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Some films get to be successful by being aware of their own weight and yet refusing to take themselves seriously. Yashraj Films (the blockbuster studio shouldering Yash Chopra) wanted just that and appears to have gotten it just right. A romantic crime spree that almost absent-mindedly tosses in some mega-star power, Bunty Aur Babli has all the makings of a fun-filled summer flick.
The plot is based on a deceivingly simple premise. Realizing that his dream of instant riches will not pan out with his job as a train conductor, Rakesh (Abhishek Bachchan) runs away from home. Vimmi (Mukherjee) dreams of becoming a supermodel-diva and won’t settle for anything else. Confronted with parental objection, she also flees from home. Converging on a fateful bus ride to Mumbai, Rakesh and Vimmi re-christen themselves as Bunty and Babli and set out on an adventurous crime spree that gets them everything but the vast fortunes each of them seeks.
As the junior Bachchan teams up with a credible Mukherjee, Bunty and Babli disguise themselves as country bumpkins, tourists, and even city-slickers conniving, deceiving, defrauding, and pillaging small-time hoods at their own games. If Bonnie and Clyde had begrudgingly retrained their violent outbursts and instead taken up Hindi diction, this is how they may have fared in India’s Hindi belt hinterland.
The casting together of Amitabh Bachchan and his son Abhishek for the first time stirs up the mega-masala plot. The senior Bachchan channels Dashrath Singh, a dark-shaded detective hot on Bunty and Babli’s trail and not beyond playing loose cannon when the cat-and-mouse chase suits his own hidden agenda.
While Big B’s ability to morph himself into disparate characters is well documented, it’s the junior Bachchan who delivers his most carefree performance to date. In a role originally designed for Hrithik Roshan (who instead opted for the upcoming Dhoom 2 opposite Aishwarya Rai), Abhishek Bachchan appears to blossom as an actor with a knack for light comedy.
Musically, the guilt-free music goes hand-in-hand with the breezy story. The signature tune onscreen is “kajra re,” a frothy, beer-hall song with seductive vocals by Alisha Chinoy (along with Shankar Mahadevan and Javed Ali), featuring the two Bachchans and a come-hither cameo by a mega-bucks diva (hint: she has a wax twin at Madame Tussauds). Yash Raj Films, currently the most lucrative filmmaking outfit in India (Dhoom, Hum Tum), with the release of the hit Veer-Zaara, also diversified into producing and marketing Hindi film music. Their up-beat Bunty Aur Babli score is also selling briskly.
In addition to one of the highest opening grosses in India recently and released in North America over the Memorial Day weekend, Bunty Aur Babli also managed a decent $435,000 gross from a 42-theater release, landing in the U.S. top-20 box-office charts. Bunty Aur Babli is yet another feather in Yash Raj’s cap.
Aniruddh Chawda writes from Wisconsin, on America’s north coast.