Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Baabul, or, Big B the Bapa-ji

Warning: This review contains some spoilers. Although no more than the Netflix summary, and the ending isn't given away.

Here is the Netflix summary of the 2006 film Baabul:

When his only son dies in a tragic accident, Balraaj (Amitabh Bachchan) does the unthinkable to pull his grieving daughter-in-law (Rani Mukherjee) out of a depression: He acts as matchmaker and urges her to marry a man who has long loved her in silence (John Abraham). While the rest of his family reacts in shock and anger, Balraaj knows that the only way for them all to heal is for his daughter-in-law to find love again.

Sounds promising, right? Some Hindu widows in India are relegated to a dreary existence of substinence living and perpetual "mourning" for their dead husbands. There are whole charitable ventures dedicated to their betterment. So of course I rented the film. We sat down to watch it, and it was full of surprises, although not really the kind that I like. Well, except this one: Balraaj's son Avinash is played by SAL. MAN. Khan, which I didn't know and was a nice surprise. (He actually does a pretty decent job in this film, although he looks super-tired... lots of bloodshot eye close-ups.)

I kind of expected the film to begin with a K3G-ish collage of black-and-white-happy-family-stills to establish their credentials as a loving couple/non-nuclear family unit. Haha! No! It starts before Avinash and Milli (Rani's character) ever meet! In fact, in one of those Superfantastic Bollywood Moments, they actually bump into one another in the airport as Avinash returns from an extended absence. His mom Shobhna (Hema Malini! yay!) welcomes him home with all due pomp and circumstance to appease his bombastic-yet-loveable elder uncle Balwant (Om Puri).

Avinash immediately sets up his office in his dad's company, Eros Jewelry (and LOL about that one--wait. Is that a real brand? I just remembered seeing it in the credits). He and Milli meet again. Balraaj offends Milli from the get-go so Avinash lies about his relationship with his dad. He "accidentally" meets her again later (although she calls him on it pretty quickly). Song picturization! Hilarity and misunderstandings ensue! Balraaj fixes things!

Milli and Avinash get engaged. They get married. They have a steamy song picturization involving lots of candles and paint smearing. They celebrate Karwa Chauth. They get (well, she gets) pregnant. Their son is born! He grows into an adorable little guy with glasses just like Milli's. He won't drink his milk, just like Avinash didn't when he was a boy.

Aaaand it was at this point I checked the time and realized that, holy heck, we were over an hour into this freakin' thing and where was the dead husband??? I want my dead husband! I want the movie I thought this would be and not the movie it actually is!

Um. In case you couldn't tell, I was pretty disappointed. The best parts of the film (and this is what probably will mark me forever as a sick, sick woman) are the parts wherein everyone is mourning Avinash's death. Milli going into the shower, facing the mirror, and watching the sindoor rinse from her hair part over her face like blood is a fantastic image, as is the moment when her little boy confesses his anger at his father for going to God without saying good-bye. Guh. TEARS. MANIPULATIVE-STORYTELLING-INDUCED TEARS.

As Milli gets more depressed and maybe a teensy bit delusional, Balraaj decides that, hey little lady, know what you need to pull you out of the dumps? A new guy! (I would also like to take issue with the concept that a woman needs a husband to have a meaningful life. I would have preferred to see her undergo a good round of grief counseling and maybe some art therapy followed by some technique teaching. Also an inappropriate fling with one of her art class students. Oh, okay, that would have been bad too.)

Anyway, Balraaj goes to Europe to find the guy who was obviously pining for Milli at her wedding to Avinash, Rajat (John Abraham's character). We see Rajat doing some Eurotrash-style gyration in a club song that goes on waaaay too long (although, I ain't lying, John looks really good). He tells Rajat that Avinash is dead and invites him to come back and woo the despondent widow (sounds like a romance novel title!).

