By Subhash K. Jha
Film: “Babumoshai Bandookbaaz”; Director: Kushan Nandy; Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bidita Bag, Divya Dutta and Jatin Goswami; Rating: *
There is no polite way of saying this. So let’s just put it straight out. “Babumoshai Bandookbaaz” is a revolting violent piece of cinema, almost sure to make the sensitive squirm, if not throw up.
The body-count and the bawdy encounters are high… so high that you sometimes feel the writer and director pile them on only so we can be shocked out of our senses. But beyond a point, the gore is a bore. And the sex is… yawn. The much-discussed lovemaking between the eager-to-score Nawazuddin and his eager-to-oblige co-star Bidita are as erotic and titillating as two canines on heat, doing it on the road because…. Well, they don’t know any better and can’t wait to get home.
Nawazuddin plays a man who enjoys sex. He copulates with frenzied but mechanical vigour with Bidita and later, much later, with his protege’s girlfriend (Shraddha Das). The women, obviously eager to project rural liberalism, seem willing and eager to have sex anywhere anytime.
In one sequence, the very accomplished Divya Dutta is on the run from her purported assassin with a compromised burly cop (Bhagwan Tiwari). She abuses him physically and verbally and then lets him… Umm…. do pokey-pokey with her.
A little later, Divya is buried to her beck in a scorpion-infested marshland. This is what happens to bossy over-sex female outlaws.
This, then is the blueprint of Kushan Nandy’s wild wild wasteland. Nawazuddin is the assassin on rent who doesn’t think twice before pulling the trigger, as long as he gets paid his price. He performs the killings with rent-card precision and discusses the murder as any professional would discuss his day’s activities.
Manoj Bajpayee got to that level of violent professionalism in Ram Gopal Varma’s “Satya” two decades ago. Nawazuddin for all his credible crassness, must stop playing depraved morally reprehensible characters who kill and maim with chuckling pleasure.
Characters are thrown in the simmering cauldron of mofussil carnage randomly to titillate with their cheesy fantasies. A senior gangster(Anil George) likes to watch his naked wife being massaged by a stranger. A middle-aged cop (Tiwari) makes his wife bear broods of sons until she can give him a daughter.
The subverted patriarchy of such episodes is lost in the ear-shattering noise decibel generated by the characters’ self-serving antics.
The soundtrack is as painfully self-conscious as anything else that this emasculated and emaciated ode to Anurag Kashyap and Guy Ritchie has to offer. I caught three songs from Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s “Anand” playing lazily at three different points in the story. It’s all about effect rather than cause.
After watching him do it repeatedly, the shock-value of watching Nawazuddin perpetrate arbitrary violence is long over. In “Babumoshai Bandookbaaz”, he tackles his raunchy renegade’s character with smugness and boredom. His right-hand man, played by Jatin Goswami, scores merely on novelty. Sorrily, Nawazuddin’s image of the creepy sociopath has reached a saturation point. So has the genre of the gangster drama.
We’ve seen it all in the cinema of Ram Gopal Varma and Anurag Kashyap. Kushan Nandy brings nothing new to the theme. By merely accelerating the violence, murder, mayhem and copulation, the narrative only exposes its own anxious insecurities so clumsily cloaked in random pumping of bullets and other phallic objects.
“Babumoshai Bandookbaaz” attempts to forge a deep bond between physical violence and lawlessness in the badlands of Uttar Pradesh. But the merger of mayhem and luridity never transcends the high-school level of attention-seeking. There is a repeated shot of a young boy riding his bike with his father as pillion. Such visuals are poor compensation for bonafide insight into how gangsterism has evolved since Varma and Kashyap played with the genre.
The most interesting factor among the fractured plot points is the guru-mentor relationship between Nawazuddin and Goswami. There is a kind of smothered Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid in the way the duo play off against one another. In one sequence after Nawazuddin’s mistress performs a raunchy dance for him and his pupil, Nawazuddin in a drunken generous mood, offers to let her have fun with the younger man. It’s a moment that defines the film’s spirit of sustained sensationalism.
The violence is bred not from the director’s inner conviction but from the yearning to shock us with groaning, heaving and moaning in bed and in the bloodshed. Midway through the orgy of pogrom targeted alike at debauched victims and good taste, T.S. Eliot’s words from “The Wasteland” resonate in Nandy’s own wasteland: Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold… The blood-dimmed tide is loosed.
Too bad we are trapped in this artistic anarchy. Run, while you still have a chance.
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