बंटी और बबली
This adorable modern Hindi incarnation of Bonnie and Clyde features some of the hottest stars in current commercial Hindi cinema, including Abhishek Bachchan; his father, Bollywood elder statesman and GOAT favorite Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukherjee; and a special appearance by Aishwarya Rai, often billed as the "most beautiful woman in the world" (though GOAT respectfully begs to differ). Bunty aur Babli is sweet, funny, and lots of fun, and would be a great place to start if you're interested in diving in to a full-on Bollywood production.
Rakesh (Abhishek) and Vimmi (Rani) are two kids who, feeling bored and stifled in their respective sleepy villages, escape to the big city to make their fortunes. Rakesh has dreams of establishing himself in business, while Vimmi is after the Miss India crown. After the hopes of each are dashed, they join forces in an increasingly bold and absurd series of cons and heists, styling themselves with the playful pseudonyms Bunty and Babli. Meanwhile, they are pursued by Dashrath Singh (Amitabh), a cool and philosophical yet rough, take-no-prisoners cop who makes it his mission to bring the pair to justice.
This delightful film is well-paced and funny. It is loaded with in-jokes reflecting Amitabh and Abhishek's real-life familial relation, as well as references to Amitabh's classic film Sholay (among others). Abhishek executes Rakesh’s sweet earnestness with perfect pitch; he dreams big, but also knows his limitations. Rani's Vimmi is both plucky and a little hyperactive, straining at the bit to reach for something bigger from the world than provincial village life can offer. ("If I have to make one more mango pickle I'll die," she says at one point.) One of my favorite things about the film is its implicit feminism and egalitarianism. Vimmi and Rakesh start the film on precisely parallel footing - each is a young person fleeing from his or her parental expectations - and once they come together, neither Bunty nor Babli is the leader. They are more than the sum of their parts.
If there is one portion of Bunty aur Babli that doesn't quite keep up the stellar quality of the rest of the film - and it's really only barely so - it's the music, which (like every soundtrack I’ve ever heard by the team of Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy) was hit-and-miss. The opening song "Dhadak dhadak" is catchy and upbeat, with a wonderful, evocative picturization that leaves the viewer completely satisfied, feeling as if one has already enjoyed a full meal just ten minutes into the film. The popular club number "Kajra re," is a terrific filmi qawwali, but I have some serious issues with the picturization of that song. It Aishwarya's special appearance, and she plays a scantily clad nautch-girl singing naughty lyrics and dancing seductively for a bunch of drunken men. This bit of item-girl eye-candy is at odds with the matter-of-fact egalitarianism of the rest of the film, and detracts from the movie's light but real girl-power message. The love song "Chup chup ke" is charming, if not particularly memorable. The rest of the soundtrack is weak, such as the forgettable disco number ("Naach baaliye" in this case) that S-E-L seem compelled to cram into every soundtrack they do. Still, Bunty aur Babli is definitely a keeper, a cheerful and adorable way to while away a rainy afternoon.