Okay, I have to stop because I've just gone through two-thirds of the movie. It's ridiculous. I thought Hema-ji and Big B were extremely cute, and that Hema was underused--relegated mostly to playing the saasu-ma although some of that great onscreen chemistry with Amit-ji comes through during "Come On Come On." Rani looks really cute in her bohemian clothes before she becomes the demure good wife. John Abraham did a pretty good job of pining after Rani (although let's be honest, it's probably not that hard!) and I especially liked his reaction when he first sees her dressed up for a date with Avinash. Most of the songs were pretty forgettable, except for "Baavari Piya Ki."

Baabul is, in fact, an "issue" movie. It should come with a stamp that reads "Hallmark Gold Crown Presentation," or perhaps, "Lifetime Channel Original Movie" (Lifetime motto: "Television That Preys on the Fears of Women"). The lighting is soap-opera-ish and so is the plot. The all-star cast can't save the film from a too-long exposition and a too-rapid resolution that left me (and my husband) gaping, saying, "That's it?" Yeah, don't show a bunch of people losing their stuff over a particular issue and then wrap it up in five minutes with some heartfelt speeches. Just a storytelling hint to (runs to check Wikipedia entry) (runs to click on IMDB profile) Whoever You Are Who Wrote This Film!
I don't think it was worth giving up a spot on my Netflix queue for, but I could be wrong. I bet you liked it, Nicki, just for the fact that it had two of your favorites, hai na?


  1. "...where was the dead husband??? I want my dead husband!"

    Rofl! This movie is exactly as you describe - you wait and wait and wait for Salman to die and then you wait for Big B to stop preaching and then boom - there's THE END!!!

    Be thankful you saw it on DVD where you had access to the FF button. I saw it in the theatre (with a die-hard Salman fan, at that) and couldnt escape a single darned thing! :-(

  2. yyyyaaaaaayyyy for cheese like baabul! i had the true unfortunance(made-up word) of seeing this on my 16th birthday thinking John Abraham as a lovesick puppy dog would be more entertaining than dhoom 2. After viewing a second time, i grew to like the movie, despite the syrupy speech at the end, but i do always love a "yeh shaadi nahi ho sakta' one of my favorite lines in any indian film! though i love rani's sindoor shower scene, that was an amazing scene, i also wished for the dead husband in the opening minutes! but ohh no i suffered thru sallu and AB calling each other buddy every 5 minutes! this is is like eating a bag sugar, its sooo bad for u but u find pleasure in making fun of it after!

  3. Actually I was extremely disappointed in this film. So boring. It was released in the 80s or even early 90s, I would've been okay with it but now? No way!!

    I have too many faves actually. I was so excited to see Elaan for John and Arjun but the film disappointed me!!! Urgh. Hot guys in a film can't save a pathetic storyline, lol

    I still haven't posted up my review yet, but will tonight. I've been busy (wow!!)...long story, lol

  4. I have a soft spot for Baabul since it's the first Bolly movie I saw in the theater, but I've only watched it once since I bought the DVD, and it definitely hadn't improved with time.

    The first half is cute, and I love the scenes right after Avinash's death, especially the scene where Rani washes the sindoor out of her hair. But after that it just moves too quickly. Give the girl a few years to grieve for her husband! And then, I don't know, maybe ask her if she'd like to get married to Rajat, instead of telling her she's going to? Urgh.

  5. There are so many many things wrong with this movie:
    1- Salman does NOT wk as Amitabh's son- he doesnt resemble either Amitabh or Hema, and is tiny in comparison to both (and yes I love him, but he IS tiny) :D
    2- Amitabh decides Rani needs love- he decides she should get married- he gets the guy- I dont see much contribution from her at all- :S One hopes that if this is truly a movie exhibiting female empowerment, the woman in question can make some life decisions on her own- who knows- she may have decided to just move- or change jobs- or something!

    [sigh] such a strange, bad, headachy movie [sigh/groan]

  6. sorry for the venting above- but this movie makes me so mad! :)

  7. i think the movie had potential to connect better and do better, but the dragging story of movie killed it all... baghbaan still stuck to the social message it wanted to give but babul lost it in between...

  8. I'm with Bollyviewer here, since this was a lot easier to get through with the FF button :)


    LOL, right. Don't we just love that we sit through it all?!

