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All Movie Reviews/Movie Talk: Billu (Beep) (Page 4)

Zareena IF-Stunnerz

Joined: 07 August 2008
Posts: 25384

Posted: 13 February 2009 at 2:53pm | IP Logged
SRK holds Billu Barber screening for hair-stylists-

Piya Hingorani / CNN-IBN
Published on Fri, Feb 13, 2009 at 21:48 in Entertainment section

Mumbai: On Thursday evening, Shah Rukh Khan hosted a special screening of his new film Billu Barber for barbers and hair dressers of Mumbai, making sure that all the problems with the title of the film were sorted.

"Instead of keeping a premier for celebrities, we thought we would keep a screening for hair-stylists. It's nice as everything is resolved, but from tomorrow this film will not be mine. We hope that people would love the film," King Khan said.

The hair-stylists who were upset with the title Billu Barber a few days back were by now too happy with SRK's co-operation and couldn't thank him enough for holding a special screening.

Vishal, a hair-stylist who had a problem with the name of the film, said, "If they kept it Billu Barber it would have become a specific name. People would come to our salon and say hey Billu Barber, cut my hair. So that's why we had a problem. He could call it hair-stylist or anything, we have no problem."

Vice-President of the All India Salon Association, Damodar Chauhan said, "Shah Rukh heard our demands and agreed with it and changed all the posters. Everything is completely cleared. I'm very happy. We saw the first screening of the film last night and it's a great film. All the hair dressers should see this movie at least once. We thank SRK for doing such a great thing for us. He made a movie on us, he's made us famous. We have no problem with the movie."

SRK sure does know how to please his fans and foes and now that the controversies have died down, everyone wishes Billu Barber a long run at the box office.

Edited by Zareena - 13 February 2009 at 2:54pm

Zareena IF-Stunnerz

Joined: 07 August 2008
Posts: 25384

Posted: 13 February 2009 at 4:09pm | IP Logged
Another Khan steals Shah Rukh's thunder

By Bindu Rai                                      
on Friday, February 13, 2009

Shah Rukh Khan is not a happy bunny. After being hauled into court for upsetting India's barber-buddies, his home production will now be released as Billu – the word Barber has been given the snip. Thankfully, the title character's profession remains unchanged in this Priyadarshan-directed film.

Irrfan Khan is Billu, a village barber who seemingly lives a content life with his wife (an impressive Lara Dutta) and two children. What Billu successfully hides is that his business is ailing, primarily because he refuses to adopt the latest hairstyles.

Drowning in debt, things almost reach a stand-off until one day a film production unit sets up outside the village. Superstar Sahil Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) is shooting a song sequence and Billu jumps at this opportunity to inform the villagers the two are old friends.

Eager to meet the actor, the starstruck bumpkins urge Billu to set up a meeting. But when the barber doesn't deliver on his promise, everyone accuses him of being a liar and shun him.

To restore his honour, Billu sets out to meet Sahil, but the man in question is too busy singing and dancing with beauties Kareena Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra.

Irrfan successfully captures the inner struggle of a man fighting his demons, while Shah Rukh simply does what he does best. Worth watching for Irrfan.
Zareena IF-Stunnerz

Joined: 07 August 2008
Posts: 25384

Posted: 13 February 2009 at 4:12pm | IP Logged
Billu- Middling on all vistas                                                                                                                  

IndiaGlitz [Friday, February 13, 2009]

Unluckily, Srinivasan and Director Mohanan – makers of the poignant tale of 'Katha Parayumpol' should be topsy-turvily entangled in their sense about selling remake rights. Yeah! Absurd remakes in two different versions as 'Kuselan' and 'Kathanayakudu' had really balled up the duo's best efforts and now Priyadarshan in no way is different from them. Of course, a film director criticizing the best film 'Slumdog Millionaire' made us perceive him as the one of the best filmmaker who would churn a film thousand times better.

We still can't zero down on the exact reason as to why certain film makers, cannot remake a film perfectly? We aren't expecting a Satyajit Ray but when a film is remade why mess up with beautiful motifs rendered with a master touch.

