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Like Tyler Perry comedies — such as Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection, which was playing next door to Bol Bachchan — mainstream masala comedies from Bollywood are a polarizing art form. Fans of the genre know it’s best to turn your mind off, or at least set it on “vibrate,” for a couple of hours.
This big-budget summer release starts off awkwardly with a half-hearted music number, but once it kicks into gear, the film’s engaging performances and ever-spiraling hysteria make its two-and-a-half-hour running time fly by.
Bol Bachchan will undoubtedly draw in fans of muscleman Ajay Devgn (Singham) and his longtime collaborator, director Rohit Shetty (Golmaal: Fun Unlimited), for a healthy run at the box office.
But its biggest surprise is Abhishek Bachchan, who reveals an unexpectedly subtle side and a talent for verbal humor in one of his best performances to date.
Abbas Ali (Bachchan) and his sister, Sania (Asin Thottumkal), are left penniless when their brother tricks them out of their Delhi home. Desperate to earn money (“The heaviest burden a man can have is an empty pocket,” muses one character), Abbas takes a job in a remote Rajasthani village as the assistant to a local ruler named Prithviraj Raghuvanshi (Ajay Devgn).
Prithviraj is a burly but bone-headed man who cannot stand the smallest lie, while Abbas, to his credit, is a decent fellow. But the moment Abbas arrives in the village, a series of mishaps and misunderstandings make it necessary for him to concoct one lie after another, such as a fictitious twin (gay) brother; a sweet, gray-haired old mother (a ruse for which he has to hire an aging, bawdy cabaret dancer); and a reason why Abbas (a Muslim pretending to be Hindu) is fasting during Ramadan.
Tall and lanky, Bachchan — the son of India’s best-loved actor, Amitabh Bachchan — impresses as Abbas. As he attempts to keep an ever more tangled web of deceptions from Prithviraj, the words spill out of him and Bachchan’s usual smartly deadpan style is put to good use as he attempts to put a sensible façade on Abbas’s ever more convoluted circumstances. Special credit goes to screenwriter Yunus Sajawal, who bypasses slapstick to find hilarity in the characters and situations. Thottumkal and Prachi Desai are graceful in love interest roles, while Devgn’s overblown performance suits Prithviraj’s bluster.
The film’s title is a bastardization of the phrase “bol vachan,” or “bundle of lies,” with a nod to both of the Big Bs who appear in the film: Amitabh Bachchan makes a guest appearance in the opening dance number.
Bol Bachchan is an official remake of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s 1979 comedy film Gol Maal, but no familiarity with the original is needed to appreciate this film — just the patience to sit through its 155-minute running time and an appetite for its uniquely Indian mix of over-the-top action, music and humor.
Opened: July 6, 2012
Production company: Fox Star Studios
Cast: Ajay Devgn, Abhishek Bachchan, Asin Thottumkal, Prachi Desai, Asrani
Director: Rohit Shetty
Screenwriter: Yunus Sajawal
Producer: Ajay Devgn
Director of photography: Dudley
Production designer: Narendra Rahurikar
Music: Himesh Reshammiya, Ajay Gogavale, Atul Gogavale
Editor: Photography: Dudley
PG, 155 minutes.
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