    If you're ever in the mood for more unadulterated sad films (is that an oxymoron?) starring some of the Baabul cast and from this decade...one of the good movies starring Amitabh and John Abraham is Viruddh. It's a film by Mahesh Manjrekar, who can be very good at close-to-the-world cinema. Amitabh also has Waqt and Family (with Akshay Kumar in both), which are decent. Of course, there's Black, which was very good but a little too brutal for my liking. As for Salman, there's Kyun Ki (opposite Kareena) and Tere Naam -- I thought both were very good.

    All of the above are sad in some respect, and I thankfully didn't see any in theaters, but they're worth one watch if only for the brilliant acting by Amitabh and Salman, who could only do so much to save Baabul. I usually have a more pleasant film on hand to see right after, to end on a high note!

    'Baawari Piya Ki' is a fantastic song. I'm really glad that Sonu Nigam is focusing more on classical music these days. Sure, it takes him away from Bollywood somewhat, but the tradeoff seems worth it.

  9. Bollyviewer--the FF button was my *friend.* And believe me, I sooo pity you going to the theater thinking it would actually be a decent movie! LOL

    Rum: I think you deserve to have "unfortunance" put into the dictionary if that's what you spent your time doing for your sweet sixteen! You poor thing, surely drooling over Hrithik's abs would've been better! LOL

    Nicki: you're right, this did have sort of an "early 90s" vibe; in fact my husband kept on asking if I was sure it came out in 2006 because it seemed so clunky. Bummer about Elaan, but I'm looking forward to your review!

    emily: I've never had the good fortune to watch a Bwood movie in a theater but I can certainly understand the sentimental value. I feel that way about the 2002 Devdas since it was the first BW movie I bought. ITA about letting her have more time. It seemed like, what, a month or something? And then she just let everybody tell her what she should do. Oh well.

    Shweta: you don't have to apologize for venting; I feel exactly the same way! Like I said in the review, I would've liked to have seen them encouraging her to get her own life before becoming part of someone else's. And also I felt bad for Ansh. Poor baby, his dad dies and his mom turns around and gives him a stepdad practically instantaneously???

    Hi nitin! Thank you for dropping in and commenting! I've never seen baghbaan but I can enjoy a well-done social message movie so I'll see if I can check it out.

    Hello, Bollywood Fan! Yes, a good weepie is quite cathartic and one of the reasons why I break out K3G on occasion. LOL Thank you so much for the recommendations; I especially want to check out Kyun Ki but I haven't seen any of them except Black so I'm really excited about checking them out!

  10. I thought Baabul was "meh" instead of "OMG SUCK" because it had some good parts, like the scene with the sindoor running down Milli's face and the song "Gaa Re Mann." I won't waste my money on the $1.50 copy available at Induna, though, because I don't know if I can justify buying a movie to icon it, even if it is ridunculously cheap.

  11. I remember that I saw this, but nothing else at all about it.

    Was entirely forgettable, even compensating for my bad memory.

  12. Nae: Ha! Ridunculous! And yeah, I hear you, although in your place I might be able to justify it by skipping Starbucks one day (I don't skip it enough!) because I am addicted to screencapping. LOL That scene you mentioned seems to have been the one that stuck most with people who saw it.

    Memsaab: I have hope that in time I too will forget. ;-)

  13. LOL at 'I want my dead husband'! I was really disappointed by this film - it had potential but I think they pretty much just squandered it all and made a bad film. Like you, I resented the notion that our heroine could not have a meaningful life without a husband.

  14. Hi Daddy's Girl! Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I agree, the film is just poor, although I forgot to mention in the review that I actually giggled out loud at some of the interchanges between Amitabh and Salman; they were well-written, as were the grieving scenes. I wonder if the movie was written by a man or woman? Due to the incomplete info available online I guess I'll never know cuz I'm sure not renting the DVD again to find out! LOL

  15. If it would happen then it will be a very good thing in our society that a widow can get a chance to live by doing remarriage,like Rani Mukhjerjee.Good movie.

  16. Hi Saheli! One of the (few) things I liked about the movie was that it was a little out of Rani's usual (what I've seen of her usual) range, you know? Not that it required too much in the acting department but Milli was *different*, very distinct.


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