12 Feb 2009, 2015 hrs IST, Nikhat Kazmi, TNNFilm:
Billu (Drama) Cast:
Irrfan Khan, Lara Dutta, Shah Rukh Khan (cameo) Direction:
: 2 hours 15 minutes Critic's rating:
You cast Irrfan Khan in your film and you have half your work already done. The actor takes a role and interprets it in a way that is purely his own. So much so, you begin to wonder where does Irrfan end and Billu begin. Or maybe still, perhaps, there never was a duality between the two. Perhaps Irrfan and Maqbool, Irrfan and Ashoke (The Namesake), Irrfan and Monty (Life in a Metro) are one and same: the actor and the character being perfectly in sync with each other. And no, Irrfan doesn't play it the same always. With his mercurial craft, he has the ability to pitch it high, low, hysterical, restrained, violent, genteel...any which way the script demands.
Here, he plays Billu, the barber (hair dresser, hair stylist or what you will) with an easy charm and an exquisite finesse. As the archetypal Sudama (poor friend), he brings to life a throbbing picture of dignity and restraint, as he tries to cope with his abject poverty on one end and the arrival of his flashy superstar friend, Sahir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) on the other. Sahir is his childhood buddy, going back to those carefree days when the two shared their deprivation with brotherly warmth and care. Billu, the marginally better-off buddy, not only shared his tiffin but also sold his gold ear rings to send showman Sahir to Mumbai for a career in films. And once their paths diverged, he quietly crept back into the shadows with his crumbling barber's shop and his frugal family life, while Sahir got cloistered in his ivory tower that results from too much fame and glamour.
Now that Sahir's back in the picturesque village for a corny film shoot, life doesn't remain the same for laid-back Billu. Everyone gets a whiff of their legendary friendship and wants a slice of the Sahir pie. Everyone, except Billu who doesn't want to embarrass his friend with his decrepit state, despite the fact that the village almost threatens to boycott him and his broken barber's chair.
The film may not have done well in its Tamil version (Kuselan), but Priyadarshan has suitably peppered it with some heart-tugging moments to make it a moving ode to friendship and ordinariness. Of course, Irrfan manages to invest the ordinary with kingly glow, even as Shah Rukh lends the glamour quotient with his filmy naach-gaana. Surprisingly, Lara Dutta too manages to fit in with her deglamourised avtar as the lowly barber's better-half, in crumpled cottons and low-back cholis.
Also check out more stills from Billu http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/moviereview/4117141.cms