Priyadarshan may have boasted that he hasn't copycatted from the Tamil remake on any aspect, but not even the location has been changed… Even the blunder committed by P. Vasu has been replicated by Priyadarshan. In Malayalam version, Meena was portrayed perfectly for the role of a lower class family which was completely different in the Tamil as well as Telugu version. Of course, watching Lara Dutta as a housewife from a hapless family background is somewhat absurd. She's embellished with best facial make-overs and that doesn't fit her with finesse.

Bilas Rao Pardesi (Irrfan Khan) is a poor barber in town leading a wretched life with his wife Bindiya (Lara Dutta) and a couple of kids. Their life is studded with bittersweet experiences and they are much stricken by poverty. Bilas isn't able to meet his daily demands, not even making up for his children's school fee. But things aren't the same once a film unit reaches the town and actor is none other than Superstar Sahir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan)

Bilas Rao Pardesi's acquaintance during his childhood days with Sahir Khan is known to the entire village… Now things are completely different as the villagers treat him graciously. Be it the school's head or the ones who lend loans, everyone is ready to favor him. But all that they expect from Bilas is an introduction to the superstar Sahir Khan.

The crucial moment for Bilas comes when he wonders with conflicting emotions doubting whether Sahir would remember him, since Sahir is a top-charting superstar now.

Well, as you all know… The climax is just the same as in the original.

Kudos to Irrfan Khan for a splendid spell from this star… of course, he has been doing it in all his previous films. Looks like Priyadarshan hasn't laid his hands on any of the star-casts as everyone seems to have watched the DVDs of all three versions and finally presented it with their own innovative touch. However, as mentioned earlier Lara Dutta's looks could've been much well carried though. She's so rich in her appearance and doesn't look like one stricken by poverty.

Shah Rukh Khan is up with his own style and as usual his charisma grabs your attention. He scores the best during the climax part with an unforeseen show. But why does this film carry so much of commercial factors, say 3 item numbers? That remains a question in your mind when you walk out after watching the film. It spoils the emotional panorama that was more instant in the original version. Rajpal Yadav does a laudable task on his comedy tracks, especially in the penultimate sequences.

Accidentally, the spellbinding climax penned by Srinivasan (Writer of original version) holds you tight, soaking your eyes… So now you must know who the man to be honored is.

Pritam's musical score is mediocre while a couple of tunes 'Kudhaya Kair' and 'Love Mera Hit' goes for a big round of applause. The background musical score does not deserve a special mention. Manikandan's cinematography is top-notching and precisely, the man has canned the best shots of Pollachi.

At no point, Priyadarshan favors us uniquely stepping out from already existing factors crafted. Manish Korde's dialogues are spellbinding and dwells in your heart even-after the show is over. Arun Kumar's editing is a bit amateurish with lots of unwanted cuts especially in the song 'Marjaani'...

On the whole, 'Billu' is a film that could be enjoyed by those if they hadn't watched the original version. Though filled with bits and pieces of absurdities, the final 20 minutes of the film deserves appreciation getting you to applaud for Shah Rukh's performance.

Verdict: Watch it once!
Rating : **
Zareena IF-Stunnerz

Joined: 07 August 2008
Posts: 25384

Posted: 13 February 2009 at 4:15pm | IP Logged
Film: Billu

Director: Priyadarshan

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Lara Dutta, Irrfan Khan, Deepika Padukone, Kareena Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Rajpal Yadav

Rating: 2/5

Kuselan, the Tamil film starring Rajnikanth primarily celebrated the fact that he is a Superstar. It was all about sheer indulgence and more of a branding reaffirmation exercise than anything else. Billu is a dismal remake of the same film and the sad part is that instead of taking off or adding to the Tamil film, it actually is a step down.

The film beyond the fact that seems like a celebration of being King Khan unravels the life of a small town barber, Billu (Irrfan Khan). When famous actor Sahir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) comes to Billu's villiage to shoot for a film, it is Billu's life that turns to hell.

