Babumoshai Bandookbaaz movie review: This Nawazuddin Siddiqui film feels much too familiar

Babumoshai Bandookbaaz movie cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bidita Bag, Jatin Goswami
Babumoshai Bandookbaaz movie director: Kushan Nandy
Babumoshai Bandookbaaz movie rating: 2
Love and lust in the hinterlands of UP: we’ve seen this cocktail of violence and intrigue before in Vishal Bharadwaj and Anurag Kashyap’s dark dramas.
This latest iteration is peppered with interesting characters and moments, except you can never shake off the feeling of the film being atmospheric but much too familiar.
The most eye-catching of the characters is of course Siddiqui, who plays Babu Bihari, Gun-For-Hire. When Babu is not notching up his barrel, he is cosying up to buxom belle (Bag). All is A-ok, till he runs up against younger rival Banke Bihari (Goswami): who will win this lethal game?
The best part of the film is in the way it sounds right. The accents, which usually go awry in Bollywood going rustic, are almost all there. Some interesting actors are in here, especially Divya Dutta as the power-hungry Jiji, and the actor who plays burly cop (Tiwari, so terrific in Masaan) who fathers a brood of boys in the hope of a girl: the excellent Vincent George remains underutilized, though.
There’s some pleasure to be had in watching adult men and women go at each other as unabashed sexual beings, and submitting to the pleasure principle. But the squelchy pulp fiction aspect (one scene looks as if it was improvised from a John D MacDonald thriller), and the attempts at black comedy are not quite enough to make this a film on its own.

Nawaz is fully immersed in his role; as is Goswami. The banter between Babu and Banke makes you smile. And then you are back to the film playing out the beats of the genre. Shoot-outs in the fields, killings with long-range rifles, sexually pumped men and women, local netas wrestling for power, local cops on the take, and curvaceous women on the make. It’s all there, but we’ve seen it all, or variations of it, before.

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