Bala movie review: Ayushmann Khurrana’s film is bold and beautiful, and a bit unsettling
Bala movie review: Ayushmann Khurrana delivers a hilarious film that is also empathetic. Yami Gautam, Bhumi Pednekar and a talented ensemble cast buoy up the Amar Kaushik film.
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar, Yami Gautam
Director: Amar Kaushik
There is more to a good comedy film than dropping a few clever jokes. Director Amar Kaushik understands the mechanics well – something he displayed earlier in Stree, and Bala takes it a notch higher.
The film starring Ayushmann Khurrana as a prematurely balding man is outrageously hilarious and empathetic at the same time. It introduces a quirky subject and builds on it with a single-minded commitment without meandering towards needless subplots.
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Ayushmann is in form, yet again, as he plays an ordinary man with an extraordinary problem. The actor has picked up taboo subjects in the past too, delivering films that are not just entertaining but give life lessons too. Bala, by far, is the funniest of them all and Ayushmann hits the ball out of the court. Despite not being your conventional hero, the actor manages to impress each time.
Set in Kanpur, the film narrates the story of Balmukund Shukla aka Bala (Khurrana), a stud in his school whose silky smooth hair make him the favourite boy in his class. Switch to his mid-20s and he has a bald pate. His childhood sweetheart has left him, any girl he meets him for marriage takes one look at his bald head and runs away screaming. He also gets demoted at his workplace where he sells Pretty You fairness creams and faces constant humiliation because he looks older for his age and hence can’t be in marketing.
Bala refuses to give up hope. After trying some 212 odd hacks in two years that range from wacky to obnoxious -- standing upside down to ensure better blood flow to roots, rubbing raw onion on the scalp or applying a mixture of buffalo poop and semen – he finally decides to wear a wig and goes from being the joke of the town to the talk of the town. Soon he finds love in Pari Mishra (Yami). But what happen to Bala’s fate when his childhood friend Latika Trivedi (Bhumi Pednekar) lets the secret out? Will Bala’s wedding night turn into a nightmare? Will his happiness fade like his hairline?
The first half of the film is ridiculously funny with some fantastic one-liners and punches that evoke genuine laughter. Niren Bhatt’s writing deserves a standing ovation; it’s impressive how subtly he talks about baldness and mentions Anupam Kher and Rajinikanth in one breath without offending anyone.
Though you’d enjoy the endless humour and wit, you can’t miss noticing that in the garb of comedy, the writers have taken full liberty to crack insanely sexist, racist and some gross and crass jokes, too. However, in most of the scenes you won’t complain, but deep down the makes you uncomfortable with the overall tone of it. If you don’t find toilet humour funny, let me tell you there are quite a few references.
Second half is slower and on the preachy side, but never turns into a yawn-fest. Unlike last week’s Ujda Chaman on the same subject, Ayushmann isn’t shown as this sad, helpless guy who won’t do anything about his situation in Bala. Though he keeps on blaming his father for faulty genes, he goes all out to make his ‘selfie to self pity’ story believable, and how hair loss has led to an ‘identity loss’ for him in a rather funny way. From Rajesh Khanna to Ranbir Kapoor, Bala mimics everyone and looks good, too. But it’s Shah Rukh Khan who he worships and his posters adorning the walls of Bala’s room is proof. I can’t really recall a film from recent times that gave such a befitting tribute to SRK.
While content is the king in Bala, it’s the performances that further enhance it. Having Ayushmann as the hero, director Amar Kaushik makes the most of his acting prowess. It’s pleasant how Ayushmann makes the plight of bald men look relatable through his actions gestures, emotions and expressions. He doesn’t overdo it either and has embraced his look as a bald guy. Good job done there with the prosthetics.
Among the ladies, Yami totally shines and how. Playing a small town model and a TikTok sensation, she remains in her character, looking over-dramatic at times, and even confuses you with her happy-sad expression. But her character very well explains the reason why she is obsessed with good looks.
Bhumi, on the other hand, plays a confident lawyer who has faced prejudices all her life due to her dark complexion. Though she makes sensible arguments, it’s still not understandable why makers didn’t cast someone who matches Latika’s skin tone, instead casting Bhumi and giving her a brownface that is nowhere close to natural. The makers highlight the stereotype when Bhumi goes to meet a potential groom and the song being played in the background is ‘Chandi jaisa rang hai tera sone jaise baal’. What a cliché!
While Ayushmann-Bhumi’s love-hate vibe makes for several funny moments, his TikTok scenes with Yami are undoubtedly the highlight. Quite an interesting way to weave in the 90s flavour with both of them dancing to some popular songs not only recreating the steps but also the looks and outfits.
In most of Ayushmann’s film, the supporting cast has always had a huge role to play and Bala is no exception. Saurabh Shukla as a devoted father, Seema Pahwa as a mustachioed neighbouhood mausi, Abhishek Bannerjee as the salon guy and Javed Jaffery as a mentor stand out in their respective parts. Dheerendra Kumar Gautam as Bala’s brother is a great casting call and his monologue in front of the entire family earns him claps.
The film doesn’t end at only familiarizing us with the plight of balding men. It does let its message of ‘self-love’ come across, telling us how it is okay to feel perfect with your imperfections and why should one change to fit into the set norms. And all of this is done through a stand-up act.
Bala is a well-made film that stays true to its genre for most of the time. It makes right jokes at the time and leaves you in stitches more often that you’d expect.