Once a friend of the super star; Billu is faced with pressure from fellow villagers to have him set up a meeting with the actor. But the long lost friends seem to have grown apart and the poor barber has no way of reminding the famous actor about their shared history. Put in an awkward spot, circumstances lead Billu to lie on various occasions till eventually he is cornered. What follows is the revealing of the humble beginnings of a Superstar, one happy Barber and a super cheerful Villiage.

Take the driving of super stardom out of the film and you've got yourself this sweet and sensitive film; add it and you are left to find that sweet film amidst the hullabaloo of an iconic star status of one man. The biggest problem with Billu is the fact that there are two stories being told here and they come together only towards the end of the film. That's not even the main problem; the problem lies in the unconvincing manner in which the two lives meet.

It's like unlike any other Priyadarshan film and honestly one doesn't think that's a good thing. The film is neither funny like all his other film, nor as beautifully told as Kanchipuram is. What's also evident is the fact that at every point where the film slows down or has nothing new to tell, in comes scenes with Khan or a song to pick it up.

If that were to add to the film, its great, but the fact that it doesn't do anything for the film is disappointing. If you have seen Kuselan you'd know that the plainness and blandness of the film is the biggest hampering factor and the same is the case with Billu. The dialogues are just ok, there's no sparkle in any line. The aspirational value that most Khan films have is also missing and neither is there humour to entertain (barring one hilarious scene that you simply have to see).

With on the surface characters, the film really does not delve into the background of the characters; something which Kuselan to a certain extent did. The film breaks out into song at will and delves into this emotional saga at will. Watch the scene where for a few seconds you are watching a montage of past SRK films, simply pleasure-seeking or watch the part where Khan is delivering this minute odd monologue trying to conclude the film, exhausting.

What's a great plus in the film is the manner in which it is captured. The sleekness of the film is great. The editing on the other hand serves the purpose though it could have certainly been more cohesive. The songs in general come and go at will. The choreography is great to watch. The film in its various bits and pieces is great but the truth is something about it just does not fit together.

Irrfan Khan does a great job with his role, he lives it and is thoroughly convincing. Shah Rukh Khan is the Super Star and thus essentially gets into the role with great ease, but it is in the end when he is delivering his monologue his convincing act turns unnatural. Dutta as Irrfan's wife puts up a rather somber act and is just unconvincing. It is the additional characters that essentially do nothing for the film and take away from the good ride the film could have been.

Billu is this mild ride that tries to find simplicity somewhere amidst a whole lot of hubbub. Billu is 'Bhayankarly' flavorless.
Zareena IF-Stunnerz

Joined: 07 August 2008
Posts: 25384

Posted: 13 February 2009 at 4:18pm | IP Logged
Billu Barber

Reviewed by: Bhargav Saikia - Rating: 3.0 / 10

Public Rating Average: 8.13 / 10 (rated by 8 viewers)

Director Priyadarshan can safely be labelled as the king of remakes. Not surprisingly, for his latest venture Billu (earlier titled Billu Barber) he borrows the story from the original Malayalam film, Katha Parayumbol. This is the second time that this critically acclaimed film is being remade after last year's heavily panned and box office disaster Kuselan featuring Rajnikanth. Keeping this in mind and also Priyadarshan's recent decline as a prolific director, I went in with absolutely zero expectations. I just didn't want to witness another Priyadarshan film like Mere Baap Pehle Aap. Sadly enough, Billu disappointed me even with those low expectations. Billu is that kind of a film which defies the practice of good filmmaking and is solely aimed to rake in the moolah while the initial hype lasts.

If you tend to use the idiot box frequently then you must have witnessed the aggressive promotions of Billu, many of them being the "item" numbers featuring Shahrukh Khan and his gang of pretty ladies. That's very much what you get to see during the film's first half without much story progression taking place. However, the film's premise is promising which is based on the bond of friendship that Lord Krishna shared with his childhood friend Sudama. Here Shahir Khan (Shahrukh Khan) is the rich guy and Billu (Irrfan Khan) is the somewhat impoverished friend.

