‘Bob Biswas’ movie review: Misses the target, but just by a whisker

A still from ‘Bob Biswas’  

While spending time in the cinematic universe, we often come across characters whom we want to know more intimately. Hollywood has had a long list of spin-offs; the Hawkeye series is the latest. But we keep wondering what made Gabbar so ruthless in Sholay, or how about a film that tells us the motivations of the grandmother of Badhai Ho or Vicky’s mother in Vicky Donor?

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This week, writer-producer Sujoy Ghosh joins hands with director Diya Ghosh, who happens to be his daughter — to dip into his Kahaani universe — and decides to tell us the story of Bob Biswas (Abhishek Bachchan replaces Saswata Chatterjee), the unlikely assassin, who almost bumped off Vidya Bagchi (Vidya Balan) in the original before meeting with an accident. Bob, whose catchphrase was ek minit, spent not more than ten minutes on screen, but such was his kinky charm, that he resided in public memory.

Curiously, Bob has lost his memory bank. Forced to ply his trade this time, Sujoy takes us to the unusual hitman’s home and family and promises to open up his mind for us. But, apart from the usual moral dilemmas of a man living two lives, Bob still remains a mystery. We still don’t know why he does what he does.

Once again, Sujoy manages to pull us into the cobwebs of a crime story set in the indolent Kolkata. The back alleys, the worn-out night club, and the songs playing in the background recreate the nervous energy of a Kahaani that you haven’t forgotten even a decade after it was first narrated.

Once again, he imbues the script with social concerns like unrealistic pressures on students appearing for competitive exams and mischievously tells us what happens to the reality show stars that constitute a large part of the population in the eastern part of the country. He slips in Bangla words like dorkar (need) in dialogues that find a quaint resonance with the Hindi-speaking audience, and Diya astutely positions seasoned Bengali actors who create a credible texture for the story to unravel. In fact, Bob’s conversations with Kali Paul (Paran Bandopadhayay), a docile homeopathy pharmacist, who carries a handful of secrets, provide a mythical layer to the crime story and render a kind of spiritual sanction to the actions of the assassin.

However, for a story that lures us into its complexity, its resolutions are simplistic. The memory of Bob, an important cog for the wheel to roll, returns rather conveniently. The backstory of his wife Mary (Chitrangada Singh) is as predictable as applying the homeopathy trope in a Bangla milieu.

Despite his earnestness to play a challenging part, two hours is a short time to accept Abhishek Bachchan as Bob Biswas and erase Saswata Chatterjee from the memory. One wonders what was the dorkar to replace him with a known face.

Bob echoes a strange mix of confidence and self-doubts. He could be edgy and weak-kneed at the same time. Abhishek might be carrying a Bob inside him, but the paunch and the prosthetics prevent the expression to seep through effectively and consistently. They only remind that he is copying a character who became iconic because it was against the type. As it struck a chord, it seems, the makers are trying create a new archetype out of Bob. It adds variety to Abhishek’s filmography but in Sujoy’s work, it might just fill the compromise column.

After a long time, Chitrangada Singh gets a solid part as the ravishing wife of Bob. Perhaps, the casting director was given an undercover agent’s view of Mary. He kind of described him as the medicine for Bob’s faded memory and libido. Chitrangada fits the description, and like Abhishek, she also tries hard to get assimilated into the middle-class milieu, but doesn’t always succeed in shedding the uber-chic baggage. Mary shines among the wimpy men around her and, together with Kali Babu, seemed like an interesting material for the next spin-off. But Sujoy has other plans.

Not as memorable as Kahaani, but, still a tale you can bob your head to, once.

Bob Biswas is currently streaming on Zee5


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Printable version | Jan 24, 2022 12:47:05 PM |

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