It is not a good idea to judge a movie by its name. This is what Bobby Jasoos taught me. Despite the “jasoos” in its name, there is not much of jasoosi in there. Nor is there the shade of brilliance in Vidya Balan’s one-woman acting army that we applauded for in films like The Dirty Picture and Kahaani. The faith that comes with seeing Balan’s face on a film’s poster has started shaking a bit now, thanks to her recent choices like Ghanchakkar and Shaadi Ke Side Effects, both projects that underutilised her by making her play OTT parts.
In all fairness, Bobby Jasoos is a film with good intentions. The very idea of having a female protagonist, who hails from a small town, and although born into a conservative Muslim family dreams to be something different–a detective–is commendable in a mainstream Hindi film. The film is also not overtly showy of the fact that Bobby aka Bilqis Ahmed is a Muslim, with sehris and rozas treated with the same ease with which Bollywood treats karva chauths and pujas. Debutant director Samar Shaikh makes sure that he doesn’t make the small town of Moghulpura feel like a film set. The houses look lived in with all the supporting cast (save Arjan Bajwa who wears too much kohl) looking and talking as authentically as possible.
What doesn’t work in the film’s favour, is however, the absence of a strong and interesting storyline. What starts out as a comedy portraying Bobby’s efforts to convince the world that she has it in her to do what she wants in life ends up rather confused while desperately trying to be a “family drama”. And, the little moments that make the first half decent totally disappear in the second half. To add to this, there are too many unwanted songs with actors lip-syncing and dancing to them which destroys the whole mood Shaikh initially sets up.
The hero of the film is Balan, but the spark we saw in Kahaani is definitely missing. The many disguises she dons, which were publicised a lot before the film’s release, are not bad, but they all happen in quick succession of each other and seem more like a promotional plug than a narrative device. Bobby Jasoos has a strong acting department with actors like Supriya Pathak, Rajendra Gupta, Prasad Barve, Zareena Wahab and Tanvi Azmi playing the well-layered supporting characters. Even Ali Fazal springs up a surprise as he holds up quite well against Balan, playing the town’s “most eligible bachelor” and reluctant suitor to Bobby. Going by the standards Balan has set for herself in the industry, Bobby Jasoos disappoints. It is a perfect case of having a bunch of good actors, well-written characters, but no story to use them well in.