The film tells the story of how these two childhood friends go on their separate paths early in their life to achieve different heights. While Shahir achieved his dream of stardom and the riches, Billu was content with his simple and humble life as a barber in Budbuda village. Billu's life takes a U-turn when Shahir arrives in Budbuda to shoot for his next film. Villagers are thrilled about the filmstar's arrival and every other person is desperate to get a glimpse of him including Billu's wife and two children. When the village folk learn that Shahir Khan was Billu's childhood friend, they leave no stone unturned to please Billu so that they can somehow get to meet the superstar through him. Meanwhile Billu is hesitant to meet Shahir as he feels that he would embarrass himself with his shabby state. What consequences does Billu have to face for his hesitance and how does he finally meet Shahir Khan? That forms the crux of the remaining story and its climax.

Priyadarshan hasn't really made a film that he should be genuinely proud of since Hera Pheri and that was way back in 2000. The films that followed were either formulaic entertainers or so-called comedies like Mere Baap Pehle Aap and Bhagam Bhag. Harsh but true, he hasn't evolved much as a filmmaker and it's rather sad because he's the man behind brilliant films like Kala Pani and Virasat. Unfortunately Billu has only extended his list of ever-growing duds. Billu doesn't have Priyadarshan's trademark comedy nor the intense dramatic depth. Even the characters look like extensions from his previous films. Blame the writers for that. While the original story has been credited to Sreenivasan, the screenplay for Billu has been adapted by Mushtaq Sheikh, who has previously scripted Om Shanti Om. Sheikh's adaptation is uninspiring, devoid of creativity and doesn't have a well-formed structure.

The film doesn't get to its intended point until the intermission and quite annoyingly many scenes tend to be repetitive ultimately leading to a very predictable and forced emotional climax. Dialogues by Manisha Korde are average and SRK's lines for the climax seem to written in a hurry. Not to forget, the film totally deviates from its plot when comments are passed about film-star "Abhay" Kumar (no guesses on who "Abhay" is!) and SRK making a statement or two about the film fraternity being an united family etc. I also noticed some serious glitches in the writing, such as SRK shooting for a futuristic action sequence in the village as though film studios have become extinct and Lara Dutta looking glamorous with full make-up throughout the film when she's expected to be a wife of a poverty-stricken village barber.

Irrfan Khan as Billu the barber (or rather hairstylist to be "non-controversial") is the only saving grace of this average film. He delivers a good performance but not one that can raise the bar of his previous work. Billu as a character had immense potential to become memorable, something like Munnabhai or even Gabbar Singh, but poor writing plays the spoilsport again. Lara Dutta is completely miscast as Billu's wife. The casting director should have watched the actress in Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost before casting her in Billu. She needed a de-glamorized look and more importantly some lessons about the mannerisms of a village woman.

I'm not sure if Shahrukh Khan made a cameo or almost appeared as the lead actor. Whatever that may be, he isn't too impressive and fails to live up to the magnitude of his character. His emotional breakdown in the climax looks like an extension from K3G. Now the actual cameos by the three ladies; Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor, are quite forgettable. Blame that on garish make-up, unbelievably poor costumes, tacky sets and bad choreography. Rajpal Yadav is hilarious as always, especially in the film's finale. I wish he was given a little more screen time. The rest of the supporting cast is strictly average, mostly comprising of Priyadarshan regulars like Om Puri, Asrani and Manoj Joshi.

Pritam's music is purely for the masses and doesn't have much to offer in terms of variety. The soundtrack is of-course a huge hit in the markets but in context of the film's plot, it doesn't work for me. Billu Bhayankar is the only decent track which has been penned by Gulzar. Technically the film is average to good. Special effects by Red Chillies VFX are amateurish. Ditto for art direction where attention to detail has been overlooked. For example, the likes of Vogue and Cosmopolitan magazines are seen in the village news stands and Billu's house looks unusually large from the exterior considering his poverty-stricken state. Editing by Arun Kumar isn't crisp enough and some scenes which appear repetitive require trimming. V. Manikandan's cinematography is commendable with some scenes framed and shot exceedingly well.

