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Chewing a Baabul gham

Ravi Chopra uses a tame tone for a subject which needed more fire, says Khalid Mohamed.

india Updated: Dec 11, 2006 18:27 IST

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Rani Mukherji, John Abraham, Hema Malini
Direction: Ravi Chopra
Rating: **

Quite rude and crude, he calls her “dude.” Actually, she is the WORST painter in the universe. And although her manners are extremely terse, on seeing her he breaks into Sameer Ghalibesque verse.

If you’re feeling faint already, do go to Ravi Chopra’s Baabul with stay-awake tablets and a very watchful nurse. She may help you survive the saga of a pair of  tweeting-bleating love birds. Apparently, they’ve escaped from a monastery. Seriously, this is their first  encounter with the opposite gender. How incredibly tender.

Ergo you’re stuck with Painter Babli (Rani Mukherji) and a Prankster Scion (Salman Khan) of a family dealing in `jewellery’..they even got the spelling wrong.

Rani Mukherjee in a still from the film Baabul

Painterwalli and Prankster sip tea at the Gateway of India, he fibs that he’s poorer than a church mouse; when she discovers his pillows are actually stuffed with diamonds, she calls him a “louse.” Strange girl. Anyway, Prankster’s dad (Amitabh Bachchan) who believes in  buddy-buddyhood, is now more khush-


than Mogambo. He organises a quickie shaadi for Prank and Paint, they sire a kid who keeps hiding under a table (understandable).

Next: tragedy strikes.A song-`n’-dance inter-cutting between Prank rushing home and his wife into a major

Derna ho jaaye

kind of twirl from Henna, ends with the intermission sign. Freeze. Prankster is dead. Sob?

Oddly, you don’t shed even half a  tear through this purported weepie. Post-interval, buddy dad is hell-bent on getting his widowed daughter-in-law  re-married.

Cut to a harried disco star (John Abraham) in Europe. Dad pulls disco boy’s wooden ears, brings him back to Mumbai (or is it Prague?) and coaxes him into an insta-wedding. Thus far, it seems Disco and Art gal were only friends. Platonic, ironic.

No conflict, no drama, no emotion, no nothing is perceptible – unless you count a chandelier-like  wife Hema Malini hesitating for five seconds, bade bhai Om Puri snarling for five minutes, Sarika ,in white, looking more oppressed than an art movie’s lady farmer. Aman Varma and Rajpal Yadav  show up as junior artists. Tsk.

The script by Dr Achla Nagar is old-fashioned when it isn’t weird (a gay interlude about changing shirts). The rhetoric-friendly dialogue sets your teeth on edge, especially when it resurrects forgotten words like “bhoj.” And hello, dad-in-law even tells Painterwalli her that she’s like a sea full of water which no one can drink. Whoa!

Clearly, Baghban was infinitely superior. Needless to remind you, the subject of rehabilitating widows, was treated with far conviction in Chopra banner’s own Ek Hi Raasta (1956) and Raj Kapoor’s Prem Rog (1982). 

Ravi Chopra uses a tame, ponderous tone for a subject which needed much more fire and brimstone, particularly towards the climax..which is a fizzler.

Aadesh Srivastava’s music is ear piercing. The sets are ornate, the cinematography is much too lit up and the editing pattern’s slower than traffic at peak hour.

Performances: Salman Khan’s likeable, Hema Malini’s  statuesque but John Abraham, outfitted in Govinda jackets, is pure timber.

If Rani Mukherji cries once more in the movies, you’ll jump from the balcony.  As the reformist dad, Amitabh Bachchan is letter-perfect. Every facial expression and every word of dialogue is delivered with just the right nuance and intonation. But what is the use of such artistry in an enterprise that seems to be a Baa bhool?