Synopsis – Bunty and Babli are forced out of retirement after a spate of robberies with their trademark sigil start appearing across India.
My Take – Released in 2005, the Shaad Ali directed and Yash Raj Films produced Bunty Aur Babli, was a vastly but aimlessly entertaining con comedy.
But of course the hype factor was always backing the film, as it saw both Bachchan father-son share screen together for the first time, both Rani Mukerji and Abhishek were returning as a widely praised pair following Yuva (which was released a year earlier), Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy as music composers were at the top of their game churning out nonstop chart-busters (including for this film), and Shaadi Ali too was still reeling in the success of his directorial debut, Saathiya (2002).
But apart from providing just leisure time, the film also found praise for its surprising social commentary on the frustrated aspirations of small-town India. And with all these elements working well together, it wasn’t a surprise when the film managed to become the second highest-grossing Indian film of that year (behind the ensemble comedy No Entry).
And with the film ending with a promise to see the conning couple return, now 16 years later, the pair are back, with Mukerji reprising her role, but with Bachchan replaced by Saif Ali Khan, all with the hope for once again enchanting an identical set of family audience.
But while the film delivers ample laughs, silly cons and its fair share of light-hearted moments, the sequel helmed by first time director Varun V. Sharma is far from memorable as it is essentially acts as a rehash of the earlier film, severely lacking in the originality and novelty department.
While never unengaging despite several over-the-top moments, it sure would have been a different case if only both Sharma and producer/co-writer Aditya Chopra had spent more time on developing a story that didn’t rely and fuss so heavily on its prequel and clichés for all its tropes. Sure, it works as a breezy nonsense entertainer, but considering the talent involved, it should have been better.
Set 16 years after the events of the first film, the story once again follows Rakesh Trivedi (Saif Ali Khan) and Vimmi Saluja Trivedi (Rani Mukerji), who have long moved away from their conning days as Bunty and Babli, and are now well settled in a middle-class life in a railway colony situated in the small town of Phursatganj, Uttar Pradesh.
However, their domestic life hits a pause when two young engineering pass outs, Kunal (Siddhant Chaturvedi) and Sonia (Sharvari Wagh), con a couple of rich men and a politician, leaving behind all too familiar calling card, stalking claim as Bunty and Babli. Making matters worse is that Police Inspector Jatayu Singh (Pankaj Tripathi), who became aware of their real identities as he was a close aid of JCP Dashrath Singh and is now gunning for a promotion, wants the two to nab the new con duo or find themselves get arrested for their crimes.
The story by producer Aditya Chopra is undoubtedly interesting, and allows the sequel to cash in on the popularity of its predecessor and take the story forward. From giving the river of Ganga on lease under a public-private partnership scheme to a political leader collecting huge donations on her birthday, the cons are on point hilarious, however, director Varun V. Sharma struggles to seamlessly bring it all together. There are a couple of innovative cons and unrecognizable disguises, but the overall execution is far too juvenile to be able to take anything or anyone seriously.
The film’s narrative focuses way too hard on force-fitting the references from the original that should have come organically. Some of the situations offer elements of humor, but are mostly oft-seen and repetitive. There isn’t any percentage in tomfoolery that spins out of control in a film that is trying too hard to be funny.
But the biggest crime the film does is to reduce the original pair to a bunch of colorful, atrocious parodies of their selves, all in order to make the new pair seem more hip and cool, despite barely exploring their backgrounds or revealing anything which might make them more root-able.
Thankfully, the performances are point, which keeps the film constantly watchable. Saif Ali Khan is awesome as always, hitting the right notes with his humor, however, one may find oneself hard to refrain from reminiscing about Abhishek Bachchan from the original. Rani Mukerji continues to be in top form and slips into her original role with ease. It also helps that the two share natural chemistry.
Siddhant Chaturvedi and Sharvari Wagh get an opportunity to perform with various accents and looks, and the two do is convincingly. While Siddhant has already well proven his talents, it is Sharvari who makes a stronger mark.
Pankaj Tripathi continues to play his all too familiar character well and brings in the laughs. In smaller role, Prem Chopra, Brijendra Kala and Asrani are also good. On the whole, ‘Bunty Aur Babli 2’ is an enjoyable yet undermined sequel letdown by its weak and sloppy writing.
Directed – Varun V. Sharma
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 138 minutes