There's a spurt of women-centric films. Films like NO ONE KILLED JESSICA, THE DIRTY PICTURE, KAHAANI [all three featuring Vidya Balan], FASHION, HEROINE [both helmed by Madhur Bhandarkar], ENGLISH VINGLISH and more recently, QUEEN and REVOLVER RANI [both featuring Kangna Ranaut] have encouraged a number of film-makers and writers to think beyond the clichÃ©d, formulaic male-dominated movies. The BO triumph of a majority of those films has certainly given an impetus to the trend.
At the same time, there is a spate of detective movies in Bollywood. The year commenced with MR JOE B. CARVALHO, then SAMRAT & CO. followed, this Friday witnesses Vidya Balan donning the garb of a detective in BOBBY JASOOS, while DETECTIVE BYOMKESH BAKSHY and JAGGA JASOOS are in production stages. The genre, it is apparent, is being lapped up by storytellers. What makes it fascinating is the fact that reputed Studios/production houses as well as top of the line stars are ready to step out of the comfort zone to act in these films.
Come to think of it, we haven't had a woman detective in Hindi films so far. Will BOBBY JASOOS trigger off a trend? Having said that, although BOBBY JASOOS narrates the story of a detective, the makers make sure they add human drama to it, which sets it apart from the detective films we have witnessed thus far. But an unenergetic screenplay acts as a roadblock. More on that later!
The premise first! Bobby [Vidya Balan] hails from a modest neighbourhood of Hyderabad. Her parents [Rajendra Gupta, Supriya Pathak] are keen she gets married, but Bobby is keen to chase her dreams of becoming a detective. She offers to work for a leading detective agency, but when things don't work out, she starts her own detective agency -- Bobby Jasoos P. Ltd.
Slowly but surely, the cases start coming in, but the cases are trivial and don't interest her. The story takes a turn when Anees Khan [Kiran Kumar] offers Bobby to trace some missing people. Glad that she has made a beginning, Bobby grabs the offer instantly, but as she starts the investigations, she realizes something is amissâ€¦
Unlike the protagonists of MR JOE B. CARVALHO and SAMRAT & CO., who ended up looking like a parody of Sherlock Holmes, first-time director Samar Shaikh and writer Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh ensure they instill anxiety, the feeling of uneasiness and make the spectator impatient as the drama unfolds. Concurrently, the element of mystery is wonderfully intertwined in the narrative, which draws the audience into the world of Bobby and the case she decides to take up. The twists and turns that ensue -- when Bobby realizes that this case is not as plain sailing as it appears to be -- involve the spectators completely, also because the writer and director make sure the film doesn't follow the stereotypical formula.
While much of the first half is devoted to constructing the suspense, the post-interval portions, sadly, do not live up to those lofty expectations. Sure, there are some absorbing moments and you do hope to get a shocker when the veil of suspense is finally lifted -- about the missing girls and also about the true identity of Kiran Kumar. Sadly, what transpires makes you wonder, what was the chase all about? Why did those families disappear? The reasons offered by Kiran Kumar aren't too persuasive. Furthermore, the film lacks the thrill quotient, which is so essential in a film like this.
A couple of episodes have also been elongated without much reason. The biryani episode and prior to that, the audition part could've been condensed for a stronger impact. Besides, the writer integrates the romantic track with the core story, but there are times when you feel it appears forced in the scheme of things. The romantic song before the climax, for instance, is like a sore thumb and could've been circumvented. Even otherwise, the soundtrack is nothing to hum about. The beautiful locales of Hyderabad have been captured with flourish by the DoP [Vishal Sinha].
Vidya Balan is known to walk that extra mile to get the character right. The supremely talented actress, who is seen in a variety of disguises in BOBBY JASOOS and speaks in Hyderabadi accent, is the soul of the film. She embraces the part with all the power that she can muster and is absolutely brilliant. Ali Fazal is a complete revelation. Although pitted against a powerhouse performer like Vidya, Ali makes his presence felt with a wonderful performance.
The film has a strong supporting cast, but the ones who register noteworthy performances include Rajendra Gupta [as Vidya's father] and Kiran Kumar. Both are top notch! Surprising, talented names such as Supriya Pathak, Zarina Wahab and Tanvi Azmi are relegated to the back seat and don't get meaty characters to leave much of an impact. Arjan Bajwa is just about okay. Aakash Dahiya and Prasad Barve [as Shetty], Vidya's constant companions, leave a mark.
On the whole, BOBBY JASOOS has an interesting premise, but the writing plays the spoilsport. The saving grace and also the USP is Vidya Balan for sure, but is that enough to salvage the film?