8 July 2012

Film Review: Convict Bol Bachchan for the murder of Golmaal

The relationship between Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s original Golmaal and Rohit Shetty’s Bol Bachchan can be summed up in one of the ridiculous couplets that make up Bol Bachchan’s depressingly bad title song:
“Where one represents a magnanimous name,
While the other represents a horrendous game.”

If this makes absolutely no sense to you, I apologise. A couple of hours in the world of Bol Bachchan is enough to make the best of us start to blabber.

Rohit Shetty takes the marvellous mild-mannered comedy classic, squeezes every drop of joy and wit out of it, and hangs it out to dry. It is murder most foul.

It’s not clear why the film is called Bol Bachchan, except to capitalise shamelessly on the presence of the name, and on the somewhat grudging presence of its owner: the senior B appears in the aforementioned title song, cannibalising first one, then another of his own most famous dialogues, even as we wait with dread to see what will come next. One is almost grateful when he announces, at song’s end, that he’s not in the movie.

Replacing Utpal Dutt’s exaggeratedly fearsome Bhawani Shankar, he of the moustache and satya vachan, with Ajay Devgn’s whip-wielding, nose-flaring Prithviraj Raghuvanshi, whose speciality is mauling English words and phrases into unrecognizable nonsense: this is just the first sign of Shetty’s hubris. Next comes the substitution of Amol Palekar’s immortal Ramprasad and Lakshmanprasad by Abhishek Bachchan’s Abbas Ali and—wait for it—Abhishek Bachchan: such clever self-referentiality, wow! We must also suffer through the grotesque flirtatiousness of Archana Puran Singh in place of the superbly subtle Dina Pathak, and of the now-invariably-overdone Asrani in place of the quiet, twinkling David.

It’s no surprise, then, that the quiet middle class world of the old Golmaal, where the flashiest thing ever was the sight of Amol Palekar wearing sunglasses to a hockey match, has been swallowed up and spat out as this tourist universe of fake havelis with fake rangolis, black-and-gold uphostered sofa chairs serving as thrones in scorching open courtyards, and streets filled with earthen pots and bangle stalls—all the better to shatter in fight scenes. (It’s a superlative piece of irony that this film makes one of its heroines an “art director”.)

But Shetty doesn’t stop there. He takes a film whose very premise—the made-up judwa bhai—was an exquisitely fine dig at the proliferation of identical twins in mainstream commercial cinema, and creates a blissfully oblivious reworking of it that makes the hapless Asin Thottumkal both Ajay Devgn’s long-dead love and her “real-life” humshakal (yes, the ‘art director’).

The filmmakers’ ridiculously high estimation of themselves reaches its acme with what one can only assume is their deep belief in intertextuality. Not only does Bol Bachchan rework the plot of the old Golmaal, it also has the old film appearing as a movie on TV, inserts a local naatak mandli that’s rehearsing a play version of it—and even bungs in a sort of dream sequence where Ajay Devgan puts on glasses and ‘becomes’ Utpal Dutt to Abhishek’s Amol Palekar. And just in case you still haven’t managed to cotton on to the plot by the time all this is done, the finale has Ajay Devgn and his cronies perform a cringeworthy burlesque of everything that has taken place already.

The film also gives us a wonderful ringside view of the contemporary Hindu mind, to which it is apparently perfectly normal that no Muslim can admit to have broken a lock on a temple, even if it is to rescue a drowning child, and worse, no Hindu can have studied in a ‘Muslim’ institution, so that Jamia Millia Islamia must quickly be replaced by a fictional “Pandit Nehru College”.

None of these travesties, however, can compare with the dialogue, where Devgn takes pride of place with his straight-faced rendition of pure rubbish. When praised, he replies, “Thanks for the Complan boy,”; when lecturing the males of his village, he tells them to “eat lots of akhrot, tighten your langot and fight with bare hands”; and when calming someone down, he advises them to “Pest control” themselves.

But then Devgn has given up on himself as an actor a while ago—pity, because he’s not half bad when he tries. Abhishek Bachchan, on the other hand, did a rather good job with comic timing in Bluffmaster and Bunty aur Babli and even the much-reviled but very fun Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. Here, though, no amount of impressive bawdiness—one of his selves is supposed to be an effeminate Muslim dance teacher—can make up for the autopilot performance that gets him by for the rest of the film.

One can only pray that Rohit Shetty does not take it into his head to remake any more Hrishikesh Mukherjee films. As the sole hummable song in this film goes, “Kahin nikal na jaye humri body se praan re”.

Published in Firstpost.

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