Tears for fears. Anyone… I am a sucker for sob stories and love to let the stream of emotions glide through the eyes. But while watching ‘Babul’ each time that urge welled up, the effect was diluted by the simplistic superficiality of the treatment meted out to a noble subject. The end result of Ravi Chopra’s efforts to highlight widow remarriage is an exercise in blatant surrogate advertising (Audi, Taj Mahal tea, Nerolac Paints, Kotak Insurance etc etc) and tons of sermonizing. If it wouldn’t have been for the caramel-popcorn-romance generated by Salman Khan, ‘Babul’ may well have been a disaster. A few goose-pimple-evoking songs are charming reasons to stay back too.

Avi (Salman Khan), the US returned dude shares a ‘buddy’ relationship with rich dad Balraj Kapoor (Amitabh Bachchan). Mum (Hema Malini) shakes a leg or two in a resplendent red sari while the father-son duo, go ‘Come on Come on’ to some hip-shaking bhangra beats. Enter kadwa karela Mili (Rani Mukherjee), Miss-Rightious-middle-class-girl who falls for Avi’s golf-tomfoolery as they pledge ‘Vaada Raha’ in a scenic-slow-motion-reverie. A quick silver marriage and a chashmish four year old Ansh later Avi meets up with his untimely fate. Time for the haggard and woe begotten Rajath (John Abraham) to soothe ‘good’ friend’ Mili’s troubled life.

The story doesn’t surprise you at any point of time. Endless procrastination to let the star value of Salman get maximum mileage results in a delayed start of the actual story in the beginning of the second half. Cinematic liberty is fine. But blatant compromises make it a shaky ride (Too much and too many advertising products sharing space with the flow of the film). The confessions of love and forgiveness happen in Harry Potter mansions with eerie candles burning freezingly. If Dad Kapoor had to think up a match for widowed Mili, why only the rockstar Rajath who seemed to be having a good time anyway with a bevy of scantily clad starlets belting out songs of passion.

The reason why Sooraj Barjatya’s ‘Vivah’ strikes a chord is due to innate conviction of the director in the aesthetics of simplicity, piousness and family values. But in ‘Babul’ in spite of the family theme, the director clearly wants to woo the younger audience by displaying ample skin show by showcasing shimmering blonde babes at several occasions. To his credit, I would also like to state that the physical intimacy between Salman and Rani in the delightfully earthy song ‘Bawri Piya’ has been presented exceptionally well. The couple seems to be made for each other and their union is a forgone conclusion.

Music by Aadesh Shrivastava is one of the highlights of ‘Babul’. Semi classical ode to romance ‘Bawri Piya’, ‘Har Manzar’ and ‘Bebasi Dard Ka Alam’ (Breathtakingly choreographed and John looking divine) are wonderful numbers. ‘Kehta Hai Babul’ (sung and composed by Amitabh Bachchan) is a fantastic song too. But at the same time, average songs like ‘Vaada Raha’ and ‘Gaa Re Mann’ slow down the proceedings.img115/802/johnxo5.jpg

Amongst the actors, it is Salman Khan who deserves all the accolades. This superstar- actor is aging beautifully. He has worn the best clothes, humour is seldom over the top, looks relaxed and the loving manner in which he romances Rani makes young girls go weak in their knees. Effortlessly. The cosy interactions with his four year old son are really cute. No complaints about his acting either.

Rani Mukherjee is dependable as usual to carry off the complex role of a woman who is struck by the onslaught of ravages of life. But this is not Rani at her best. Moreover, she desperately needs a makeover and a better dress designer. That full-sleeves multi coloured blouse and garish sari in ‘Gaa Re Mann’ number is grotesque to say the least. John Abraham looks lost. And dude, don’t you think a shave before your own marriage makes better sense (especially when you are looking unkempt).

‘Babul’ is touted to be an Amitabh Bachchan film. He doesn’t disappoint his fans either although he is unable to recreate the ‘Baaghbaan’ effect. His interactions with the regressive elder bro Om Puri in the later part of the film are half baked. Hema Malini is wasted. She hardly has any dialogues in the film. Alright, she looks a million bucks but she never gets a chance to really take centre stage. Her bonding with Salman and Amitabh Bachchan kindles warmth and immaculate dressing sense gives her an edge over the much younger daughter Esha. Om Puri is loud while Sarika is a mute spectator. Literally.

Director Ravi Chopra undoubtedly has the potential of making good family films. ‘Baaghbaan’ was a step in the forward direction but one can’t say the same about ‘Babul’. Somehow, the issue of widow remarriage has been tackled on-the-surface while external razz matazs has been given more importance. Sluggish pace of the film doesn’t help at all. It can easily be trimmed by at least twenty minutes. The relationships between Salman-Rani and Salman-Bachchan have been handled very well. And that alone is a reason for watching this film. Don’t go expecting too much, and you may relish a few portions. Especially if you are a Salman fan!

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