(First published in Firstpost.com)
Nawazuddin Siddiqui has mentioned in his interviews that he watched James Bond movies to get into his character, for the film, ‘Babumoshai Bandookbaaz’. After sitting through the absolutely meaningless film, you wonder just where does the similarity lie? Certainly not in the trigger-happy gun in his hand. That bit is ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ part three. Perhaps, it’s those steamy scenes with the gals more smoking hot than the gun;—Bidita Bag and Shraddha Das. And there are plenty of those. Not that they match a James Bond kissing scene which was too hot to handle for Pahlaj Nihalani in the last Hollywood release.
But then, who goes for a Nawazuddin movie for the steamy scenes, vulgar language and violence? Ever since Nawazuddin played the title role in Manjhi- The Mountain Man, in 2015, he has been landed with heavyweight films to carry alone on his talented shoulders. ‘Babumoshai Bandookbaaz’ (the title is as pretentious as the film) is his third such film after ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’ and ‘Haraamkhor’.
Are these script choices along with the forgettable “Munna Michael”, really good enough for Nawazuddin?
‘Raman Raghav 2.0’ may suit the darker side explored earlier, with some degree of lighter goggle sporting romance in ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’. However, ‘Babumoshai Bandookbaaz’, directed by Kushan Nandy, is obsessed with copying the mindless killings in GOW rather than providing a cohesive story.
Every character in the film, including the women, is more unscrupulous than the other. Nawaz plays Babu, a contract killer. He finds himself pitted against a younger contract killer, Banke (Jatin Goswami) assigned to kill the same targets.
Lust is as prevalent as gunpowder dust in these UP hinterlands. Be it the wife of a local politician who flirts away at parties under the amused eyes of her husband or Banke’s girlfriend (Shraddha Das) as raunchy as Babu’s wife, Fulwa (Bidita Bag) or the filthy tongued Jiji (Divya Dutta) ready to do it in the fields; the women are as one dimensional and dark as the men. The only redeeming character is the cop with a dozen children; played with natural ease by the pleasant looking Bhagwan Tiwari.
Surrounded by these characters, Nawaz is always in his element. However, nothing matches the ever-pleasing subordinate in Lunch Box or the comic and sincere Pakistani journalist, Chand Nawab in Bajrangi Bhaijaan; or the shameless bad guy of Badlapur; or the hard nosed cop in ‘Raees’; or the funny detective bantering with Sridevi in Mom.
Nawaz is no doubt, one of the best actors who can carry a film on his shoulders without the star baggage. Leave alone a film; he proved his worth with just a two-minute scene rendered unforgettable with the most moving performance in “New York”. The scene where he describes his torture at the hands of the Americans, owes its poignance , not to his dialogues, but to it’s well timed , slight pauses and indelible pain in Nawaz’s eyes, which don’t resort to, tears alone. Or take the small part of a journalist in Peepli Live, which is far more memorable than an entire two-hour film like Babumoshai Bandookbaaz; sequenced aimlessly with bullets and sex.
In the story of rampant treachery, it is Nawaz, the actor who suffers the biggest betrayal. Besides, his smaller screen time debut in the past, his real strength lies in his give and take with his co-actors. There is something more magnetic about him, when seen sharing the frame with Irrfan Khan, Shahrukh or Sridevi. His humour seems more improvised than scripted and hence, raw and delightful. Like the way he reacts to a painting in Mom or the way he sings a Shammi Kapoor song…”Yahoo..chaahe mujhe koi junglee…” in the same film. In Lunchbox, he could easily outweigh Irrfan’s presence but remains controlled and is a perfect foil for Irrfan. Likewise, with Shahrukh in “Raees”, every time they share the frame. The pleasure of watching Nawaz, simply reacting to the moment, with a touch of that Nawaz eccentricity, just doubles.
This spontaneous persona is much missing in Babumoshai Bandukbaaz which was clearly made to encash on Nawaz’s image as the actor who will brighten up the screen with the darkest moment. The film, with its pointless plot, can only highlight Nawazuddin’s bad script choices. Hopefully, he will wisen up and let go of the carrot that once enticed the Zubeida lead, Manoj Bajpai—the desire to be a star hero.
Then perhaps, James Bond will also learn a thing or two from Nawazuddin.