Friday, December 4, 2009

Paa film review

Pappu Paa(s) Ho Gaya!



Starring: Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Vidya Balan, Arundhathi Nag and Paresh Rawal

Director: R Balki

Rating: ***


Paa is a film that both thrills you as well as disappoints you on a certain level. You got to cheer all that it achieves, and rue what it does not. Right away, it must be said that R Balki is a fresh, original voice, very un-Bollywoodish in his sensibilities. His templates are refreshing and his insouciant humour manages to diffuse many a scene that could have so easily slipped into melodrama. The film is biwitchingly beautiful in parts, almost poetry on celluloid. Vidya and Abhishek's courtship number at the start, Mudi Mudi (Illayraja's music transports you into the world of his countless Tamil classics) is magically captured through montages.
Clearly, the director who made the charming yet over-the-top Cheeni Kum has learned from his debut effort, and his writing is decidedly more assured this time around.

The film straight away takes you into the life of 13 year-old Auro whose life revolves around his mother, Vidya (Vidya Balan), fun-loving grand-mom (Arundhati Nag) and half a dozen school friends. He suffers from the rarest of rare genetic disorder, progeria - one that accelerates ageing. Auro knows about his condition. His mischievous eyes hide a sagely mind, and it's touching how he tries to make life easier for his mom. Little wonder then that he is greatly adored by people around him. A quick flashback acquaints you with the circumstances under which Auro was born. Vidya was in love with her college-classmate (Amol Arte). But both go their separate ways, when Vidya gets pregnant and Amol – an aspiring politician - urges her to abort the baby. Vidya gives birth to Auro, while Amol turns into a suave, do gooder politician. The story is essentially about the father-son, mother-son relationship, the joys of parenthood and the heartbreak of loving and losing a loved one.

And yet, Paa is not a path-breaking film or even a great film. Yes, it's a good film, but what makes Paa special is the treatment more than the story. The story is regular. In fact, too regular. The question to ask is whether the film would have turned out any different in essence had it not had the progeria angle. The answer is no. Sure, Balki does some service by bringing a lesser known disease to the fore. It also creates an interesting situation of role reversal between the real life father-son. The images are evocative of the time when Big B took ill last year and Abhishek tended to him. But progeria is largely an excuse in the film to cash in on the Bachchan chemistry. The condition of progeria is not organically born out of the story. If only Balki could have achieved this and brought in even a faintly recogonisable metaphor, Paa would have been a richer film. A disease that afflicts a maximum of 50 people in the world cannot be introduced in a film as a coincidence.
But Balki sticks to a basic script, recogonising like the ace marketing man that he is, that the 'role reversal' and having Bachchan as a 13-year old is the film's USP. There is otherwise a severe want of ambition in the film. The other area that suffers is Abhishek Bachchan's politician avatar, where he seems to be replicating MP Sachin Pilot's look. The situations created for him are quite cliched and overdramatic, and bring a certain jarring disconnect from the Auro-Vidya portions.

Though nowhere in the film is one's sense of plausibility particularly outraged, yet it's a bit mystifying how Vidya so daringly goes ahead with her pregnancy and doesn't talk to Abhishek even when he calls her back.
There are also times when the irreverance appears a bit forced. For example, when the media hounds Abhishek asking him about Vidya and her son, he says, "My only mistake was I didn't use a condom!"


The pertinent area where Balki scores heavily is in creating authentic, lived-in sets and wonderfully female characters– Auro's family with the comely Vidya and grandmom (brilliantly played)-- are delightfully familiar but also wholly original creations. Not to forget refreshingly liberated in attitude.

The performances are all round excellent. Amitabh Bachchan convinces you from shot one that he is Auro - that's the sign of an incredible talent. Vidya's performance is another high point in the film. She's simply brilliant. Abhishek's character is probably the least nuanced of the three leads, which is why a lot of what he does in the film isn't entirely convincing. His earnestness saves the day for his character though.
Arundhati Nag is awesome. But Paresh Rawal is loud as ever - he probably forgot he wasn't on De Dana Dan sets.

Finally, Paa is a film that can be liked and enjoyed for what it is. Balki's colours are new and fresh, one wished they were deeper.

-Sandhya Iyer