Balu Mahi ***
Filmmaking in Pakistan is currently in a stage of revival and you’d be forgiven for thinking that writers are bustling with fresh ideas. Unfortunately such was not the case with Balu Mahi, a story you get when you watch three films in one day and write the script of your own at night. The audience is looking for good, fresh films and while BM’s casting is good – it features the talented Osman Khalid Butt and Ainy Jaffri Rehman in lead roles – the same can’t be said of the writer Saad Azhar, who should have come up with a better plot than rehashing recent hits, including one that bombed at the box office.
Balu Mahi is not the Pakistani version of Bahu Bali; it is in fact a mixture of Tere Naal Love Hogaya, Jab We Met and Dil Bole Hadippa. Mahi (Ainy Jaffri Rehman) is a free-spirited girl (read like Kareena Kapoor in JWM) and wants to explore the world; Balu (I still don’t know how Bilal’s nickname can be Balu) is in love with his college sweetheart, who dumps him for another man. In an attempt to win her back, he goes to her wedding to profess his love but mistakenly, he enters the wrong hall and runs away with the wrong girl. The ‘Runaway Bride’ is happy that she isn’t getting married and together they forget their sorrows and become good friends. After a hiatus of a couple of months, they meet again but this time, Mahi is a different person! How does Sadaf Kanwal’s character fit into all this? Watch the film to know more!
The problem with rehashed versions of films is that people know exactly what’s going to happen next and that’s exactly what happens in Balu Mahi. There is a touch of Ishq Positive here and there as well, while the famous railway station sequence is sort of recreated, as if people haven’t seen Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. The writer should not have taken the audience as fools because when you do that, you lose your viewers’ trust.
Not everything in the film is bad; Sadaf Kanwal is a surprisingly strong considering she hasn’t acted much before. She fits into the role of femme fatale quite effortlessly. Osman Khalid Butt is a wonderful actor and a dancer but this film only taps into the dance part; the actor in him isn’t shown on screen and he must know that as well. He has the potential to give tough competition to all and one hopes that some director taps that as well in the future. Ainy Jaffri’s freshness makes the movie bearable and she nails her character, however it would have been much better had she played herself than gotten inspired by Kareena’s character. Mustafa Ali Shah as the hero’s buddy has a meaty role and he excels at it, considering he is pitted against supporting veterans like Shafqat Cheema, Durdana Butt and Asal Din Khan.
Balu Mahi’s cinematography by Saleem Dad is a definite high because it gives you the feeling that you were watching a film, rather than a TV drama on silver screen. Moreover, Mohsin Allah Ditta’s background score complements the beauty of the locales and the tension on screen and one hopes that the two continue the good work in the future. Sahir Ali Bagga’s soundtrack is top notch; however had he used proper male singers (like Nabeel Shaukat) instead of Asim Azhar and himself for playback singing, the songs would have had recall value and the film might have done even better.
Jolly LL.B 2 ****
Put Akshay Kumar, Saurabh Shukla and Annu Kapoor in a film and you will be in for a treat since they are all one-of-a-kind actors. Director Subhash Kapoor must be commended for casting these veterans in important roles and the result is Jolly LLB 2, one of the best films to have come out of Bollywood in recent years. Just like the previous film, this one takes on a case that is very common in India yet no one dares to talk about it, let alone file a case in the court.
Just like the first part, Jagdishwar ‘Jolly’ Mishra (Akshay Kumar replacing Arshad Warsi) is a smart-ass lawyer who is unable to make it big in the league because his boss treats him like a servant. He tricks a pregnant client into giving him some money with the intention of returning it but when she finds out that she has been conned, she commits suicide and Jolly leaves Kanpur in shame. In neighboring city Lucknow, he fights the case that the dead woman wanted to and stands against a society that is corrupt and represented by lawyers like Pramod Mathur (Annu Kapoor) and heartless police officers. Jolly is threatened, gets shot, goes into war torn areas and uses his wit to surprise the opposing lawyer and impressing the judge. How he manages to do that is something every ‘courtroom film’ must go through at least once.
The film has neither any super hit songs nor are there any special Akshay Kumar stunts; however, it is the reality based storyline and execution that hits the audience where it matters the most. Subhash Kapoor’s screenplay is full of power packed dialogues that come from both the sides (all three, if you include the judge played by Saurabh Shukla) and you want to clap on some of them. Acting wise, the honours are shared by Akshay Kumar, Saurabh Shukla and Annu Kapoor who were too good in all the scenes they were part of. As the moustached Jolly, Akshay is on top of his game and shows that even in this day, if the content is strong, you can get away with less songs in a film.
It was refreshing to see Annu Kapoor in a prominent role because he is one of those actors who look good when they play bad. He tries to defend a corrupt client of his but underestimates the power of Jolly who is at times one step ahead of his opposing lawyer. Saurabh Shukla reprises his role from the earlier movie and makes a grand entrance as a judge who dances on songs in his MP3 player, jogs on his way to the court and promises his daughter’s mother-in-law to dance to an Alia Bhatt number. Kumud Mishra shows his versatility by playing the villain (he was the good guy in Akshay’s Airlift and Rustom) while the rest of the cast – including Huma Qureshi – are good in their limited scenes.
Films like Jolly LLB 2 are a sign that with less budget you can make wonderful films and it must serve as a learning to our filmmakers who believe that the higher the budget, the better the chance of a successful film. This film was shot in record 30 days and is full paisa vusool as it has all the ingredients a sensible cine-goer must be interested in.
Rating system: *Not on your life ** Hardly worth the bother ** ½ Okay for a slow afternoon only *** Good enough for a look see *** ½ Recommended viewing **** Don’t miss it **** ½ Almost perfect ***** Perfection