A new Adderall-esque drug has swept the streets of Kolkata, primarily consumed by stressed-out students trying to clear their entrance exams, who quickly develop addictions and are taken advantage of by their dealers. This new drug is simply called ‘Blue’ and its allure is depicted via a psychedelic montage that heavily yet masterfully pays homage to the iconic “Crystal Blue Persuasion” meth seen in the award-winning television series Breaking Bad. But no amount of cool cinematography, meticulous art direction and apt musical choices can make up for the wooden acting and a complete absence of on-screen chemistry we see in Zee5’s latest offering — Bob Biswas.
A spin-off of 2012 film Kahaani and its 2016 sequel, Sujoy Ghosh’s Bob Biswas stars Abhishek Bachchan as the titular character, a family man and life insurance salesman by day, and a reluctant paid assassin by night.
When we last saw Biswas in Kahaani, he was brilliantly portrayed by Saswata Chatterjee and was attempting to kill Vidya Balan’s character but was run over by a truck. But those 8-9 minutes of screen time stuck with audiences, which is why we got a spin-off now.
Nine years and a recast later, it turns out that Biswas miraculously survived the accident and woke up from his coma with a case of amnesia, and two challenges ahead — readjusting to life with his wife and children, and being rehired by his criminal bosses to carry out hits.
Bob Biswas, directed by debutant Diya Annapurna Ghosh and written by her father Sujoy Ghosh, loses the potential of the original character.
The idea of an individual trying to integrate back into the outside world after an extended period of time away is well-worn in film and television. When executed properly, this idea can lead to genuine emotional depth on the part of the character and the audience is left wanting more. Aden Young’s powerhouse performance as former death row inmate Daniel Holden in Rectify is a notable example.
But Abhishek Bachchan lacks the talent and versatility of a Young in order to pull off not only the dramatic and violent, but also the comedic and understated, that would pull the viewer in and make them invested. As a result, his performance as a murderer recovering from memory loss is disappointingly one-note, even though Sujoy Ghosh’s script, and a serviceable supporting cast with Chitrangada Singh playing his wife, gives him plenty of opportunities to grab the role by the scruff of the neck.
Moments of brilliance
Under a more emotive actor capable of delivering on the odd comedic moment sprinkled in, Bob Biswas could have been the part-Barry, part-Breaking Bad, part-Joker crime classic it was trying to be.
Indeed, the father-daughter writer-director team appears to have put in real effort to paint a believable picture of a metropolis overrun by narcotics, corrupt police officials and volatile mob bosses. The dialogue and story are packed with a myriad of major players with who Biswas crosses paths, and Diya Ghosh’s directive skills appear competent, though unspectacular.
The film did have its fleeting moments of brilliance, such as Biswas’ first kill upon his return home, which was set up early on in the film but its execution was unexpected. We also get a slightly amusing rendition of Biswas’ signature “Nomoshkar, ek minute” line as he struggles to take the silencer out of his briefcase to carry out his second significant kill. Probably the sole believable action scene across the 131-minute runtime.
But even after the film’s detailed attempts at world-building around crime in Kolkata leading to a blood-strewn climax, at no point did I truly buy into Bachchan in the role, either as a taciturn marksman or as a man struggling to reconnect emotionally with his wife. And that’s a shame because underneath this mediocre main story is a far more interesting and surprisingly realistic depiction of the education system wearing down students, such as Biswas’ daughter (Samara Tijori), and leading them to seek Blue to aid with their preparation at all costs.
Bob Biswas concludes with a reference to Vidya Balan’s Kahaani character shown on Biswas’ mobile phone, seemingly alluding to a future instalment tying this film to the 2012 original. Can it bring back the allure and thrill of the original?
Views are personal