Review: Shah Rukh Khan's Billu
The star's latest makes much song and dance about nothing
By Abhishek Mande . Buzz18 Feb 13, 2009
It is with some mixed feelings one steps into the auditorium screening Shah Rukh Khan's latest movie Billu. The film has been in the news for quite many reasons – the lavish songs, the special appearances and even the title!
Funny, one thinks because none of Priyadarshan's movies have created so much news.
Billu in that sense is an exception. Because it brings together two men who are as similar as chalk and cheese.
While Priyan's movies are all about simple storylines and village settings, Shah Rukh has consistently showed us just how lavish and commercial he can get.
Bilas Pardesi or Billu (Irrfan Khan) has been living a fairly uneventful life in a hamlet somewhere in India with his wife Bindiya (Lara Dutta). The guy has a rundown barber's shop, which just about provides for his livelihood.
Now, Billu has been facing some tough times – he hasn't paid his children's school fees and the power supply to his house has been cut; the government officials refuse to lend him money and Billu has no idea of how to make ends meet.
But he's a wise man and constantly keeps refusing to take a loan from the local moneylender (Om Puri). Clearly the guy is that tortoise who is content by counting his toes at the end of each day.
Life suddenly takes an unexpected turn when a superstar Saahir Khan (Shah Rukh) decides to shoot a portion of his film in their village.
A wave of excitement runs through the entire district. And along with it Billu's little secret also spreads like a wildfire – apparently this country bumpkin used to be a close friend of Saahir!
Suddenly everyone wants a piece of Billu and go all out to please him just for an audience with Saahir Khan.
Despite all his protests, no one seems in a mood to listen. Not left with any option, Billu decides to go with the flow never once confirming or denying his friendship with the star.
Things turn ugly when the very people who once hailed him begin suspecting Billu and publicly humiliate him.
Everything he's been 'conferred upon' is taken away. His hard earned money, reputation and all the things that he holds dear seem to drift away from him.
Never once through this though, you see Billu protesting or shouting out loud from the rooftops. He still continues to remain the guy who'll let the world pass by and never once get affected by it.
The revealing of the truth behind Billu's silence is what forms the heart-wrenching climax of this movie.
Shah Rukh Khan of course does not fail to add his commercial touch to Billu. So you have Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor to add 'glamour' to the star-deprived cast.
And finally, there's Shah Rukh himself who plays the superstar – the man who knows how to make his audiences cry, make them dream and tell them that in the end it's all going to be okay.
It's probably this one trait in Shah Rukh's movies that has found him innumerable fans across the world. Give him ten minutes and the man has the ability to make half the auditorium cry. It's exactly what he does in Billu too.
While the climax belongs entirely to Shah Rukh, the movie itself is all about Irrfan Khan. Clearly the most underrated actor in Bollywood, Irrfan delivers such a spirited performance it makes your heart go out to him.
Making a lover or a villain a star of the movie is probably a simple job. But try making the chap next door the hero and you know what a task it can be. Irrfan does this very thing almost effortlessly.
Lara Dutta too does a fairly decent job in the movie, if you can willingly suspend the way she's been styled. Indeed, the three lead actors do justice to their roles for most part of the movie.
Does all of this work? Not quite.
Surprisingly, it is Shah Rukh Khan who at certain points fails to hold one's interest.
Watch out for his almost half-hearted dance steps in the Priyanka Chopra number and you wonder if it's the same guy who danced atop a train singing Chaiyya Chaiyya
And then there's the part where he's trying to get a villager to act – it's quite silly actually because we've seen this man do so much better.
But here's the thing – Billu (registered as Billu Barber at the Censor Board) in more ways is Priyadarshan's films.
There are his favourite set of actors – Asrani, Om Puri, Manoj Joshi and Rajpal Yadav – cracking the typical jokes you're used to hearing in Priyan's movies. The setting is rural, again a Priyan trademark and the treatment of the story is very much the same.
I've never really enjoyed his movies – probably Hera Pheri was the last. Ever since the Akshay Kumar-starrer hit the jackpot, Priyan has rarely innovated.
His style of filmmaking, may strike a chord once in a while. But for most part, you know just what's coming. You know that every silly joke Asrani or Om Puri crack you will have a bunch of extras who will laugh in the same tone.
And then there's Rajpal Yadav - a constant fixture in his films - doing the same routine one movie after another.
Sitting through two hours of predictability to watch a popular star belt out a great ten-minute performance may not be one's idea of a 'paisa vasool' film.
Also Priyan seems to forget that Shah Rukh - though a big star - is also an ageing one. You have some real shocking close-ups of Khan, showing in one shot the superstar's stained teeth! It's disturbing even for the staunchest fans.
At its very heat, Billu is a simple story – quite like the Rajini's Kuselan and the Malaylam original Kadha Parayumbol starring Mammootty. The idea of these movies comes from a tale in the Mahabharata of the friendship between a poor bramhin Sudama (known as Kuselan in the South) and Krishna, the Yadav prince.
It's a story many of us have grown up listening to and has stayed with us to this day because it was simply told and did not have any item songs and silly jokes.
Verdict: Watching Billu made me wish for something simpler, shorter perhaps; something that would make me go back to the dung-caked house where stories were all about human relationships and even came with a little moral at the end of it.
Rating: 2.5/5 http://buzz18.in.com/reviews/movies/review-shah-rukh-khans-billu/115802/2
Edited by Zareena - 13 February 2009 at 4:27pm