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PAA. Director: R. Balki. Players: Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Vidya Balan. Music: Ilayaraja. (ABCL, theatrical Release)
Embedded in Amitabh Bachchan’s extraordinarily rich filmography (150 films since 1969 and still counting), there is an equally rich variety in the roles the megastar thespian has undertaken, from the stellar “angry young man” persona from the 1970’s (Sholay, Deewar, Zanjeer) to the less-than-stellar superhero avatars from the 1980’s (Shahenshah, Toofan, Ajooba, Mard) to the ageing noble steward of the 1990’s (Hum, Agneepath). During the last decade, however, a re-invigorated Bachchan has come full circle by re-connecting to the mesmerizing acting chops(Black, Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham, Ramgopal Varma Ki Aag) that transformed him into an international icon from Kanpur to Cannes in the first place.
In Paa, the 67-year old acting legend tackles a physically challenging transformation by getting under the heavily made up—even deformed—face of a 12-year suffering from progeria, a rare disorder that causes severe premature aging. Somewhat comparable to the reverse-aging premise fromThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button, director Balki’s film resonates with fresh, strong appeal even when transferred to an Indian cultural paradigm.
Raised by his mother, Bachchan’s 12 year-old Auro is unknowingly befriended by Abhishek Bachchan, who does not know he is Auro’s father. Executed to near perfection, the Hobbit-style depiction of an adult shrunk to pint-sized alternate self (prosthetic wizardry courtesy Hollywood make-up ace Christian Kifle, who also worked on Button), lifts Paa in a heart-warming nod to broken family lines and single parenting.
Paa is the careeer-affirming story of a 67-year old actor who disappears into the personality of a 12-year old boy. Like aged wine—dignified, treasured, sunlight-averse and always cool—Amitabh Bachchan is a gift worth savoring in our collective lifetime.
Entertainment Quotient (EQ): A