What if the piping hot Hyderabadi Mutton Biryani you were expecting turned out to be some Hyper Bad Mutter Pulav served cold? Bobby Jasoos is not Hyderabadi, the case is bloodless, and the meat non-existent. All you get is flavoured rice. It might as well been set in Mylapore. At least, Balan would have made sure the thayirsaadham was authentic. And finally, we would have had a mainstream Hindi heroine who got her Tamil right.

As solid as Balan is, the Hyderabadi dialect is strictly filmy, tame and watered down for the masses. And you can’t help but remember how hilarious The Angrez was (so what if it looked amateur?). Now, THAT was a cult comedy that did Hyderabad full justice.

Genre:Drama
Director: Samar Shaikh
Cast: Vidya Balan, Ali Fazal, Arjan Bajwa, Kiran Kumar, Rajendra Gupta, Supriya Pathak, Tanvi Azmi, Zarina Wahab, Prasad Barve, Aakash Dahiya
Storyline: A middle-class Hyderabadi Muslim girl from a conservative household bends the rules to moonlight as a private detective
Bottomline: Great set-up that fizzles out in an anti-climax.

The flavour here, however artificial, is the saving grace of Bobby Jasoos. There are so many characters you will remember, little nuances that will make you smile and enough light-hearted moments, especially during the unlikely romance between Bobby and Tasavvur (Ali Fazal in a breakout role) that keep us hooked. Watch out for the antics of Bobby’s partners in crime-solving (Prasad Barve especially is quite funny) and a very earnest Balan goofing around in different disguises. The feel-good really works for a while.

But the investigation is mostly harmless and the stakes are so low that even Famous Five seems too grown-up in comparison. Because though she behaves like one, Bobby Jasoos is not 13; she is 30 years old!

Bobby Jasoos is a mystery film that decided to undergo a change of heart to become a family film. And the climax is a frustrating letdown because it makes you question all the stakes in a half-decent, almost intriguing set-up. The absence of clear danger is not concealed well enough and the red herrings employed to infuse faux urgency in the case turn out to be plot-holes that remain wide open.

For most of its running length, it did seem like Bollywood was trying to give us a genuine middle-class feminist heroine here (once again this year after Queen). But for all the feminist subtext, the film loses the plot where it matters most. It trades in its feminist core for old-school Bollywood family values. And the box office, of course.

Because it’s all about loving your father, even if he has been an insensitive, unapologetic male chauvinist all his life. Even at the end during their tearful reunion, he’s telling her she can’t take care of herself. Why would he ever need to apologise or admit he was wrong when she has already said that she has understood that he wasn’t arrogant, he just cared for her. Just the licence fathers need to claim that it’s not that they don’t value their girl child’s freedom, they just worry more about her… and hence, don’t need to apologise.

And here we thought Bobby Jasoos was going to be a full-on feminist heroine.

Alas, that was a disguise too.