Film, Hindi, Review

Bol Bachchan

Comparing and contrasting the original Golmaal and Rohit Shetty’s remake Bol Bachchan is a great way to understand where Indian cinema stands today.

Hrisihikesh Mukherjee’s masterpiece, a charming tale of lies, deception and moustache is a confirmed classic of Indian cinema. The humor is sharp, the situations original, and the comic acting is of the highest order. But the biggest impression the film leaves behind is the gentleness of it all. It is the director’s humane handling of his material and his characters that gives it an evergreen texture.

Rohit Shetty is a blockbuster director, and the maker of the Golmaal series and potboilers like Singham. His aesthetic is the louder, OTT brand of cinema that has come to define box office hits in the recent times. In applying this style of filmmaking to his remake of Golmaal, he has probably replaced the one element of the original film that made it a pleasure to watch it again and again. That it is already a certified money spinner, that it had the audience lapping this style of cinema up, is a good indication of our cinematic preferences.

In the original, the story revolves around a lie that Amol Palekar is forced to tell Utpal Dutt to get a job. The reason for the lie is deliciously ludicrous and simple; Utpal Dutt believes men with a moustache are more trustworthy than men without. It is this basic premise that kicks of a series of deceptions – twin brother, fake mother, fake mother’s twin sister – and results in some hilarious sequences as Palekar desperately tries to keep up the smokescreen till the end. But the insanity of that basic premise stands out as the reason for the madness, and is cleverly used as a recurring element in the plot. Here, the premise is swapped for a reason that is not only mundane, but actually loses its relevance as soon as the first lie is spoken, making the subsequent events just that much less cohesive, and that much less silly. Its a subtle but key difference between the two films.

The climax of the original, as indeed the entire film, also makes no attempt to have a moral case for why Palekar lied. It’s that kind of light handed treatment that makes it a true entertainer. Compared to that, Abhishek’s repeated justification of his decision to dupe Ajay seems not only needless and burdensome to the tone of the film, but almost makes it seem regressive compared to the original.

There is little to be gained comparing anything else between the two, because of their wildly diverse sensibilities. There is a side plot of an evil brother added simply for Shetty to have his obligatory action and car sequences, and is otherwise a complete waste of time. The best characters from the supporting cast remain those that were in the original, and additional ones – including Asin as one of the female leads – don’t contribute much to the film.

There are some funny moments in the film, that stand on their own. The introduction of the mother is one, as is Abhishek’s ridiculous dance number as the twin brother. They are both in sync with the tone of the film, and unburdened from any references of the original. To be consistently funny and consistently good, Bol Bachchan needed many more of these tied together, and not as individual set pieces. Even the tribute to the original film via the play is a neat idea, though it is tackily done and does not go beyond mimickry.

Ajay Devgn’s performance is a major problem. You are always thinking of Utpal Dutt when you see him – indeed the film directly references him on more than one occasion – and he is not a patch on the master. No amount of growling can stand up to that refined baritone. In hindsight, making him someone who cannot speak English was a clever move by the writers, making any further comparisons between the two redundant. Abhishek is sincere in his farcical double roll, but pulling of a central comic performance requires great timing and great writing, and he has both only in spades.

There will be a generation of audience for whom the only Golmaal they see will be Rohit Shetty’s, one way or the other. That would be seriously tragic, and perhaps a good enough reason why certain films should not be remade. Thank god then, for the constant references within the film to the original. Shetty does disservice to his own film, by reminding people of what it could have been. But it’s also very probable that this audience may not care either way. The loss, of course, is entirely theirs.


Hindi, Comedy, Color

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