Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Ajay Devgn, Asin, Prachi Desai, Archana Puran Singh, Krushna Abhishek
Director: Rohit Shetty
This one’s strictly for Bollywood junkies whose funny bones are easy to tickle. Yes, Bol Bachchan is a hot air balloon with no air, hot or otherwise. So expect no genuine comic highs.
It is certainly not my cup of lassi, as Prithviraj Raghuvanshi, the “I can talk English, I can walk English’ character played by Ajay Devgn, would say.
But that’s not to say there is nobody in this world that might take a shine to this laboured comic carousel. Good luck to all ye hardy souls!
Director Rohit Shetty, as he switches gears noisily from high-purpose action (Singham) to scraping-the-bottom-of-the-barrel comedy, pays homage to Hindi cinema of the 1970s and 1980s, but it’s all unalloyed Golmaal (hodgepodge) that only goes round (gol) in circles and delivers no goods (maal) worth the name.
Bol Bachchan borrows its basic premise from the Hrishikesh Mukherjee classic, Golmaal – the story of a man who is forced to rustle up a non-existent mustachioed twin to keep his difficult-to-please employer in good humour – and twists it completely out of recognizable shape with a stretched yarn that has neither the charming spontaneity nor the delicious subtlety of the original.
Along the way, Bol Bachchan alludes to Amitabh Bachchan starrers like Deewar, Parvarish, Kasme Vaade and Muqaddar Ka Sikandar. The Big B connection is laid on thick right at the outset with a song-and-dance prelude that has the male leads, Ajay Devgn and Abhishek Bachchan, match steps with the one-time one-man industry.
“I’m not in the film, only my name is,” the megastar helpfully tells the camera.
That’s the problem with Bol Bachchan at every level – it only skims the surface of all its sundry inspirations. It rips off a Hrishida film but the legendary touch of the man who made the delectable Golmaal (besides other fine comedies) is conspicuous by its absence.
Rohit Shetty has done his share of Golmaal-mongering over the years and made pots of gold in the bargain. With Bol Bachchan, the idea clearly is to quickly mop up Rs 100 crore at the box office before the audience can cotton on to the ploy. Do narrative niceties really matter in such a scenario? So there.
Abbas Ali (Abhishek Bachchan) is the Ramprasad Sharma of Bol Bachchan. But he is neither a nerd nor a nice guy in the Amol Palekar mould.
Out of work and down on luck, the Delhi boy and his little sister, Sania (Asin Thottumkal), relocate to Ranakpur, a village that looks like it would rather be a dusty city.
In the so-called village, Abbas breaks a temple lock to save a drowning boy. To ward off the ire of the devotees, he assumes a false identity.
Now known as Abhishek Bachchan, he lands a job with the local feudal lord, the aforementioned Prithviraj Raghuvanshi, a muscle-flexing marauder who plays Frisbee with human bodies and has violent bust-ups with a cussed cousin and his henchmen to protect his turf.
Prithviraj’s writ runs in Ranakpur. He detests liars and digs English as it’s spoken in his backyard. ‘English is a funny language: pineapple has neither pine nor apple,” he says, pointing to a birthday cake.
That’s true of the film itself. Bol Bachchan is a funny film where all the fun comes at the expense of the film.
Each time Abbas’ bluff is in danger of being called, he cooks up a new story to save his skin. He talks an ageing mujra dancer, Zohra (Archana Puran Singh), into standing in as his mother when his boss insists on visiting him.
He then spins a yarn about the existence of an effeminate Muslim twin only to have the fictitious guy being promptly hired by Prithviraj as kathak tutor for the latter’s sister Radhika (Prachi Desai).
As the lies multiply and Prithviraj’s English goes from bad to worse (success is the keyhole to saxophone; every penny discounts; your eardrums are playing drums; boy in armpit, hyper city noise pollution, et al), the film dutifully keeps pace with the worsening lunacy.
Bol Bachchan ends the only way it could have – on a see-sawing car dangling from the side of a precipice with the two male leads negotiating long-term peace between their warring families.
The acting is generally so unabashedly hammy that you might be forgiven for wondering whether you have wandered into a pigsty.
Be warned. Bol Bachchan is a comedy so absurd that it could reduce you to tears of despair. Conversely, if you have the stomach for such rampant silliness, it might propel you into paroxysms of delight. The call is entirely yours.