Hindi Reviews

Bombairiya Review: A Black Comedy, Neither Dark Nor Funny

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Director: Pia Sukanya

Cast: Radhika Apte, Ravi Kishan, Akshay Oberoi, Siddhanth Kapoor

Composer: Arko Pravo Mukherjee, Amjad Nadeem

Pia Sukanya wants to capture the essence of Mumbai, focus on the little nuggets that keep the city ticking and bring together people from myriad walks of life purely driven by chance – like it happens on an everyday basis in the city – in her film, Bombairiya, a film in this sentence’s fashion, that bothers itself with too many things all at once. It mixes in politics, family, Bollywood, police force, minorities and anything quintessentially Mumbai that it can hold on to. But for all this, the film hardly gets out of Bandra. Its gaze is from the outside looking in and this doesn’t bode well for the issues in the film.

Bombairiya isn’t looking for depth, it is happy coasting along in its own pace giving us information as and when it fancies. One of the bizarre decisions from Pia Sukanya is the choice to let go of all exposition. We get very little detail about the plot, a lot of it is left to the imagination or glossed over visually in a couple of seconds. While choosing to go visual is admirable, it doesn’t give us the reason to invest in these people, their success or failure. By the time we learn who these people are and what they are all about, it is too late.

Bombairiya (written by Michael E Ward) wants to be a black comedy, its events occurring over the course of a day. Meghna (Radhika Apte) works in PR for actor Karan Kapoor, played by an underused Ravi Kishan. Its initial portions give us some background about a big case involving politicians and police officers, some encounter killings, possibly fake in nature which automatically situates the film in the present. Meghna’s phone gets stolen in a road rage kerfuffle on an important day, with an important video in it, stolen by an important person linked to the big case with the hearing scheduled next day.

An annoying Akshay Oberoi as Abhishek walks into all this, which gives rise to the most meta hilarious moment in the film – when he joins in the commotion in the middle of the road, Meghna waves him off saying, “Hello superman, get out of the way!” Some invisible organism puts into Abhishek’s head that he must save Meghna for the rest of the film and he starts stalking her, talks to her family who are trying to contact her and files a case on her behalf without her consent. It’s apparent what Pia Sukanya is doing though, she makes the Abhishek character the dimwitted person caught amidst all the brouhaha, with no inkling of what is happening around him, the kind of role that usually goes to women in our films while the male hero saves the day. But after a point, the shtick doesn’t hold water, we only wish someone would knock Abhishek off. But maybe that is the point, if one must be charitable towards the filmmaker.

The film does have its moments. An early scene with a Jim Sarbh guest appearance as a band member plays out with musical cues replacing reaction shots. A stretch from a restaurant in Bandra where two families are in the middle of a matrimonial meet & greet to an impromptu temple visit, is a visual delight mixed with some great lines. A long shot within the claustrophobic interiors of a car when Abhishek’s mother discovers lesbianism – helped nonetheless by problematic cushioning of it in Hindu mythology – leads to her jamming with Meghna on Jai Bhagirath Nandini while Abhishek and his father try to fathom the events around them. Apte plays these kinds of roles very well and her timing is on point – she brings some freshness into what is essentially a form of snootiness disguised as distress.

There is Siddhanth Kapoor playing the role of a helper whose motivations at first are hard to get but warms up as the film goes on. Yet, Bombairiya withholds the full nature of several major characters for us to get to the bottom of it. A nothing plot becomes a convoluted plot with several strands lying by the wayside. The film’s politics too are quite murky. At one point the politician accused of conspiracy, Pandya (Adil Hussain), is shown reading Donald Trump’s ‘The Art of the Deal’. Pia Sukanya wants to make a big point about witness protection or the lack of it in our country but her film is a little too light, a little too densely packed to be elegant with this message. Some throwaway lines offer commentary, like that on real estate moguls when a police booth is shown to be sealed. The beginning is hopeful, an encounter cop is painted as the villain but by the end of the film, he is given a redeeming arc and another police officer is bestowed with a gallantry award.

Bombairiya doesn’t want to take sides but at least it’s in with the times. The sensible legal expert appearing on news channel debates in the film happens to have Karuna as her first name.

*****

The Bombairiya review is a Silverscreen original article. It was not paid for or commissioned by anyone associated with the film. Silverscreen.in and its writers do not have any commercial relationship with movies that are reviewed on the site

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