Babumoshai Bandookbaaz: All quirks, no substance
The film takes so much pleasure in its perceived eccentricities that it forgets to build an engaging story to justify them
For a part as showy as that of Babu Bihari, Nawazuddin Siddiqui gets a muted introduction. We first get the man who has hired Babu for a killing. The man, Dubey (Anil George), is talking on the phone with the person whom Babu has been ordered to kill and simultaneously gives instructions to a masseuse - who looks nonplussed when he is told that the massage is not for Dubey but Dubey's wife. As the guy takes the call, we see Babu hanging out somewhere in the background. Our eyes go there because this film is called Babumoshai Bandookbaaz and there he is, played by none other than the best actor in Hindi cinema right now. We are asked to wait as the man goes into his office, makes small talk on the phone and asks the person who has come to see him to take a seat. We know what's about to happen and who that person is. He is the gunslinger. He is going to spray bullets. But this is what we don't know at that point - the film, from here on, has nothing interesting to offer. Not even Siddiqui can save it.
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bidita Bag, Jatin Goswami, Divya Dutta
Director: Kushan Nandy
From start to finish, Kushan Nandy's Babumoshai Bandookbaaz is on auto-pilot, which means Nandy just sits back and lets Siddiqui do the talking. And how much he talks! Babu can make both, bullets and wit, dance to his tunes. Nandy simply builds quirks around this character that lets him pretend that he's making some kind of serious, off the beaten path cinema. There is a shot of Babu riding a bike as the title song of Muqaddar Ka Sikandar plays. We are introduced to a butcher shop of a different kind with the radio playing Anand's (another film with a character, played by the hero of Muqaddar Ka Sikandar, named Babumoshai) Maine Tere Liye Hi Saat Rang Ke Sapne. The film at times cannot decide between a black comedy and a revenge saga. Babu finds his fanboy, a freewheeling Jatin Goswami as Banke Bihari (!), who, during their first shot together, is for all practical purposes prostrating in front of Babu even as Babu is delivering a beatdown. Nandy packs in characters and gives them edges that don't mean much in the larger scheme of things - the cobbler in Bidita Bag's Phulwa who uses sharp objects on more than just shoes. The politicians in Dubey and Divya Dutta's Jiji with strange families.Or the policeman in Tara Shankar (Bhagwan Tiwari), who is searching for his first daughter and therefore with a perennially pregnant wife.
Babumoshai Bandookbaaz takes so much pleasure in its perceived eccentricities that it forgets to build an engaging story to justify them. A phone call from the wife,checking on some errands when there is exchange of fire? Check. A sex romp in the fields of a dangerous naxalite area where the interiors of a car isn't safe enough? Check. Babu returns after eight years seeking revenge and wonders if he's after the wrong man. He ponders all this sitting over a gutter and almost loses the will to live. Why? It's all...shit under the bridge? At one point, Nandy builds up enough sexual tension to even hint at a threesome. Babu may be a contract killer but he is effectively a superhuman. A gunshot to his chest doesn't kill him with the bullet lodged in for more than half a day. Even a shot to the head doesn't kill him and this is the real kicker - he thinks the bullet is still in there somewhere. We can empathize - stuck inside the theatre playing Babumoshai Bandookbaaz - with the bullet.