The title is intriguing, to say the least, and the promos are even more alluring. Tigmanshu Dhulia's Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster is definitely not his best work, but with limited options on a weekend that saw at least 4 other bummer releases, the avid moviegoer may just end up recommending it to his friends and others.
Saheb (Jimmy Shergill) is a Nawab of sorts in a small region in North India (presumably Uttar Pradesh, what with constant references made to Lucknow as the closest big city). He never seems to leave home without a glass of whiskey to nurse on his drives from here to there. People pay their obeisance to the moving SUV as Sahib's right-hand, Kanhaiya (Deepraj Rana), glares at them.
Quite what Saheb does for a living is not too clear, but he has unlimited resources. His step-mother, who was once his father's mistress, is the sole inheritor of the ancestral property, so Saheb reluctantly visits her once in a while to ask for money. Saheb also gets people killed for a price.
Saheb lives like his ancestors, or at least he tries to. He has a mistress named Mahua (Shreya Narayan), who lives in another of his properties. He spends all his nights with her, much to the consternation of his Biwi (Mahie Gill).
Biwi is young and frustrated - she drinks and smokes to while away time, and walks around the house with a bored expression. She also suffers from some serious illness that causes her to lash out violently at times, and only her mute help and constant shadow, Rukma, can control her.
When her injured driver calls his nephew to replace him for a while, Biwi is instantly attracted to the young man, Gangster (Randeep Hooda), and he falls in love with Biwi in turn.
What follows is a tale of intrigue and betrayal, with predictable twists, and ends with a climax that lets down all Tigmanshu Dhulia fans. In the words of a film enthusiast sitting in the audience, the entire movie is a patchwork quilt of scenes (most of them in bed) that look pretty, but do not seem to be connected, logically, with each other.
Jimmy Shergill plays Saheb with ease. He looks regal, to begin with, and his character seems trapped by his own ideals in life. Nevertheless, he looks dapper.
Meanwhile, Mahie Gill is Bollywood's go-to girl for scenes involving heavy making out. As Biwi, her agenda is not apparent, and nor is the reason for her infatuation with Bablu, but she is her best in all those steamy scenes. The director made her an alcoholic (almost) and a smoker, for some reason, but she looks anything but royal with a cigarette. And you can never figure out quite what her feelings for her husband are.
Randeep Hooda plays the cheeky, irreverent Bablu (as opposed to the brooding characters he has portrayed through most of his career), and does a decent job. It is believed that his fiancÃ©e, Neetu Chandra, called off the wedding when she saw the scenes between Mahie and him. You only have to watch the movie to understand why.
Deepraj Rana looks menacing most of the time, as per the demand of his role. Deepal Shaw plays his daughter, and her unpredictable oscillations between extreme timidity to constant banter with Bablu makes her look more schizophrenic than talented. The actor who plays the politician is the most effective artiste of the lot, and Vipin Shah manages to impress, too.
To give the makers their due, they have managed to pass off lesser known parts of Gujarat as north India. The peeled-off walls of Saheb's mansion, in contrast with his impeccable attire, and even with the well-kept interiors of the house will linger in your mind for a while, a sure sign of fine production design. The songs, like the movie, are decent on their own, but have no connection with each other, or with the plot-line.
With a name like this, comparison with the Guru Dutt classic (Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam) is inevitable. And that is where the association ends.