Banjo Movie Review: Music, Madness, Mumbai!
Ravi Jadhav made a name for himself in the Marathi film industry with his films like Natrang, Balgandharva, Balak Palak and Timepass and so, when we heard that he is making his Bollywood debut with Banjo, we were naturally excited, though the excitement was tinged with scepticism as Riteish Deshmukh is not considered an apt candidate for a solo lead project in Bollywood.
However, to our pleasant surprise, though Banjo is not as great as the Marathi films mentioned above, it certainly proved to be an enjoyable watch, even when it deals with many other issues apart from the plight of banjo players in Mumbai.
When US-based musician Kris (Nargis Fakhri) hears a song by a local banjo band in Mumbai sent by her friend, Mikey (Luke Kenny), she immediately packs her bag and lands in the city to search for the banjo artistes for the purpose of recording songs with them. While in Mumbai, Kris meets Taraat (Deshmukh) and his band of merry men- Grease (Dharmesh Yelande), Paper (Aditya Kumar) and Vajaya (Ram Menon), who are local banjo players, a fact Kris is unaware of. When she finally realises that Taraat and his pals are the ones she had been searching for all this while, she persuades them to join forces with her. However, a local slumlord-turned-corporator, a rival banjo player and a lecherous studio owner manage to complicate their journey. How the band manages to achieve their objective forms the rest of the plot.
We are quite glad with Riteish for finally coming out of the 'multi-starrer mindless comedy' routine and attempting something he has not done before. Riteish's Taraat is rustic, raw, roguish and yet so endearing and sweet that you cannot help but root for him. The same applies to his band members played by Yelande, Kumar and Menon. The scenes involving the four pals are too good and the banter between them is hilarious as well as relatable. Yelande and the others have made sure that though Deshmukh is the protagonist, he doesn't steal all the limelight. Nargis looks delectable but when it comes to emoting, she provokes chuckles, specially because of her accent. The rest of the supporting cast has put in a solid performance.
Jadhav's Banjo is infused with the masala of Mumbai and the film will strike a chord with Mumbaikars from the opening credits itself when the Ganpati song plays out. Mumbai is loud, noisy and colourful and Jadhav shows this side of the City of Dreams quite unabashedly. Another thing that works for the film is the cheeky humour that is the cause for much guffaws. The city slang that has been employed is effortlessly funny and some scenes have been quite cleverly written (like the one where the corporator explains the importance of a vacant ground in the slum with a tennis ball). However, the film's backbone is its music and the Vishal-Shekhar duo has given some terrific tunes to the film, right from the Ganpati song at the start to the Rada song to the romantic and breezy Udanchoo.
On the flip side, the film has certain shades of ABCD and Rock On. At the press screening last night, a fellow reviewer sniggered that Banjo is 'zopadpatti ka Rock On' and though I offered a polite chuckle to humour him, I couldn't help but reluctantly agree with his observation. Also, the film doesn't restrict itself to just the banjo players, but also tries to explore issues like slum rehab and builders trying to forcibly acquire slum property and rivalries over performing at Ganesh pandals, subjects which would have made more sense in a film about the underworld. However, having said that, though the second half drags on for quite a while, Jadhav has come up with such interesting characters and clever writing that you are ready to forgive the makers for veering off the track at certain points of time.
If you love a good underdog story and are a true Mumbaikar at heart, 'Banjo' will surely strike the right note for you...