Sunday, December 12, 2010

Band Baaja Baraat (2010): All Weddings and No Funeral

I love weddings; from the band and the baaja to the garish colours and the decorations; from the sangeet to the shenanigans; from the food to the festivities; from the rituals to the reception where 700 cousins you never know existed show up for pictures. For this reason, and a few others, Band Baaja Baraat was a thoroughly entertaining fare, much to my surprise. It lives up to its title and provides us a delightfully colourful, warm and funny look into the Great Indian Wedding, of all shapes, scales and sizes right from a wedding in a mohalla in Delhi to a royal palatial wedding in Rajasthan. Along the way, it also provides us a fun and likable love story about two wedding organizers and how their affections affect their business.

The premise: Bittoo (Ranvir Singh) is a quintessential Delhi boy. Studying at Delhi University, he spends the day being idle, gawking at Delhi women, eating bread pakodas and gatecrashing weddings. In comes Shruti (Anushka Sharma), a headstrong but fun loving girl who wants to start her own business as a wedding planner. They meet at a wedding, which she is helping organize and he is gatecrashing and soon become unlikely partners for a wedding planning business. They taste success as they organise one wedding after another. Between them, they have only one rule: there is no place for love shuv between business partners. However, romantic comedies have their own rules, before which this little rule obviously does not stand a chance.

It would not be wrong to say that this is the most solid film to come out of the Yash Raj Films banner in many years, arguably since Chak De India. Its biggest strength is that it keeps things simple and the scale appropriate. A Janakpuri wedding looks like a well done Janakpuri wedding. A palatial wedding looks like a palatial wedding. It takes us through the bylanes of the more modest areas of Delhi without being guilty of unnecessary ostentation like previous films made under the banner. The characters look and behave like they come from these sections and that helps us immediately identify and care for them.

The writing is fresh, particularly in the first half which is frothy and cackles with wit and sarcasm. As a storyteller, Maneesh Sharma keeps things straight and saves the film from any serious convolutions. He tells his story with confidence and focuses on getting the look, the performances and the timing right, in which he, by and large succeeds. The film does best in depicting the chaotic wedding planning and the growth of the business. It does stagnate in the post-interval portions as the genre conventions kick in and the obligatory sequences are done. However, the film picks up in the penultimate portions once more and cruises coolly to a satisfying conclusion. The music is good and the production design is fabulous.

In terms of performances, the film would fall like a pack of cards without the performances of the leads. Ranvir Singh proves that one needs confidence, personality and acting ability to be leading man material, and not good looks. He quickly wins you over as the crass but caring and hardworking Bittoo. Anushka Sharma gives her career’s best performance and makes us love and firmly root for Shruti Kakkar. Forget all the Kiara-s and the like, this is the quintessential modern girl with determination, confidence, an acid tongue and yet, some vulnerabilities. Anushka Sharma looks completely at ease with the character and gives a very natural performance. Together, the couple has great chemistry and they carry the film on their broad shoulders.

Ultimately, there are several reasons to recommend Band Baaja Baraat. If you like weddings, this is a delightful treat of one kind of Indian wedding after another. If you like Delhi, few films have captured the essence of what it is to live in and be from Delhi than this film. The lingo and the characters are straight out of day to day life. Finally, if you like romantic comedies, this is a lovely little exercise in pure formula that should keep you entertained mostly throughout. This isn’t groundbreaking cinema. But it surely is good cinema.

Rating: 3.5/5

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