Producer: BR Films
Director: Ravi Chopra
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukherjee, Hema Malini,Salman Khan,John Abraham, Om Puri, Sarika
It’s often said that to change the system, one must remain within the system. And Baabul does this beautifully; cliched enough not to rock the boat yet admirably, progressive, the film tries to maintain a balance between the two in every frame.
So there’s Balraj Kapoor, played by Amitabh Bachchan, who’s a traditionalist with a twist. While he believes and encourages KarvaChauth, he has strong, progressive views on widow remarriage. So when his only son Avinash dies tragically in an accident, he feels that his daughter-in-law Malvika should remarry, and not live a punished life. He encourages a romance between Malvika and Rajat (John Abraham), who’s Malvika’s childhood friend and has secretly been in love with her all along.
All’s swell till the party poopers – the super conservative relatives vehemently oppose. Balraj’ selder brother Balwant (Om Puri), is the sort who feels that widows bring bad luck to any auspicious event, and so keeps his widowed daughter-in-law (Sarika, with exactly one dialogue) within the four walls of the house. When he hears the to-him bizarre event of his younger brother getting his daughter-in-law remarried, he loses it. And tries to stop the wedding in typical filmi style, with a bellowing – `Ye shaadi nahin ho sakti’.
Interestingly, this very modern film, follows the old school of filmmaking. So you have the super-rich North Indian family, sprawling mansions, beautiful, docile, always-agreeable women in sindoor and mangalsutra. Still, it manages to be a supremely forward film. And a good film, largely because of Amitabh Bachchan, who’s so convincing and lovable as Baabul,he has you in the palm of his hand. In his big, droopy eyes, you see his young daughter-in – law’s pain reflected. And during his end monologue, you just want to get up and applaud. One of the lines has him thunder -`We say that the practice of sati is over. But isn’t denying a widow the right to live fully, equal to sati?’
Rani Mukherjee as Malvika shows up another award-winning performance after Black.In fact, in many intense scenes between Bachchan and Mukherjee, you feel the palpable connection and magic, that the two brought together in Black. Complementing each other perfectly, and carrying the film on their shoulders,the two talent powerhouses are a treat to watch.
Salman’s Avinash is an underdeveloped character. However the relationship between Avinash and Malvika is real and deep. This is a rare kind of on-screen romance, where the two are as much companions as they are man and wife. Keeping up its progreesive tone, the film also shows Avinash attend pregnancy Lamaze classes with his wife saying that – `bache paida karna teamwork hota hai’. But the film falls back to old school again, and has the two break into song and dance,in open fields, without situation or warning. Again, while Malvika is a painter, who you feel would do a little more with her life post-wedding, she has her life revolving around karva chauth. It’s good that she has a mind of her own, but what is she doing with it?
The music is ordinary and songs include the by-now customary Punjabi disco song, that’s typically picturised with full family dancing alongside foreigner extras. The dialogues, save a few scenes towards the ending, disappointingly lack spirit, and do nothing to elavate the film.
Director Ravi Chopra,credibly, again makes a film dealing with an issue. Baghban, had one flinch a bit, at the stark black and white characters. By contrast, Baabul is a step up in trying to merge the old and the new.
Watch Baabul, for the story and brilliant performances by Amitabh and Rani. The three stars are largely for them.