Disclaimer: This reviewer watched this film without having watched Hunterrr
(the Hindi original). The inferences in this review come from a selective online skimming of Hunterrr (thanks, YouTube!).
Why do risqué films like Vicky Donor
and Hunterrr work? Well, there's the risqué part, of course. Like sperm donation in the former and promiscuity in the latter. But merely subject matter can't be it. It also helps that the films aren't by a bunch of is-no-goods. Vicky Donor had the wonderful Shoojit Sircar helming it, and Hunterrr had the superb Gulshan Devaiah (he's explosive in That Girl In Yellow Boots
) and Radhika Apte (Shor In The City
, Rakta Charitra
and so on).
But, then again, talent is still an exterior quality of a film. Didn't Ashutosh Gowarikar make Lagaan
and also Mohenjodaro
? So, well, what works for these films?
The fact that the film works organically is key. Vicky Donor had Delhi in its very fibre. The people in Hunterrr appeared to be real. And all of this becomes necessary when you're tackling a subject that real people have real discomfort with. When a film makes you believe in its ecosystem, your discomfort shows up in the characters' discomfort. And when the characters negotiate your dilemma, you have the choice of agreeing or disagreeing with them. The authenticity of the proceedings is as important as the story itself.
Which is why a remake of a film like that is a questionable exercise. Naruda Donoruda imports an alcohol-loving Punjabi mother into the gullies of Old City, and you have the general feeling of trying to fit a size 9 foot into a size 6 shoe. Babu Baaga Busy tries to pull a "can I buy you a drink?" scene in a Hyderabad pub - with the benign translation "nenu meeku oka drink konivvagalana?" - and you realise the shoe is torn, the foot needs a physiotherapist, and the Cinderella shoe tryouts should be looked into for human rights violations.
Babu Baaga Busy (BBB) follows the story of Madhav (Avasarala Srinivas) who just can't keep it in his pants. After defiling the pages of Swathi magazines as a 14-year-old, he launches himself into a philandering saga that most men can only dream about. Desperate housewives, the girl next door, Savita bhabhi - these pop culture titles become characters in BBB who are busy trying to accommodate for Madhav's inadequate pants by letting him get into their own. Bring into these clichés a normal girl (Mishti Chakravarthi as Radha) whom Madhav is trying to get married to, and you have the conflict of honesty vs history.
BBB gets most of it wrong. From what little we saw of Hunterrr, nuance and detail was everything the film tried to depend on to distinguish itself. There's the way the protagonist likens having sex to emptying one's bowels. Or the way he and his cougar meow at each other. And, oh, there's very strange detail about a boy who loves to urinate in the outdoors. He pees in fields. He pees in garden plants (through a window from a floor above). Heck, he pees in the very pond he's swimming in! To him, "As You Like It" could very well have been written by ShakePee'er featuring a winning monologue - all the world's a toilet, and all men and women are merely pissers.
The net effect of such detail is a film which distracts you through its runtime. You have something to look at or listen to or chuckle at at every turn. We may never know why or how the makers of Hunterrr came up with this stuff, and it is quite all right if we don't. But the trouble comes when the makers of BBB don't, either. That makes a script that they don't understand, and that in turn gives us a film we don't bother to be distracted by.
The village portions are the only parts in the film which give us any sense of relatability. There are some wild laughs scattered throughout, a couple of hummables, and maybe one legitimately erotic moment. That's about it. There's no heat in the movie. Srinivas Avasarala is a good actor, but he can't cook up lust in those sincere eyes. His best scenes are the ones where he's dying not to be his character's type. Mishty Chakravarthi, Tejaswi Madiwada and Supriya Aysola fare better, and are pleasant to watch. Priyadarshi Pulikonda stands out, but that might just be our hangover with Pellichoopulu
We saw reviews of Hunterrr panning it for being a misogynist film. BBB doesn't give us an opportunity to go that far. To call it tasteless we'd first have to get past the fact that it's bland.