Despite the film’s title mentioning a very important aspect of the protagonist’s personality, you can never be enough prepared to witness a hero who is not just very ‘sentimental’ about his principles, but excessively disturbed with the deteriorating morals of the country. Jassi Jasraj makes his debut in Punjabi film Bikkar Bai Senti Mental as Bikram Singh turned Bikkar Bai. Supporting him in the venture are Bollywood artistes Preeti Jhangiani and Shahbaz Khan apart from Rana Ranbir, Sardar Sohi and others.
Set against the backdrop of a society riddled with numerous vices – nepotism in offices, corrupt politicians, indifferent public servants, callous police and a public that is too used to the ills to take a stand – the film marks the journey of a righteous worker at a life insurance firm who, despite being perfectly content with his wife (played by Preeti) and daughter, can’t seem to keep his temper in check when faced with injustice.
And there begins his transformation from being Bikram Singh to Bikkar Bai, a rebel out to do or die, with a ‘pahwa’ helping him vent his frustration. With powerful dialogues, stellar performances by Preeti and Shahbaz and reasonably peppy music, the film comes close to delivering justice.
However, there are numerous aspects that the film’s makers fail miserably at, not the least of which is Jassi Jasraj’s acting abilities. With strained expressions on his face, Jassi looks distressed throughout. Though Bikkar and his wife are portrayed as a modern, English-speaking couple, the sullen lighting, absurd camera angles, blotchy cinematography and unimpressive locales make the film’s background depressing to watch. The best actors, on the other hand, remain underutilised, especially Shahbaz Khan, who fits perfectly in the role of ACP Gurbaaz Singh Gill, an upright policeman every state needs. But then, a miniscule role drowns all his efforts, including those of speaking Punjabi well, with aberrations here and there.
A disjointed storyline and an over-the-top use of impossible stunts involving the use of the ‘pahwa’ (Bikkar Bai’s symbol of strength) are a grim reminder of Salman Khan’s Dabangg-style antics. Rana Ranbir weaves in his magic of humour, but it’s just not enough, while Bobby Sandhu as a Haryanvi policeman is annoying, though convincing.
Despite being promoted well by Shanti Films and Prabh Sharan Films, the makers seemed to have gone miserly while choosing the locations and equipment, a tricky thing to do when Punjabi films are improving tremendously in most technical aspects.
Despite these anomalies, the filmmakers have struck the right chord by invoking a public that is eagerly looking for a transformation in the society. Fans of Anna Hazare who are sick of the anti-people activities of those in power will seek redemption through the acts of Bikkar Bai.
Bikkar Bai Senti Mental joins the list of recent Punjabi films that witness housefuls on the day of release. Bringing in the moolah are mostly students, who welcome the powerful punch lines, desi humour and most of all, action. Says Mehtabinder Singh Sidhu, a 23-year-old student at Chandigarh University, “I loved the film. The problems faced by the actor are real, they do happen in life. Jassi Jasraj’s acting needs improvement and the end could have been better, but the subject was handled well.” Adds Gursagar Singh, 22, also a student, “It’s the first action film to have come after a string of rom-coms and the stunts were good, though a bit over-the-top sometimes. Performances of all actors other than Jassi Jasraj were good. But, the film wasn’t really up to my expectations.”
Interestingly, supporting roles were appreciated more. Says a 22-year-old student, Neha, “Bobby Sandhu as Zille Singh was very good, though Jassi Jasraj wasn’t impressive.”
Amneet Kaur, 21, also gives full marks to Bikkar Bai Senti Mental, though she says the ending could have been better.