I did not get much positive feedback from the audience that was seated with me and that's surprising for a film that features SRK. Overall, Billu is a forgettable Priyadarshan film that tries too hard to be commercial and in the process loses the charm that the story could have offered in abundance. Priyadarshan can still make wonderful films like he used to, but before that he needs to get rid of his obsession with remakes. I'm aware that Billu is red-hot in the film distribution circles and it will probably get a fantastic opening at the box office. Whether it will sustain or not is the big question. I wouldn't be surprised if it doesn't.
Zareena IF-Stunnerz

Joined: 07 August 2008
Posts: 25384

Posted: 13 February 2009 at 4:21pm | IP Logged
Yes, they Khan

Shashi Baliga, Hindustan Times
February 13, 2009

Rating: ***

It all begins when a helicopter air-drops superstar Sahir Khan into the hitherto placid village of Budbuda.
Till then, it's been a uncomplicated tale of Bilas Rao Pardesi aka Billu the local barber (Irrfan Khan), who's been upstaged by the flashy new hairstylist on the block, Madan (Jagdish) and finds himself running out of customers.

But when Sahir Khan starts shooting in Budbuda, the lines between real life and the story playing out on the screen start to blur. Check it out: Sahir wears a jacket inscribed King Khan, has worked in films like Dil Se and Chak De, answers questions about the rivalry between filmdom's Khans, is shooting for a film produced by Red Chillies Entertainment (the producers of Billu), and even has his makeup touched up by Shah Rukh Khan's real-life man Friday, Subhash.

He is Shah Rukh Khan playing a heightened version of Shah Rukh Khan the superstar and the portrayal often teeters on the thin edge between caricature and exaggeration. Can SRK carry it off? Yes, he does.

Can Irrfan, the other Khan in the film, counter the superstar's showcased charisma? Yes, he can — magnificently. If Billu the humble barber is found worthy of a superstar's friendship, Irrfan the actor earns his space in the film in a deliciously ironic case of life imitating art.

The flamboyant SRK has colourful sets, slick costumes and three of Bollywood's current hotties — Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor — for arm candy. Irrfan has his crumpled shirts, bewildered expression and his trusted umbrella hooked on to his arm. Priyadarshan orchestrates a classic face-off and when they finally come face to face, it is a brief encounter, but one to remember.

To rewind, Billu's life changes overnight when the village discovers that Sahir Khan is his childhood friend. Bechara Billu becomes Billu Bhayankar, his wife refers to the superstar as devarji, his children start bragging in school, and he becomes the most feted man in the village. Everyone wants him to work just one miracle: serve them a slice of Sahir Khan. His wife Bindiya (Lara Dutta), daughter Gunja (Mitali Mayakar), son Duggu (Pratik Dalvi), local strong man Damchand (Om Puri)… they're all banking on him. Can Billu deliver? Priyadarshan builds up to a climax that makes the wait worthwhile.

Though the film has its share of stock characters, maudlin and over-the-top moments and sags in the latter half, there's also good story-telling, some great acting, and a healthy dose of masala in the item numbers.

However, Billu has its disappointments. Pritam's music score is tepid (except for Marjaani) and Budbuda, allegedly in Uttar Pradesh, looks decidedly lower down in latitude. Lara Dutta is unconvincing too, with her perfectly tailored blouses and coloured hair (perhaps she got it secretly done by Madan?). She sticks out especially since the kids are terrific and Irrfan Khan doesn't hit a wrong note, whether it is his body language, dirty fingernails or well-worn rubber chappals.

Pity offended hairdressers got the second half of the film's name chopped off. For what would this Billu be without its barber?
Zareena IF-Stunnerz

Joined: 07 August 2008
Posts: 25384

Posted: 13 February 2009 at 4:26pm | IP Logged
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


Edited by Zareena - 13 February 2009 at 4:27pm
Zareena IF-Stunnerz

Joined: 07 August 2008
Posts: 25384

Posted: 13 February 2009 at 4:30pm | IP Logged
Take your kids to Billu

Raja Sen
February 13, 2009 13:38 IST

Trust the man who came from Fauji to give us a film reminiscent of the good old Doordarshan days.

Shah Rukh Khan's [Images] latest production is a simplistic, well-meaning take on a familiar story, and Billu -- perhaps inadvertently -- ends up being a naive little children's film, the kind of entertainment DD used to hurl at us kids during its Afternoon Transmission.

