Mukesh’s (Shadab Kamal) story, however shocking, is also brutally believable. Mukesh is the protagonist of director-cinematographer Ajay Bahl’s dark, disturbing debut feature.
Set in the narrow by lanes of Delhi, BA Pass follows orphan Mukesh on a lonely and desperate journey that takes him through deep troughs and dangerous highs. A burden on his, unable to support his younger sisters, Mukesh looks for an easy income. He considers giving tuitions to high school students after college hours, but his aunt’s friend Sarika (Shilpa Shukla) has different plans for Mukesh.
Sensing his desperation, preying on his vulnerabilities, she seduces him, tempts him and then traps him. So tricky is the entrapment that in trying to wrestle free of the shackles, the knot only tightens around Mukesh’s limbs dragging him into a dark and sordid maze with no way out.
Mohan Sikka’s short story ‘The Railway Aunty’ has been adapted to the screen by writer Ritesh Shah. But in trying to develop the short into a feature film some padding comes in and that drags down the experience.
Bahl’s camerawork, capturing of the seamier side of Delhi and construction of Mukesh’s annihilation are assured but, besides the slight flab on the screenplay, the performances also hamper the experience. Also the sex scenes – and that’s what they are – are cold and mechanical. The lingering shot of intertwined feet pre-interval is seems to be the director’s one indulgence.
Shadab Kamal excels in some scenes but in some overtly emotional ones you see he has not mastered the material. Yet you feel for Mukesh. You know his dark passenger has latched on and is not letting go, but you cannot see it in Kamal’s performance. Kamal deserves kudos for jumping into such a complex part feet first, but that isn’t enough.
Shilpa Shukla’s ‘aunty’, on the other hand, is uni-dimensional – seductress, sexy, mysterious, conniving. We don’t see a soft side, any compassion or sensitivity in her. She’s the same in every situation and with every character, which means you feel nothing for her or her compulsions.
BA Pass is yet another Hindi indie that will find mainstream appeal. It’s bold and technically adept but leaves you more shaken than stirred.