Meet Bunty and Babli. They aren’t your average running-around-trees-shooting-the-breeze kind of lovebirds. Bunty and Babli are special, and not just because they are played by the very special Abhishek Bachchan and Rani Mukherjee. They take their marriage vows in front of the Taj Mahal, promising to see each other through life and death… And then they go right back to doing what they like best: conning the junta of its easily gotten money.
Shaad Ali, whose debut film “Saathiya” was about a working class marriage gone unpleasantly awry, here sinks his teeth into a finely written caper that moves our endearing couple with devilish dexterity through a series of corny-and-funny encounters with petty crime.Some of these caper situations are decidedly unique to Hindi cinema. Come to think of it, Shaad Ali’s narration sets out to achieve an impossible dream: it makes the dreams of two small-towners the fulcrum of narration, and makes these dreams both funny and sad, sometimes both at once.
The way Rakesh and Vimmi meet on a desultory railway station in a dusty town of Uttar Pradesh seems almost like a parody of Mani Ratnam’s “Dil Se” where Shah Rukh Khan spotted the forlorn figure of Manisha Koirala in a remote corner.
Shaad Ali loves trains and other modes of communication for the working class. Dammit, he loves the working class! Not too many filmmakers today dare to follow small town dreams. Like “Saathiya” his romance is rooted to a real milieu. But there’s a difference in “Bunty Aur Babli”. Here the couple’s escapades border on the bizarre.
The way Rakesh invents doubles for the two-some is a tongue-in-cheek swipe at armchair psychology. All the criminal activities that the pair indulges in is the handiwork of the couple’s doppelgangers, alias “Bunty Aur Babli”.The comfort zone that Abhishek and Rani create for their characters’ comic romp is mystical and yet earthy.
What was the need to suddenly brake on the burlesque mood, and put the pair in a lengthy erotic song?At such times, Shaad Ali’s considerable pluck plummets. You wait for him and the film to survive the compromises that creep into the second-half. But the joie de vivre and kinetic energy of the pre-intermission phase never quite returns.
Oh well, enjoy the blizzard and the blast of ruggedly visualised episodes while they last, as the two dreams steamroller their way through a stupendous rush of celluloid adrenaline.
It’s regrettable that the film’s deeper darker beyond-caper thrusts get drowned in the din of dusty retribution in the second half. As their blast from the past catches up with “Bunty Aur Babli” in the form of a scowling sneering cynical cop (Amitabh Bachchan) the caper kingdom of the innocuously anti-social protagonists falls apart.
It’s the fun fiesta of petty crime that irrigates the strange and satirical world of Rakesh and Vimmy, also known as “Bunty and Babli”. Avik Mukhopadhyay’s camera captures the dusty crusty rusty and thirsty milieu of north India in shrieking silhouettes.
In the opening song “Dhadak dhadak”, we are introduced to the dreams and yearnings of the twosome with an infectious gusto. Indeed Rani Mukherjee and Abhishek Bachchan transform into the deviously self-gratifying heist-makers with a feisty passion. Their faces and body languages convey the eagerness of eagles waiting to take wing.
Rani’s comic timing, specially in the sequence where, missing her parents after her runaway mirage, she wails like a baby is a delightful reminder of growing confidence as a performer who surrenders to the camera unconditionally.
In the portions where she impersonates high society women, Rani seems to miraculously mimic Sharmila Tagore and Kareena Kapoor simultaneously.Throughout the film we hear and see references to cinema of the past. For one conning interlude, Abhishek impersonates his father gravelly dialogue delivery in “Agneepath”. Songs from the Amitabh Bachchan films of the 1970s are played in an ongoing rush of nostalgia.