Babumoshai Bandookbaaz proves Nawazuddin Siddiqui is best suited to be a foil, not a star
Nawazuddin Siddiqui has mentioned in his interviews that he watched James Bond movies to get into his character for the film Babumoshai Bandookbaaz. After sitting through the absolutely meaningless film, you wonder just where does the similarity lies. Certainly not in the trigger-happy gun in his hand — that bit is Gangs of Wasseypur part three. Perhaps, it’s those steamy scenes with the actresses, who are more smoking hot than the gun — Bidita Bag and Shraddha Das — and there are plenty of those. Not that they match for the kissing scenes in James Bond films, which proved to be too hot to handle for Pahlaj Nihalani in the last installment of the franchise.
But then, who goes for a Nawazuddin movie for the steamy scenes, vulgar language and violence? Ever since Nawazuddin played the title role in Manjhi - The Mountain Man in 2015, he has been given heavyweight films to carry all by himself on his talented shoulders. Babumoshai Bandookbaaz (the title is as pretentious as the film) is his third such film after Raman Raghav 2.0 and Haraamkhor.
Are these script choices, along with the forgettable Munna Michael, really good enough for Nawazuddin?
Raman Raghav 2.0 may fall into the same category of cinema that has previously explored his ability to play characters with a dark side, and had some shades of the sunglasses-wearing, confident romancer in Gangs of Wasseypur. However, Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, directed by Kushan Nandy, is obsessed with copying the mindless killings of Gangs rather than providing a cohesive story.
Every character in the film, including the women, is more unscrupulous than the next. Nawazuddin plays Babu, a contract killer. He finds himself pitted against a younger contract killer, Banke (Jatin Goswami), who is assigned to kill the same targets.
Lust is as prevalent as gunpowder dust in these hinterlands of Uttar Pradesh. Whether it the wife of a local politician who flirts away at parties before the amused eyes of her husband, or Banke’s girlfriend (Shraddha Das) who is Babu’s raunchy wife, Fulwa (Bidita Bag) or Jiji (Divya Dutta) who dirty-talks and is ready to do it in the fields, the women are as one-dimensional and dark as the men. The only redeeming character is the cop with a dozen children, played with natural ease by the pleasant looking Bhagwan Tiwari.
Surrounded by these characters, Nawazuddin is always in his element. However, his performance in the film does not match up to his portrayal of the ever-pleasing subordinate in Lunch Box or the sincere but comical Pakistani journalist Chand Nawab in Bajrangi Bhaijaan. It does not come close to his shameless baddie in Badlapur, his hard-nosed cop in Raees, or even his funny detective, who would constantly banter Sridevi in Mom.
Nawazuddin is no doubt one of the actors who is best equipped to can carry a film on his shoulders without the star baggage. This is an actor who can prove his worth with just a two-minute long scene, such as his appearance in New York. The scene where he describes his torture at the hands of the Americans owes its poignancy not to the dialogues, but to Nawazuddin's slight pauses and the pain in his eyes, which was not limited to tears alone. Of noteworthy mention is also the small part he played in Peepli Live; his portrayal of a journalist is far more memorable than an entire two-hour long film like Babumoshai Bandookbaaz, filled aimlessly with bullets and sex.
In this story of rampant treachery, it is Nawazuddin the actor who suffers the biggest betrayal. His real strength lies in his give-and-take with his co-actors on screen. There is something more magnetic about him when he shares the frame with Irrfan Khan, Shah Rukh or Sridevi. His humour seems more improvised than scripted, and hence, raw and delightful. For example, the way he reacts to a painting or the way he sings the Shammi Kapoor song 'Chaahe Mujhe Koi Junglee Kahe' in Mom. In Lunchbox, he could have easily outweighed Irrfan’s presence, but he remained controlled and was thus the perfect foil for Irrfan. This is also true of him with Shahrukh in Raees, every time they shared the frame. The pleasure of watching Nawazuddin simply reacting to moments with a touch of that characteristic eccentricity doubles in the presence of another prominent actor.
This spontaneous persona is missing in Babumoshai Bandukbaaz, which was clearly made to encash on Nawazuddin’s image as an actor who can brighten up the screen even in the darkest of moments. The film, with its pointless plot, only highlights Nawazuddin’s bad script choices. Hopefully, he will wisen up and let go of the carrot that once enticed the Zubeida lead actor Manoj Bajpai —the desire to be a star.
Then perhaps, James Bond will also learn a thing or two from Nawazuddin Siddiqui.