It takes a while to get used to it. The setting is that of the imaginary village of Budbuda, which like most cinematic villages behaves like no other place on earth. Its residents speak as if constantly on stage in a school play, and director Priyadarshan's [Images] attempt at restrained realism -- his Swades [Images], so to speak -- takes place in a stagey, theatrical, unreal zone. His village is populated mostly by cutouts, yet, by the time the film's end rolls around, they end up rather likeable.

Such is also the case with the film's leading man, Billu. Irrfan Khan [Images] plays the barber with the sort of plodding sincerity that initially grates on our nerves, nerves nowadays used to slangy edginess in character, but such is the charm of the everyman performer that it becomes increasingly difficult to not like him.

Lara Dutta and Irrfan Khan in a scene from BilluThe Krishna-and-Sudama tale is an essential part of Indian folklore, the story of a poor man reluctant to claim any ties with the King, who would likely have forgotten him. And as we know, the Lord hasn't forgotten a thing, and welcomes his old friend with open arms and cartloads of generosity. It's a simple moral tale, and Priyan keeps it pretty much exactly the same.

Which brings us to the film's basic problem. Thrust in as much Khan as you want, but the story remains one we know well, and the film takes its own time getting to the plotpoints. Also, we might honestly be a bit too old to appreciate a school play which doesn't feature a cousin or nephew or daughter to be biased about, and Billu gets significantly tiresome as the story unspools. Sure there are a few deft comic moments, and Khan even addresses the Khan v Khan 'feud' the media makes such a rush over, but watching Om Puri [Images] fall from a chair isn't really enough to keep you glued to the screen during a predictable film.

Shah Rukh, however, is clearly having a ball. I'd assume the actor made this film as a bit of Sunday schooling for his kids, and the film within the film features aliens and medallions separated at birth, an inept director and pretty cheesy dialogue. Khan mocks his own stardom pretty constantly and sharply, pointing to his bodyguards and deriding himself for perpetually being surrounded by more men than women.

Then there are the three item numbers you've seen glimpses of in the promos, random gratituous songs featuring Deepika Padukone [Images], Priyanka Chopra [Images] and Kareena Kapoor [Images] all gyrating with Khan who is frequently in black-and-gold regalia. Knight Riders season coming up, remember? And there's even a bit when he whips out a bright green light saber. Awesome. If that saber isn't there simply to make his son grin, I'll eat my hat.

Shah Rukh Khan and Kareena Kapoor in a scene from BilluWhen Bollywood takes a crack at children's cinema, it usually does so with such condescending formulaic tripe that it's hard to sit through the forcefed emotions and the like. Billu is definitely a more sincere product, one that tries hard to keep the story and morals straight, and let the rest work on its own. Like most other movies in theatres today, you could easily chop a half-hour off the running time.

By the time the end -- the inevitable end you know right from the start -- swings into place, you're admittedly more than a little weary, and have rolled eyes a few times. Just when you're least expecting it, though, Khan takes the stage and starts talking to all of Budbuda, addressing its schoolkids. The morals are drilled in, but this is a truly brave monologue, a speech that goes on for about twelve whole minutes. Khan goes from smiley charm to red-eyed anguish, and delivers this section excellently, the producer in him ensuring he's far removed from the standard-issue ham trappings of commercial cinema.

It is this end that elevates the film, making it a worthwhile children's cinema experiment rather than a humdrum nothing film. If kids are not watching quality realistic cinema made just for them -- and we know they're not -- than does it take the belles and wolf-whistles of King Khan [Images] to lure them into theatres? And can that, by itself, work? Let's hope it can.

Finally, it's worth noting that the story of a poor man and God has been turned into the story of a poor man and a movie star. I'm not denying it accuracy, for in this world without towering figures in politics and sports, the stars are the ones who bestow the nation with wonderment -- it's just as valid as America now calling superheroes the new Greek Gods. And while the analogy may be correct -- and no offense to Mr Khan -- isn't it at least a little disturbing?

Rating: 2.5/5

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