A ‘Bachchan’ By Any Other Name…
By Mohammad Kamran Jawaid
Ajay Devgn deadpans. Abhishek Bachchan recoils. Archana Puran Singh vamps. And Amitabh Bachchan delivers a forewarning. Bol Bachchan is a killer – as far as English goes.
Once upon a time in old-Bollywood, a mustache made all the difference. Heroes had ‘em. So did villains. Even the leading ladies flaunted them (obviously for comedic purposes). Today, in Rohit Shetty’s Bol Bachchan, lifted-off and re-manicured from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Gol Maal (the title has a different meaning in Shetty’s filmography), the mustache serves as a less significant gimmick.
Shetty’s Bol Bachchan is a screw-up that divorces the original version’s astuteness and depth in favor of cheekiness. This “Golmaal” principally stars Ajay Devgn, Abhishek Bachchan and an infinite supply of literal Hindi-to-English translations (and those few obligatory car blow-ups that wiggle their way into Shetty’s movies).
However, even with just these few elements at his disposal Shetty manages to craft a metro-viewer’s worst nightmare: a pun-throttling escapade, scant in sexual-sensationalism and verbal vulgarity that’s safe for family-viewing; considering Bollywood’s recent track record for producing Multiplex friendly films (read: Murders, Jisms, Dirty Pictures and other flicks that are fine with promiscuity), this bit of achievement happens too far and wide each year.
The plot, or what passes on for one, has Abbas Ali (Abhishek Bachchan) and sister Sania (Asin Thottumkal) migrating from Delhi-6 to Ranakpur when their lawyer fails to win their ancestral land. Ranakpur is in awe of their resident thakur (Virasat anyone?), Prithviraj Raghuvanshi (Ajay Devgn), a man who values honesty as much body-building and near eradication of spoken English (Prithvi sincerely believes in his mastery, and we along with Abbas turn into his targets). Pretty soon, Abbas Ali becomes Abhishek Bachchan, and then his own gay twin, when lying commandeers their new-shot at life. There’s a less significant, again Virasat-type, subplot about in-family rivalry, that doesn’t shine as much as Archana Puran Singh does in her vampy-best.
Bol Bachchan openly embraces its need to be slapstick and kooky, knocking down, at times ceding reverence to Bollywood’s self-induced (and avidly worshiped) conventions. In an early scene we see Ravi Shastri (Krushna Abhishek) – a supporting character, rightly pumped-up for optimum exposure – dramatizing the original Golmaal for stage. The reference shows up again when Radhika (an ineptly written character played by Prachi Desai), Prithviraj’s sister and Abbas’ love interest, watches the same Golmaal on television. The climax, then inexplicably hosts a Karz-inspired song performed by Prithvi’s team of body-builders.
Sincerity in comedy, however, rules, and Shetty’s skill at milking farce is at its epoch. He flaunts well, what is essentially a brain-dead laugh-scapade.
Leave your sanity, and that old copy of the Oxford English Dictionary at home. This one’s a doozy.
The Dawn.com edit can be found at: http://dawn.com/2012/07/30/movie-review-bol-bachchan/
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