It’s official now – Vidya Balan’s career has hit a rough patch. Her loud-Punjabi housewife act in ‘Ghanchakkar’ last year went largely unnoticed, her pairing with Farhan Akhtar in ‘Shaadi Ke Side Effects’ was unappreciated, and now, her ‘Bobby Jasoos’ has tanked badly at the box-office. Interestingly, the actress – often hailed as the ‘Fourth Khan’ of B-town – cannot really be held responsible for the hattrick of debacles she has notched up. She did her best, but the movies were not good enough to find enough takers. Sadly, ‘Bobby Jasoos’ is the worst of these three – and that’s saying something!
The movie starts off promisingly enough though. We meet the feisty young ‘Bobby’ (Vidya Balan) who aspires to make it big someday as a detective. Sadly, all the ‘jasoosi’ she gets to do is finding out about petty extramarital affairs and other equally insignificant cases. What’s more, ‘Bobby’s dad (Rajendra Gupta) disapproves of her actions. The closest thing to a serious case that poor ‘Bobby’ has is shadowing her cousin ‘Noor’ (Benaf Dadachanji), who is having an affair with local goon ‘Lala’ (Arjan Bajwa).
Just as everyone had started to think that ‘Bobby’s career as a sleuth is never going to take off in a big way – surprise arrives in the form of the rich ‘Anees Khan’ (Kiran Kumar). He offers a surprisingly large sum of money to find a girl called ‘Nilofer’ (Ankita Roy). ‘Bobby’ accomplishes the task relatively easily – and is promptly rewarded with another offer, to find another young lady – and this time, the reward amount is double. Oh, you are thinking that this ‘Anees Khan’ must be involved in some sort of human-trafficking racket, and ‘Bobby’ has unknowingly got tangled in his shady activities? Try figuring this – ‘Khan’s third and final target is ‘Ali’ – a guy. So, what exactly is ‘Anees Khan’ up to? ‘Bobby’ finds that out in the end, but you will be left totally perplexed.
The first half of ‘Bobby Jasoos’ is fairly breezy, with ‘Bobby’ keeping things lively with her antics, and a sense of mystery being introduced from the moment ‘Anees Khan’ steps in. The problem lies with the post-interval phase, which is so dreary, meandering, and in the end, unfathomable – that you are bound to leave the theaters with your head in a spin. ‘Bobby Jasoos’ is the debut directorial venture of Samar Shaikh – and he is clearly confused about the type of film he wants make. The mood varies from gripping mystery, to fun and frolic, to father-daughter tensions, to romance (yep, this movie has that too – more on that later!), to the desperation of a dad wanting to find out his long-lost children. Sadly, what Shaikh churns out in the end is an extremely uninteresting hotchpotch of all the above.
Vidya Balan’s filmography might have run into troubled waters, but thankfully, her acting prowess has not diminished one bit. In the title role of ‘Bobby’, she is an absolute riot in the first hour of the movie. Her little skirmishes and petty fights with ‘Munna’ (Aakash Dhahiya) – in whose stall she runs her makeshift detective chamber – are fun to watch. There are also the several disguises Balan puts on during this time (incidentally, that was one of the biggest points of interest prior to the release of the film). However, as the film moves ahead and fast loses steam, Balan also starts looking lost. All that the actress needs is a good script and a competent director – and she will be back among the A-league of actresses in the Hindi film industry. And that might involve not being too finicky about women-centric roles!
The fate of ‘Ghanchakkar’ and ‘Shaadi Ke Side Effects’ might have been disappointing, but Vidya had never been let down by the incompetence of her co-actors. In ‘Bobby Jasoos’, that is a huge problem too. Ali Fazal, as Bobby’s love interest ‘Tasawur’, is the precise definition of being miscast in a movie. He has a wide-eyed, gaping, bewildered expression all along – and never looks the part as a television news reporter (that’s his profession in the film). The romantic track between ‘Tasawur’ and ‘Bobby’ is distinctly ho-hum too, without a semblance of onscreen chemistry. At times, Fazal appears so wooden that he makes stalwarts like Zayed Khan look like Al Pacino, in comparison!
As the angry old dad of ‘Bobby’, Rajendra Gupta does a fair job. Supriya Pathak, as the doting mother who does not have much say in the family, isn’t bad either. Kiran Kumar, in the pivotal role of ‘Anees Khan’, hams in the way he usually does. All that Arjan Bajwa’s ‘Lala’ has to do in the movie is cast angry glances – mostly at ‘Bobby’. Anupriya Goenka, as ‘Afreen’, looks pretty, but that’s about it. Aakash Dhahiya and Prasad Barve (as ‘Munna’ and ‘Shetty’ respectively) are passable. No one else really is worth a mention.
Looking for loopholes in the plot of ‘Bobby Jasoos’ would be an exercise in futility. The narrative is more like a damaged road after the rains – full of potholes. For instance, we see ‘Abba’ is horribly disappointed in ‘Bobby’ – but the director does not bother explaining the cause of this resentment. Incidents like ‘Tasawur’ employing ‘Bobby’ to break off his arranged marriage plans, or that of ‘Bobby’ forcing everyone in his family to gulp down ‘biryani’ from what seems like a hundred stalls – are unintentionally hilarious. Shaikh tries to surprise the audience with a late twist – but it is way too lame to have any effect whatsoever. Watch out for one scene though – where ‘Bobby’ tries to give her first income to her father. Her expressions as her dad snubs her yet again indicates that there’s still a lot of talent in the ‘fourth Khan’. It’s a pity that ‘Bobby Jasoos’ does absolutely no justice to Balan’s abilities.
‘Bobby Jasoos’, at just a tick over two hours, is not an overly long film – but the dull second half seems never-ending at times. You have to wonder what editor Hemal Kothari was doing, as the movie was being made. Screenplay, by Sanyukta Chawla Shaikh, is decent for the first part – before becoming downright shoddy after the interval. If any movie deserves to be called ‘a tale of two halves’, it has to be this one.
Thankfully, cinematographer Vishal Sinha remains steady right through the film. Some of the songs are particularly well picturized, while Sinha’s camera nicely captures the dingy alleys and bylanes and shops too. On the music front, ‘Bobby Jasoos’ is a mixed bag. The pick of the songs is easily ‘Tu’ – sung quite magically by Shreya Ghoshal and Papon (sadly, by the time it arrives, viewers have already lost their interest in the onscreen going-ons). ‘Jashn’ is another number that has a bit of spark about it. ‘Sweety’ might have been worth humming along – but the sight of Ali Fazal – a man with two left foot and zero facial expressions – trying to dance to its tunes ruins the effect. Shantanu Moitra’s music direction is not bad, but we have come to expect more from him.
‘Bobby Jasoos’ had every potential to become a mildly entertaining comic-thriller film (on the lines of SRK’s ‘Baadshah’ (1999)). In Vidya Balan, it had one of the most powerful actresses of our times. However, too many sub-plots, very little assistance from the other actors, a painfully boring post-interval phase and a laughable plot-twist at the end makes it one of the worst offerings of 2014. The inept direction of Samar Shaikh does not help matters either.
Vidya Balan’s fans must have hoped that ‘Bobby Jasoos’ will mark a grand comeback for her, after two back-to-back flops. Well, that’s not going to happen…Vidya has to try again!