Director: Amar Kaushik
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Yami Gautam, Bhumi Pednekar
Bala opens with a filmy grain sequence that gives glimpses into the city of Kanpur while a riddle plays out in the background as a voice-over. While Annu Kapoor is not part of the star cast of the film, his interruptions through voice-overs as the character of ‘hair’ or ‘bala’ did not make one feel that Ayushmann Khurrana was all alone battling it out. His incidental-coincidental association with Annu Kapoor was present throughout.
Amar Kaushik’s directorial features Bhumi Pednekar in the role of Ayushmann’s childhood friend and Yami Gautam as a Tik Tok sensation, while Ayushmann plays a 25-year-old balding man who wishes to relive the glorious days of his childhood when he had great hair.
After a revival of social-realism in Hindi cinema, through the immense contribution of Ayushmann Khurrana, infused with comedy, the formulaic films are soon becoming to lose their charm.
As much as the social significance of these films in trying to show the mirror to a deeply biased society, makers make sure that their material is amply suffused with all elements of comedy-drama-romance so as to not bore the audiences – after all, as the cliché goes, for many, the primary purpose of cinema is entertainment. Whatever may that definition of ‘entertainment’ be, it differs for every taste and sensibility.
Ayushmann leads the bandwagon of social change on his bald head with a foil to make his lessons look less preachy through Bhumi Pednekar’s character.
The actors play their parts to the T; sometimes one felt, Ayushmann tried too hard and that easing up a bit would have lent better swagger to his ease-of-style performance. He is more believable in parts where is seen mimicking Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and others.
Bhumi plays an independent woman who accepts herself for what she is and sets an example for Ayushmann to follow precedent.
It was, in fact, Yami Gautam’s character which brought about a refreshing change in the tone of the film. Those Tik Tok sequences on iconic Bollywood songs by Ayushmann and Yami were by far the best in the film. A perfect nexus of the reality we live every day translated on-screen without missing out the magic-of-cinema experience.
It was also during these Tok Tok video parts that the form of the film medium was also played around with, another commendable move on the part of makers.
Bala is well written, not just in terms of the screenplay but also the dialogues.
The pace of the film fares much better in the first half than the second.
There is a strong supporting cast in the film, including the likes of Saurabh Shukla, Javed Jaffrey, Seema Pahwa, and Abhishek Banerjee, which lent their own flavour to the film.
Abhishek Banerjee was a delight to watch in the guise of the underdog Hero’s best friend.
Amar Kaushik serves the unrelatable and new on a platter that is relatable. The love story angle and the small town set up is all relatable to any everyday story, with the newness of self-love sessions and an attack on the biased society against dark skin, baldness and other physical characteristics’ that make one person different from another.
The filmmaker also played around with the relatable scale a lot. For instance, in parts where one is expecting a certain kind of scene, the narrative is punctured to introduce a new angle.
Especially the end of the film which made it look like Bala was to become a love triangle film that would see Ayushmann land up with Bhumi, makers took it up face front to show that all those years that we have seen the effective reunion of childhood best friends or love-hate-friends are actually rebounds in a relationship.
Bala closes with a lesson for society. The monologues on bringing about a change and self-love on the part of Ayushmann Khurrana through a stand-up comedy sequence or a seminar sequence, well disguised, fail to hide the preachy part of the text. The effort to strike a balance between the show-not-tell moments are commendable, but the idea largely remains the same.
But no single formula can be applied to ‘what works or not’. Without trying to generalize, perhaps the reason being their timing as such, films like Dream Girl and Bala are part of the self-love phase chapter of the society.
Ayushmann has amassed a kind of fan following that will make sure that the film will safely do the numbers; his role as a messiah of middle-class cinema will help in that regard.
However, to play around with a trend that is soon becoming a set pattern will do no good in the near future. Even if you added nuances to it, the overall fabric of the text will envelop any efforts of innovation.