Thursday, April 28, 2011

#109: Well Done Abba

A driver who is working in Bombay returns from a three-month long vacation. While driving to Pune, his boss asks why did his vacation extend from 1 month to 3 months. Armaan Ali, the driver, played by Boman Irani explains why during the course of this journey to Pune. Well Done Abba, a smart and intelligent satire much in the vein of a Peepli Live, is the remake of the 2007 Marathi movie Jau Tithe Khau.

Set in a small panchayat of Andhra Pradesh, it tells us the story of Armaan Ali and his journey to get a bavdi (well) under a government scheme. When he visits this village, he also decides to look for a groom to marry his bubbly daughter Muskaan (Minisha Lamba). How Armaan Ali achieves or doesn't achieve these two targets he has set for himself forms the core of Well Done Abba. But to put it as simply as this is only to touch the surface of this brilliant movie. In no time, Armaan Ali realizes the number of obstacles that fraught the route to these twin conquests. No one in his village seems to work without a bribe and none of the prospective families he approaches for Muskaan seem to like the fact that she's educated and would like to work after marriage. Layers and layers of bureaucracy and apathy confront Armaan. With his good-natured demeanor he tries to circumvent them all and yet there's enough and more to deal with.

With an ensemble cast of Rajit Kapoor, Ila Arun, Salim Ghouse, Ravi Kishen and Samir Dattani, ace director Shyam Benegal keeps a light-heartedness to all of Armaan's adventures. Each character lends weight to the story and the each of the actors are commendable in their performances. A topic as serious as corruption is not dealt with by being preachy but by being pragmatic. Each of the characters knows that corruption exists and they're happy to run along with it as long as work doesn't suffer. In the process, the situation Armaan lands up with reaches the corridors of the Legislative Assembly, thus throwing the whole imbroglio into the public arena. All this while, the movie is also escalating it's quotient of hilarity. This is not exactly the hold-your-tummy kind of humor but the equally gratifying you-can't-be-serious humor that takes a dig at every element of our society . Hats off to Boman for essaying a role of a lifetime-his small town A.P. diction and body language is the stuff of legends. It's a travesty that in our movie industry a role like this will never be considered for Best Actor in a Filmfare or Star Screen Awards.

Without a shade of a doubt, Well Done Abba is as befitting a movie as ever to win a National Award. It's inherent simplicity and satire in dealing with the issue of corruption makes it an epic of the Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron proportions. For long, we hoped for a genuine successor to Kundan Shah's on-screen magic in 1983. Be assured, Well Done Abba is the one. Bathe it in myrrh, embalm it with the highest grade of chemicals, shower it with praises and preserve it for posterity. This is one movie you want to be telling your grandchildren you saw when it released.

Rating: 7.9/10

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