Director: Kabir Khan
Just back from Bajrangi Bhaijaan. It is not good as I expected it to be. It is also not as bad as I thought it was after sitting through it restlessly till the interval. In the last thirty minutes or so the film shifts into the right gear and becomes a tolerable viewing and the climax does give manage to give you a high.
But much of the film was an effort for me to sit through. The first half is very casually done with no care or conviction. Every scene is predictable and some are so ham-handed they make you cringe. I entered the hall ten minutes late when the little girl was being left behind and the reaction of the old Pakistani was the kind of over-the-top sentimentality that is so hard to swallow. The romance between Pavan and Rasika is staged equally perfunctorily as if it was something the director had to get past somehow. The scene where she reprimands him on seeing him at her place, “Tum mere pichha karte yahan bhi aa gaye’ was so lame as was the scene where she comes down holding his hand saying she sees her father in him. Kabir Khan’s attempt at social satire lacks the lightness of touch. The lines about she being a Brahmin because she is gori and a Kshatriya because she is gori and eats meat sounds contrived coming froma simpleton like Pavan. The brothel episode is another paint-by-number narrative involving a little girl. NH 10 was so refreshing because the director did not fall into the trap of showing something predictable like some one sexually assaulting Anushka in the macholand of Gurgaon. Kabir Khan is not sophisticated enough. He goes through all the tried and tested, and tiresome, bullet points, including one about the father telling him he better get a house within six moths if he wants marry his daughter and later they using the money saved for the house for taking back Muni to Pakistan.
The talk of religious amity is also along expected lines, and the presence of a few good Pakistanis in every strata which is revealed after an initial anti-Indianism is once again another predictable and boring template. If the build up romance of Pavan and Rasika was unconvincing and bloodless so is her reaction when he is stuck in Pakistan. She and her family just seem to be going through the motion, especially when she is ‘ otherwise I too will go to Pakistan without a visa,’
But the film does get into its stride once the cat and mouse chase between the Pakistani authorities and the trio of Pavan-Chand Naawb-Munni/ Shahida. The jokes that were falling flat begin to work when Nwaz delivers the lines, be it when he is telling Salman to be the one to wear the burkha or telling the policeman about their marriage through elopement. Kabir Khan is also good at narrating the intrigues and the ploys used in the cat and mouse game. I liked the film from the dargha scene onwards because of the smooth narration from then on. The little tricks like Shahida recognizing her mother from the video and before that recognizing her homeland from a calendar photo of Switzerand are simple but they work nicely.
Also what works is the character of Pavan inspite of all its exaggeration and Munni/Shahida with her innocence as well as liveliness. I liked the gusto with which she wants to attack her chicken leg. ( But I found the rattling of chicken Afganai, chicken Lahori, etc unfunny.) The performances of the lead trio also smoothens a lot of rough edges and makes the film at least watchable. And the climax comes to life and hits its melodramatic crescendo with Shahida getting to strike the final high note.
Much of the film is ham-handed, lacking in finesse or freshness and overall is quite forgettable. Yes. But I must confess I left the hall with a smile on my lips and generally appreciative of the effort.
- Asha Jaoar Majhe