Yay for the little guy!

*spoiler alert*

I was so excited to see Billu in the theatres, unfortunately it never came to my neck in the woods, so I had to wait until I could pick up a copy and ventured a screening of it last night. With baited breath, I watched as Billu was celebrated and eventually ousted by his community. Even as a Shahrukh Khan fan who secretly lives in her own private SRK world, I wouldn't say I loved this film, but it did have some great moments.

Extensive as his film repertoire is, this was my first Priyadarshan film. The story is about Billu (Irfan Khan), who has mentioned to his family that he knows superstar Sahir Khan from the past but has never elaborated how he knows the star. Sahir shows up in the village to film his latest movie, and his children spread rumors about their father's friendship with the famous star which spread throughout the village. Virtually overnight, Billu who had previously been scorned by most due to his impoverished state, becomes the center of attention. People who had spurned him only the week before now call him a close friend so that he will introduce them to Sahir. Billu refuses and downplays the friendship, saying that it is impossible for him to introduce people in the village to Sahir. When he consistently fails to introduce the people of the village to Sahir, his situation changes once again. He is accused of lying about his friendship and everyone - including his wife and children, begin to doubt his character and integrity. Rather than defend himself, Billu remains quiet about the nature of their friendship.

Even though the climax ultimately did give you that warm fuzzy feeling, I wished that more of this relationship had been explored and I often wondered throughout the film if the friendship had been made up by Billu to possibly impress his children.

I enjoyed Irrfan Khan though for the first time, can be seen sleep walking through his role. He is back in his elements only in the final pinnacle of the movie. Irrfan is also not given any well written scenes to perform as compared to his talent. So it was really disappointing to see one of the best talents of bollywood, in there as the main lead but completely under-utilized by the director.

Unexpectedly, the silver lining was Lara Dutta as Bindiya, Billu's wife. She has really played the character beautifully with the right simplicity, depth and emotions. Her portrayal of dutiful village wife yearning to be accepted by the higher caste was spot on, and I liked seeing her in this beautiful but stripped down role.

The other merit of the movie is its Cinematography with fresh, heaven like locations seen for the first time. The village outdoors, green fields and mountains in the background have been captured splendidly by the director of photography.

I wanted to love Shahrukh in this movie, but could not decide if he was spoofing himself or if this movie was a giant serving of self-indulgence. I suppose the use of old clips and posters could be chalked up to a budgeting issue, but I would have been much more impressed if they had made Sahir Khan uniquely independent of SRK. Though it was intended that he have a smaller role in this film, I would have really liked to see some honest development between the friendship storyline at his end as well as Billu's. I think it would have given the film more roots and lended credibility to Billu's character (only once during the film did we see Sahir exhibit any recognition to Billu's claim as he looked through the crowd searching for that one voice that cried "Sahir!")

Looking at the movie and all the songs featuring Shahrukh, it seems that all those songs with Deepika, Priyanka and Kareena have been shot later on to add some more pull. Shahrukh, as a producer, must have seen the movie and felt that something has to be done to make it a little spicy and interesting, hence all these songs. Also, I can't help but think back to the scene in Om Shanti Om, where Om Kapoor tells his directors that they need to add a racy item number in their own production in order to ensure that movie goers flock to the theatres. Though I admit Billu's songs have all made my Ipod (especially Khudaya Khair and Marjaani which are my favs from the movie), in the film they are just added at regular intervals without any direct relation to the script and were completely un-required. The movie makes you feel that Shahrukh knew that he has made a wrong movie. Symbolically, in the first scene itself, Shahrukh is shown making fun of his director's vision and still goes on to shoot for his movie far away in a remote unknown village.

I found it hugely ironic the controversy Sahir Khan apparently was facing in this movie (hence increased security), while Billu faced it's own controversy over the original version of the title, not to mention various casting changes (Ashkay Kumar and Tabu were originally offered the roles which eventually were filled by SRK and Lara). As it is his own home production, The King Khan also took the opportunity to put a few scenes commenting on the other Khan's in the Industry. But he is also intelligent enough to add a dialogue which says, "We are all like a family in Film Industry and at times there are riffs in every family".

Final analysis: Billu turns out to be a nice balance between fun and an examination of a key negative human condition. Though it won't come close to my top 10, I would still recommend it as I was pretty much entertained throughout.

1 Response to "Yay for the little guy!"

  1. Jules says:
    April 7, 2009 at 1:55 PM

    Oh man!! I sure did feel for Billu! I felt sorry for him as his whole life was being turned upside down and nobody believed him. I liked the wongs, but I didn't really get how they fit in to the movie. Not a top 5er for me, for sure, but worthwhile seeing! Fulfilled my Bollywood craving for this week!