Bala Review: A Relatable “Hairy” Tale
Balmukund “Bala” Shukla (Ayushmann Khurrana) is what one would many would term as an ideal youngster. An extrovert who is popular with the girls, someone who easily gets into a relationship with a pretty girl at school itself. He’s a hero not just in his school, but also in his locality. Later he’s also a star salesman for the FMCG company that he works for, peddling fairness enhancing products for the vulnerable lot. His family dotes on him and the world seems to be looking up to him of sorts. What could go wrong with someone like this? Well life can be quite a roller coaster ride indeed and Bala in his mid-20’s finds himself afflicted with baldness, diabetes, lack of confidence etc. He loses not just his childhood girlfriend, but also gets relegated to a boring desk job at his office. Anyone else would have just questioned his fate and compromised, but then Bala isn’t your average boy next door isn’t it?
Amar Kaushik who gave us the entertaining “Stree” last year is back with Bala, moving from horror comedy to a slice of life film. What’s common to both the films definitely appears to be Amar’s inherent comfort level with comedy, of course of the subtle variety. The intent is very evident when the opening credits roll out as we are not only introduced to Bala’s childhood avatar, but we also get an innovative narrator in the form of “hair” (Vijay Raaz’s voice being put to effective use). Shuttling between Kanpur and Lucknow, the story revolves around interesting characters, a lot of them inherently having their “issues” that they have been grappling with, successfully or unsuccessfully. What is interesting to observe is that the story is rooted and yet very contemporary, so there is absolutely no hue and cry from either Bala or Pari (Yami Gautam)’s families as they fall in love very quickly in typical Bollywood fashion.
Amar Kaushik and his writer Niren Bhatt have gone about their task with a lot of care, evident from the way they have focused on characterizations, including certain traits developed and made visible. Along with characterizations it’s also clear that the writing works to a major extent thanks to the dialogues, witty at times, hard hitting at times and even exhibiting subtlety at certain places. Speaking of dialogues, it’s nice to know that not all the sparking lines are reserved for the leading man alone. In fact, the scene where Bala’s younger brother Vihan (Dheerendra Kumar Gautam) has an outburst directed at Bala is a wonderful example of the same. Much later in the film we find another fitting moment where Pari opens her mind out, clearly another well written part, illustrating that Pari is not just a pretty lady, but there’s more to her even if she doesn’t herself think so.
Sachin-Jigar’s music works, but their BGM emerges as more effective than the songs. At a run time of 131 minutes, the film does not overstay its welcome on screen. There’s a certain phase in the film, somewhere in the middle where the narrative does go a bit soft, the proceedings slacken up a bit clearly. But credit to Amar Kaushik for managing to get a rousing climax and a pretty good third act overall which does justice to the film. The film has a good star cast, most of the actors going about their task with spot on accuracy. Abhishek Banerjee as Ajju, the trusted friend of Bala, Javed Jaffrey as Bachchan Dubey (wish we could have seen more of him), Dhereendra Kumar Gautam as Vihan, Bala’s younger brother are all effective. Seema Pahwa as Latika (Bhumi Pedenkar)’s mausi is a delight and Saurabh Shukla as Hari Shukla, Bala’s dad is wonderful.
Bhumi Pednekar as Latika, Bala’s childhood friend is very comfortable playing the feisty advocate who is comfortable in her own skin. But unfortunately the deliberate dark skin tone that she’s been made to adopt over here is very glaring and in the face, distracting us from focusing on her performance. Yami Gautam is surprisingly well cast, having focused on her accent, looking very authentic as a small town wannabe celebrity. Ayushmann Khurrana continues to do well portraying characters with some unique problem, over here he takes us along us his journey and makes sure that we cheer for him eventually with conviction. It may not be his career best and this is a space that he’s gone on to become comfortable in, but he certainly seems to have a knack for choosing interesting subjects.
Bala could have ended up as a preachy tale but thankfully Amar Kaushik manages to deliver his message in an entertaining fashion and that makes the film sail through by and large.
Amar Kaushik and his leading man Ayushmann Khurrana combine to give us an interesting slice of life film in the form of Bala, a film that is easy to relate to.