'Well Done Abba': Two Good, Benegal!
By MovieTalkies.com, 27 March 2010
Huge dollops of humour fused cannily with a clutch of serious issues; a feat only a master director can pull off with panache. Exactly what Shyam Benegal achieves in 'Well Done Abba.' Corruption and unavailability of water in rural India, among other pertinent points, are woven into a satire laden with laughs, which yet manages to convey a message. But this time around, the filmmaker who begins to falter in the second half of the film, is saved by two of the best performances in recent times…from a pair of extremely talented, but underrated actors: Boman Irani and Minissha Lamba.
Without revealing too much about the story, the film is set in the village of Chikatpali, Hyderabad, and revolves around the plight of Armaan Ali (Boman), as he attempts to utilise a government scheme for the poor, in order to build a well on his property to combat a serious lack of water in their village.
A series of hilarious incidents later, lead to the real take off point for the film – when the well is proclaimed stolen! The absurdity behind the thought of a stolen well is juxtaposed against the real absurdity of the corruption plaguing the entire governmental system.
Filled with comic characters including Armaan's twin brother Rehman (Boman in a double role) and his mad capper wife Salma (Ila Arun) along with various corrupt government officers and an extremely honest Aalif (Samir Dattani), the film's first half is replete with laughs galore, but the second half veers into a more emotional take on the situation and somewhere… the pace slackens and the proceedings seem to stretch.
The several sub plots are tied up only post the climax, instead of ideally being wrapped up alongside the climax, possibly through a non linear edit. One feels that if Benegal had continued the story on a more comic note, the second half would have been as engaging as the first …as somewhere the film starts to shift from being a satire, to an emotional take on corruption. However what uplifts the second half are the wonderful performances by the entire cast, but most notably by the two key protagonists played by Boman and Minissha.
One also wishes the film's production values could have been enhanced, while the music really doesn't do much for the film either. Sadly, at times, it shows that the film has been made on a tight budget.
Boman Irani is brilliant as Armaan and Rehman Ali. He infuses such unbelievable innocence and naivety into Armaan and then does exactly the opposite with Rehman, proving his formidable range as an actor. His command over the accent coupled with his body language makes Armaan seem so absolutely real and defined. Watch out for the sequence when Armaan goes to the office to attain a "below the poverty line" certificate for the first time in which Boman will have you in splits clutching your stomach, while your heart will go out to him in the second half of the film.
Minissha Lamba is the scene stealer of the film, though. Feisty and yet innocent, is how one can best describe her portrayal of Muskan, and Minissha has more than lived up to her reputation of being an extremely dependable performer. From her debut in 'Yahaan', to 'Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd', 'Dus Kahaniyaan' and recently in 'Bachna Ae Haseeno', Minissha has time and time again proved her ability to easily slide into any character and deliver a powerful, honest performance, breathing life into each character she has portrayed. Her command over the language and accent, as well as the mischievousness that she brings into many scenes is something only a seasoned actor can do.
She measures up to Boman in each and every scene as a daughter who inspires and pushes her father to stand up and fight the corruption. Truly, an actress of today's generation who deserves strong, performance oriented roles. The pre interval sequence with Boman and the post interval sequence at the police station amply serve to prove the point.
Of noteworthy mention is Ila Arun, whose introduction sequence when she screams "Fight ho jayegi!" will have you rolling in the aisles. In comparison, Sammir Dattani is a bit flat in terms of his performance, when compared to the others, but then one can attribute that to his character not having much scope for development in 'Well Done Abba'.
All in all, a funny satire which loses a bit of steam in the second half where the proceedings could easily have been trimmed by 15 to 20 minutes. But with such amazing performances, one really cannot complain.
Awesome Irani, magical Minissha.