By Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM
Films depicting social themes were extremely popular in the 1960s and later, in the 1980s. But, of late, paarivarik themes are relegated to the small screen and even if a film-maker dares to tackle such a theme for the big screen in this era of urbane themes and multiplex films, a section of moviegoers [read critics] are quick to label the efforts as 'outdated' and 'regressive'.
But VIVAH, four weeks ago, and BAABUL, this week, prove the detractors wrong!
BAABUL tackles the issue of widow re-marriage, an issue the late Raj Kapoor successfully raised in PREM ROG [Rishi Kapoor, Padmini Kolhapure]. But comparisons between PREM ROG and BAABUL wouldn't be right, except that both talk about the rehabilitation of a young widow.
In terms of genre, BAABUL tackles a purely Hindustani issue, like the recent VIVAH. But let's quickly add that Sooraj R. Barjatya and Ravi Chopra's storytelling techniques are as diverse as chalk and cheese. While Barjatya adopts a desi approach for just about everything, Chopra takes a desi theme and gives the film an urbane feel. But the commonality is that both Barjatya and Chopra cater to the same set of viewers: Families.
In terms of content, BAABUL has its share of uppers and downers. Fortunately, the highs outnumber the lows in BAABUL and what really takes the film to another level is its climax. It wouldn't be erroneous to state that the graph of the film takes a big jump in the last half-an-hour thanks to the apt culmination to the story. The penultimate reels are truly outstanding!
Also, any film that raises a pertinent issue ought to rest on a solid foundation -- its writing. While Achala Nagar's writing isn't tight, it isn't trite either. Agreed, the writing could've been far more convincing and cohesive, but you cannot deny that there are ample moments in the film that make you moist-eyed.
To sum up, BAABUL is a competent follow up to BAGHBAN. After attempting diverse genres from ZAMEER onwards, Ravi Chopra gets it right with BAGHBAN first and BAABUL now.
Balraj [Amitabh Bachchan] is a rich businessman with progressive modern outlook towards life. For him, family, culture and values are of utmost importance. Shobhna [Hema Malini], his wife, is more than his better half. Together, they dote on their only child Avinash [Salman Khan]. For Balraj, Avinash is more of a friend than just his son. After spending many years in the U.S., Avinash returns home to his parents. Their lives light up!
Avinash meets the pretty Millie [Rani Mukerji], a painter. They fall in love and get married. They are blessed with a lovely child named Ansh. Rajat [John Abraham], a young musician and Millie's friend, has feelings for Millie, but never reveals it to her. He is now happy for Millie and Avi. He decides to settle in Europe, pursuing his musical career.
Fate plays a cruel game and on Ansh's birthday, Avinash meets with a fatal accident. Life without Avinash is unbearable for Millie. Meanwhile, Balraj and Shobhna try to find the love of Avinash in Ansh.
Balraj cannot bear to see Millie's colorless life. He decides to find Rajat and asks him to marry Millie and help him bring the colors back into her life. But Balwant [Om Puri], Balraj's elder brother, objects to Balraj's plans. Even Shobhna is not with Balraj this time.
Will Balraj be able to fulfill his plans? Will he prove to be a father [Baabul] rather than being a father-in-law?
An issue-based film has to be tackled with kid gloves, with utmost care, efficiency and sensitivity. And Ravi Chopra does just that! Although there are several emotional moments in the film, at least three sequences strike a chord…
* Hema requesting Rani to wear colorful clothes, after Salman's demise.
* Salman and Rani's son feeling the presence of his father by sitting in the closet.
* Rani dancing with Salman's pullover amidst heavy rains.
Any shortcomings? Oh yes! The pace drops in the second hour. While the first half focuses on light moments, songs and romance, the emotional track in the post-interval portions unfolds at a lethargic pace. In fact, the film can easily do with a 15-minute trimming to spruce up the goings-on.
Aadesh's music stresses on melody and the score is quite pleasant. 'Come On Come On Chalo Jashn Manaye' is peppy, while 'Baawri Piya Ki' is soft and soothing. 'Bebasi' [rendered with feeling by Kunal Ganjawala] is melancholic. Barun Mukherji's cinematography is appropriate. The frames are vibrant with colors. Dialogues [Achala Nagar] deserve special mention. They are fantastic!
BAABUL rests on two actors mainly -- Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukerji -- and both emerge trumps. Bachchan is in top form yet again and proves for the nth time that he's the 'Big Boss' as far as histrionics are concerned. He is simply superb in the climax! Rani takes her character to a new level altogether. HUM TUM, VEER-ZAARA, BLACK, K.A.N.K. and now BAABUL, you can well imagine how impressive she is if one clubs her work in BAABUL with her earlier accomplishments.
Hema Malini looks gorgeous and acts her part with amazing grace. Salman is natural and provides ample light moments. He's cute when courting Rani. John is perfect, although the dashing guy is looking pale and tired at times. What happened, John? Om Puri is loud, but that's the demand of the character. BAABUL stars a host of characters and those who stand out in brief roles are Sarika [tremendous], Sharat Saxena [very good] and Smita Jaykar [competent]. Rajpal Yadav doesn't get much scope. Aman Verma and Parmeet Sethi are forced characters.
On the whole, BAABUL makes a statement in a convincing manner. The film rests on three aces -- emotions, performances and execution -- which will attract the family audiences in large numbers. At the box-office, the strong theme has all it takes to make its target audience [families] cry with joy and its distributors laugh all the way to the bank!
Bollywood.com Rating: 3
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