Director: Kushan Nandy
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bidita Bag, Jatin Goswani, Divya Dutta
Babumoshai Bandookbaaz is a little better than a typical run-of-the-mill film. Mainly because it takes you back to the Gangs Of Wasseypur days, only to make you realise what a gem of film that was (is). The film doesn’t bear resemblance per se but reminds you of the Anurag Kashyap-directorial. Why? Because, Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
While Gangs of Wasseypur effortlessly made the audience sit up and take notice of Siddiqui’s potential, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz tries to rest itself on the shoulders of the cast. Siddiqui plays Babu Bihari, a dedicated gun-for-hire, who works for anyone who offers him a decent ransom. His first killing dates back to childhood – when he was 10 years old and decided to take someone’s life for two bananas. A professional king in his own right, Babu is now habitual to the trotting lifestyle but finds himself hooked to a shoe-mender, Phulwa (Bidita Bag), during one of the missions assigned to him by a fierce politician, popularly known as Sumitra jiji (Divya Dutta). Soon, a steaming romance strikes off between them.
All is good in the lands of UP until another bounty hunter comes in the frame. He introduces himself as Banke Bihari (Jatin Goswami), a disciple of Babu, and his techniques obviously bear an uncanny resemblance to those of Babu. Soon the harmless banter of them two turn into a killing game. Having received the contract of killing the same people, they challenge each other on who kills the most number of people and the one who loses is expected to step out of the profession.
The tale of love, lust, and gunfire further deepens when the Babu-Phulwa-Banke dynamics unfold. While Phulwa’s presence lights up the life of Babu; Banke, who’s dating an ‘item-girl’, gets visibly attracted to Phulwa. Meanwhile, a host of political-driven motives gets a series of twist and turns to the plot while the story unfolds.
Siddiqui as Babu is backed with nonchalant, curt yet smooth one-liners. The rustic appeal only gets the better of him. He makes you laugh when he takes jibes at himself, delivering punchlines like “Kaalapan kaafi demand mein hai aaj kal” or “tall nahi toh kya, dark aur handsome toh hu.” Even though his transformation from a mere profit-driven killer to a revenge-seeking lover is spot on, Babu, somehow, fails to etch a character strong enough. Jatin Goswami as Banke is impressive. He matches Siddiqui scene to scene, dialogue to dialogue and smile to smile, and emerges as a promising actor. Bidita Bag, the popular Bengali actor, is such a find for Bollywood. She oozes out a certain raw sensuality and delivers an earnest performance all throughout. Her intimate scenes with Siddiqui come out so polished. The ever-reliable Divya Dutta is in top-form as a lusty yet manipulative Sumitra jiji. She knows when to give a stare and when to hold back.
While the first half somehow manages to interest, the second derails soon enough. Amid superficial plot twists and story curves, even the power-packed performances feel short. While most seem unnecessary, the overall vibe of the film reduces to a familiar mash-up of this genre and leave the viewers longing for something better imaginably.
The film has its moments – like the one where Babu and Banke discuss the mehengai (inflation) and their respective salaries over glasses of alcohol or when, every time, the police officer receives a call from his wife, he picks up saying, “Haan Meenaji.. boliye” even if it means taking a break in a significant run and chase sequence. Of course, there’s curt humour, but it’s not compelling enough to make the film work.
Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, in short, is a dry film of love, lust and gunfire. Siddiqui and the cast deserve a better story to fall back on, perhaps.