Bobby Jasoos

Recently I went to see the new Vidya Balan film called Bobby Jasoos. The situation became something of a good news bad news kind of deal.

The good news is that finally, Sarasota, FL, has a theater willing to show first run Indian films. That theater is the Parkway 8 Cinema. They’ve shown  Holiday – A Soldier is Never Off-Duty, Humshakals, and now Bobby Jasoos over the last four weeks.

Bobby Jasoos is a young woman residing in Hyderabad. More than anything else she wants to be a detective. Her father is dead set against it, and wants her to be a stay-at-home daughter until a suitable husband can be found. But she is about 30 years old and won’t allow herself to accede to her father’s wishes.

So she goes out to the job market and finds that she is being laughed at. It’s not like you can just watch 4 James Bond movies and become a detective is what she is told. But she proceeds anyway, renting out a corner of an internet cafe/coffee-house as an ad hoc office.

In fact she drums up some business – matrimonial hanky-panky, people looking to get out of marriages, smoking sons, and other assorted dull cases.

Bobby herself, while grateful for the business is decidedly unimpressed with the kind of business that is coming her way.The film takes us through a number of these consultations and then into the field where Bobby dons various disguises to both track people and uncover heretofore previously unknown facts.

Then one day a big client, willing to pay big money, really big money, arrives on the door step and hires Bobby to find a specific person, a woman. All the information Bobby is given is her name, her date of birth,  and she has a huge birthmark on her right hand.

But Bobby may not speak to this person, or discuss the case with law-enforcement. Bobby’s fee is hefty enough, as in this is a deal she can’t refuse, so she takes the case. And another, and another from this same client. But as her fees go up exponentially, her suspicions about the client’s motives, so far, shrouded in secrecy, rise too.

There’s your set up and at the outset, the film looks like it might be quite good. Especially since Vidya Balan, currently considered the top dramatic actress in Bollywood, is on board, and she even has her name above the title on the film poster, making her the headliner. Balan’s recent successes like Kahaani where Balan played a woman searching for a missing husband, and No One Killed Jessica, which was a film about a murdered woman with Balan playing the surviving sister were both about investigations and both did well.

But Bobby Jasoos wanders off track. There’s the ongoing battle for her family’s support in her dream to be a successful private detective as opposed to their dream to marry her off. Then there’s a another fact of the boy next door which is a romantic involvement for Bobby, that she doesn’t have any interest in. He is not only a friend. but he hires her to dig up dirt on women that his family has found in an attempt to get him married.

There are a few music numbers involving dance and so forth – but these don’t really make an impact. In fact, for me they seemed unnecessary interruptions, especially the one that is ne of those idyllic romantic numbers with the boy and the girl rapturously in love.

Vidya Balan is the whole movie, in the sense that she is superb in portraying this character. She effortlessly solves cases, and deals with pressures of succeeding in her chosen field of work vs the situation that her family (mostly her father) is dead set against her working. He says, this household cannot be run with the daughter earning money.

The fact is he’d rather have less coming in than having a daughter working at all, much less than in a tawdry and embarrassing job. Okay, that is a worthwhile topic for a socially impactful film about women’s place in the workforce. As well as the father’s conservative approach to his family and household. But the film is not marketed as such.

In fact, from the trailer, you are led to belive that this is a comedy/suspense type of film with a lady detective, in her various disguises at the center. So while the societal issue is a part of the film, there’s also the romance, and the casework of Bobby’s detective agency.

In my view, there’s too many stories layered into the film. Every time there’s a turn in the detective cases, which you want to pursue, the film interrupts to bring forth the side stories. With Samar Shaikh at the helm, this is his first directorial effort, and Sanyukta Chawla’s screenplay, this is her first script, the film takes us deep into the heart of Mughalpura Mohalla, a section of old Hyderabad. This is fine, as this bring us to an ‘older yet still contemporay’ India, a more traditional India. Which is a direct opposite of Balan’s previous film Shaadi Ke Side Effects which was fully contemporary.

Now I’m not against the older style film, in an older and traditional setting – especially since old Hyderabad, and in particular setting this film near the Chaminar, a gorgeous building (built in 1591) which is still a must see place in the old city. But this film is family fare and I think the film might have been much better as a straightforward detective story.

In fact, by the time the film nears its end, the resolution or grand reveal about the ‘missing persons cases’ for which Bobby was paid handsomely to solve, is rather underwhelming. But don’t let that stop you from seeing the film if you like Vidya Balan.

I’m rating the film at three-point two five and calling it disappointing. But at the same time, I will recommend the film, and offer thanks to the Parkway 8 Cinema for the booking the film. Check out the trailer with English subtitles.

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