwari) stubborn yearn for a girl child, crooked politicians (Divya Dutta, Anil George), all lack subtext.

Bullet-Sized Plot Holes
Everybody knows who Babu and Banke are. Nobody is keen to catch them though, police action is non-existent. Powerful politicians are threatened and warned by a small-time contract killer and they take no evasive action. It is a puzzle, that though fully aware of the danger, the victims take no precautions to save themselves. Babu's home is no underground cave or hideout that anyone would have a hard time finding it. Somebody is shot in the head at close range and survives! A lodged bullet is mentioned and explained off.

Cut Above Average
The film premise is exciting and out of turn. Two killers discussing lousy pay is hilarious, as is the Babu-Phulwa-Banke interplay. But once the guns start booming, familiar, tired patterns emerge. That two competing killers are not wary of each other doesn't hold ground. It sticks out numb, as does the second-hour kill-kill-kill proceedings, the many sexual episodes, and betrayals.

Babumoshai Bandookbaaz rests on the ensemble cast's performances, the initial striking dark humor and little else. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is brilliant as ever, ably supported by Bag and Goswami, but the script weighs down the impact. This could have worked as an out-and-out dark comedy. A cut above average, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz is still worth a watch for a discerning audience. 

A New, Mature Age of Censorship?
The revamped film censor board needs applause for aptly certifying the film as 'A', instead of cutting out the abuses and love making scenes. Their wise decision keeps the flow of Babumoshai Bandookbaaz intact. They seem to understand that the audience is mature enough to decide what to watch and what not to. Wanted: A well-modulated film certification system that effectively blocks juvenile audiences from explicit content.

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