One of Amitabh Bachchan's introductory scenes in his latest release, Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap sees him rehash his legendary, jahan khade hote hain, line wahan se shuru hoti hai dialogue from his thrilling classic, Kaalia. The setting is that of a posh airport's customs counter instead of the original jail, and instead of a striped prison jumpsuit, Bachchan is dressed in a chic suit and wearing glares of the type patronised by Elton John. Where the line inspired awe back in 1981, by this point in Puri Jagannadh's debut Bollywood effort, we don't know if this film is supposed to be a celebration of Amitabh Bachchan's legend, or a satire on his iconic angry young man image.
It is an odd situation. Going by Amitabh's act in the film, the swagger, the voice and the sheer magic he brought to the screen back in the day, it's all perfectly intact. Indeed, going by the force he personifies in this film's few action scenes, one would have to agree when Bachchan retorts Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap, here. You'll want to believe him, when he tells a fellow character that he's the original, the real deal, while everyone today imitates him and his style. But then, suddenly, in an overdose of self-referencing, he breaks into a jig on a dubstep number, in his own autotuned vocals reduxing his old musical hits like pag ghungroo, all punctuated with some random rap, like go meera go, and you can't really figure out who's imitating whom; whether it isn't, in fact, the Big B, who is desperately trying to fit in with the Dabangg's and the Wanted's of today.
The Salman comparison is an important one, because Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap' is the sort of cinema only espoused by the mercurial Khan so far in the Hindi industry. This is the sort of fare that we have imported from the South, simple, action-oriented affairs with an invincible hero as its centerpiece, the sort where ten goons go flying from a single punch of our leading guy. They make for immensely enjoyable watching if it's not the nuanced, cerebral sort of entertainment that you're looking for. And the success of films like Dabangg and Wanted, the former being remade down South, and the latter, a Telugu import itself, shows that such films have a hugely tangible audience. Unfortunately, though, for connoisseurs of such cinema, as well as Bachchan himself, the film falls flat on this front as well.
Helmed by a director like Puri Jagannadh, the man who wrote and directed Pokiri, the inspiration for Wanted, one would have expected Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap to be a more fast-paced, 'dhoom-dhishoom' sort of affair. Instead, what we're treated to, is about an hour and a half of Amitabh dressing up like a modern metrosexual, riding around in Mercs and on Harleys, prancing around young, and old girls, and generally trying to prove that he is still an angry young man, simply by spitting out smart, gyaan sort of lines here and there, while there might be just fifteen to twenty odd minutes where Bachchan lets his fists do the talking, which is what is expected from a film like this.
The film doesn't have much by way of a plot. Bachchan is a legendary criminal and sharpshooter, Viju, who's been on a hiatus for a few decades, which he spent running a pub in Paris and putting together a large collection of floral shirts and scarves, perhaps. When a young ACP, played by a beefy Sonu Sood, runs amok on the ganglands of Mumbai and swears to finish off a don, Kabir, played by Prakash Raj, and his men, Viju returns to Mumbai to possibly bump off said cop. Also in the midst are angles about a couple of young girls, played by Sonal Chauhan and the boisterous Charmy Kaur, along with an ex-wife, Hema Malini, and an ex-flame, Raveena Tandon, who's only here for comic relief, it seems, in her comeback role.
Jagannadh's narrative in the film is critically stilted with story tracks, like that of Sonal's father, being pulled in out of thin air, and scenes following each other most randomly. In this regard, one can blame SR Shekhar's editing as much as Puri's vision. It is only the final few minutes of the film, when Amitabh steps into the 'last action hero' mould that the film picks up. Indeed, whatever else might be the fault with this film, one simply has to admit, that watching an in-form Big B clear the house with the baddies is pure fun.
On the acting side, though he is dragged by some corny lines and cheesy situations, Amitabh Bachchan manages to carry the film through to some extent. At some points, it's honestly amazing to see that nearly two decades after he appeared in such a role, Bachchan still clearly has it. One hopes that even if Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap isn't a very good film, the Big B returns in such roles soon, in better written cinema.
With Bachchan on screen, the other players don't really matter, but Prakash Raj deserves a mention. Though his role as Kabir here seems to be an extension of his Gani bhai act from Wanted, the talented actor plays it to great effect, his mannerisms, his desperation exaggerated enough for a film like this. The others, Sonu, Sonal, Charmy, Raveena and Hema, are all quite okay, though the last two seem to have roles that are both quite unnecessary additions.
The film's music is led by the enjoyable title track, bbuddah hoga terra baap, which is heard frequently in the film when Bachchan is on screen. But the sequences with Hema Malini that feature the slow, and almost morose, 'hale dil', seem like an ill-fit in an otherwise peppy film.
As Bbuddah Hoga Terra Baap wraps up, there is a slate on screen right before the credits, that states director Puri Jagannadh's admiration for Amitabh Bachchan's classic films, and speaks of how he, along with the Big B's countless other fans, idolises the angry young man. The film, he says, is a celebration of Amitabh Bachchan. One can't help but agree that the Big B has had a career that needs celebrating. But, then, having just watched this affair, you ask yourself if this film is the way to do it. Indeed, for a while after you come out of the theatre, you can't help but wonder if the angry young man of yore hasn't just aged into a passive aggressive old man. Just for the record, though, if you go by some of this film's better moments, you'll realise he hasn't.