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Bollywood Movie Reviews

Bala Is Simply Brilliant





Starrring Ayushmann Khurrana, Yami Gautam, Bhumi Pedknekar

Directed by Amar  Kaushik

Rating: *****(5 stars)

 Think. When was the last time  you saw a film which didn’t have any superfluous  moments? Not one  single  irrelevant scene  or  shot?  That’s Bala, a breezy yet  wounding  film that comes to us  in a  haze of  stupid pre-release controversies . This  work of grit and  gumption  is so above the silliness that shrouds  our cinema, so  superior to what we generally consider a high standard  in our cinema.Bala is  a film of international calibre in every sense.  Stylish and  sleek yet utterly and  proudly rooted to its Kanpur  milieu.

 It is the story  of a prematurely  balding man who discovers  how to love himself  and  how to embrace  his  supposed short-coming.It takes  a dark-skinned  girl(played with a  trademark verve and sincerity that’s becoming Bhumi Pednekar’s  signature style) to  bring Bala(yup, that’s our hero) to his  senses.

As I read  the above description of  the  film I feel  have  done scant  justice to what Bala  really is. It’s a beast so hard to tame  and so  unique in its stride . It is  much more than cinema, far far  more than entertainment. And  yet is cinema  and  rousingly  entertaining. I don’t know whether  director Amar Kaushik shot  digressive scenes at all. But  as  edited by Hemanti Sarkar  there is  not  one  shot  that we could  take out of  the narrative without  it,  and us,  being poorer for the omission.

The writing(Niren Bhatt, Ravi Shankar Muppa) is  so lucid and easygoing, the  episodes simply flow into  one another  like river tributaries merging because…well, they  have  to!  I saw life’s inevitability in every chuckle that  the  film serves  up.And believe me,  there are so many LOL moments  that I felt  I  was being  take  for a joyride where  the  joy  came not from watching the characters  reveal their frailties to us  but in their acceptance  of those frailties.

 Every  character  in Bala is blissfully flawed , none  more so that  our hero  Balmukund Shukla who thinks the world  of himself  from childhood. Bala’s vanity(abruptly stymied by his receding hairline) is celebrated in  school and in his later  life through his constant  evocation and mimicry of  Bollywood superstars, chiefly Shah Rukh Khan and his ilk who  set such  unrealistic standards  of beauty and  romance for  the Indian workingclass.

 In  film after  film Ayushmann Khurrana lays open the heart and soul of the  other side of screen  heroism. The  side where Shah Rukh Khan becomes an intangible   myth.  Khurrana as Bala with his constant  self-denial and  perpetual ridiculous  attempts to  hide his fatal flaw(hint: wig)   is so bang-on he  re-defines his own (impossibly  high) standards  of excellence as an actor and at the same time reminds us  that the  definitions of  onscreen  heroism  have changed beyond recognition.

 The real  surprise  in  Bala is  Yami Gautam who gives her   character  of a smalltown  hottie  the kind of  authentic vigour and healthy ayurvedic sex appeal that I haven’n seen in any  recent screen queen. Her  UP accent and  exaggerated  selfie-induced emotional  responses , and her  expressions of sheer  self-love  are  proof that this actress has finally found her  bearings . In the sequence where she confesses  to her superficiality and  love for  surface  beauty, Yami is  award-winning.

 Bhumi Pednekar  as the lawyer with  a complexion complex is again , authentic to the core,  though her  excessively zealous dark body-paint is  a distraction.Every actor in  the smallest of roles breathes  a believable brilliance  to this not-to-be-missed masterpiece. Watch  the infallible Saurabh Shukla’s face  crumble  into nullity when his  son reminds him of what  a loser he is.

 Losers  are the new heroes of Indian cinema. Ayushmann Khurrana  reminds us of that. Bala is  arguably  the  best  film of  this actor’s career so far. Fresh,engaging, winsome and  deeply  thoughtprovoking  it starts  off as  a journey of  self-realization of  a prematurely balding else.  By the  end  of it,  Bala is  something else. Something so  close to life it  hurts , though in a way that is  welcome.

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