BABLOO HAPPY HAI, directed by Nila Madhab Panda, is a film about the lives of a set of characters who journey though life, learning along the way. The film, which in essence is a love story with a deeply-rooted social message, is a story set in the fast-paced times we live in today. Tackling some of the most serious topics today's youth face, the film deals with the coming of age, learning, exploring, marriage and the most serious topic of AIDS.
Nila Madhab Panda's previous releases I AM KALAM and JALPARI were both critically acclaimed and won many an award. With BABLOO HAPPY HAI, we expect to see the director to capture the raw essence of situations and emotions witnessed in his earlier films.
The film begins in the posh neighbourhood of New Delhi, where 24-year-old Jatin [Sahil Anand] is planning a road trip up north with his buddies Harvinder a.k.a. Harry [Sumit Suri] and Rohan [Amol Parashar]. For Jatin, the endearing young groom-to-be, this could be the last such youthful indulgence before he gets hitched to bride-to-be Tamanna [Preet Kamal], a bratty, high society number.
However, things go awry with the entrance of Natasha [Erica Fernandes], who kick-starts it all with what Jatin assumes is a one night stand after the bachelor party, followed by numerous meetings, driving Jatin deeper into a dilemma between 'duty' and 'love' that only gets worse as the story progresses.
Completing this picture are the proprietors of the NGO Aashray, Deepa [Anu Chaudhry] and Harsh [Parvin Dabas], a good-humoured, dynamic couple in their mid-thirties, much in love, with much to teach this young bunch, who in turn not only adore and admire the two, but even envy how perfectly they complement each other as companions.
The entire first half of the film is dedicated to setting the premise of the story, while relating the tale of Jatin and his learning curve. However, one expects the second half to pick up and focus more on the main topic, rather than beat around the bush. At first, the story does delve into a bit when the group of friends reach the scenic snow-clad hills of Himachal Pradesh and are told of what the NGO really does. What follows is a turbulent tale of lost love, new-found interest and eye-opening facts and misplaced gags. In fact, Panda, unlike his earlier films, fails to draw attention to the topic of AIDS, with a major portion of the film spent on detailing the journey of the group. Just three major scenes in the 159-minute saga focus on the real topic.
Sadly, the characters of the film, though intricately connected to each other, lack a backstory that should have been incorporated to a certain extent. As the film focuses on just a few weeks within the group's life, a feeling of where each of the group member is coming from was necessary. The only ones here to feature some kind of history are Erica, Anu and Parvin.
As for the performances, it's Erica Fernandes as the wild child Natasha who stands out the most. Sahil Anand does well to portray the confused youth torn between 'duty' and 'love'. Sumit Suri needs to work on his comic timing, while Amol Parashar, who brings most of the decision-making ability to the trio, does well, but is rather restricted.
On the whole, though bold and rather brave to base a film on AIDS and relationships, with excellent cinematography, the makers could have done with a better screenplay, with more details on dialogues and better comic gags. The archaic and no-longer-funny one-liners are a sore thumb that seldom draws out a laugh.