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Sahib Bibi Aur Gangster

Just like there’s a standard Bollylalaland in which reside the pretty boys and girls of the romcom territory,there’s one which is Bollybadland.

Written by Shubhra Gupta | New Delhi |
September 30, 2011 6:10:11 pm

Director: Tigmanshu Dhulia

Cast: Jimmy Shergill,Mahie Gill,Randeep Hooda,Shreya Narayan

Indian Express rating:**

Just like there’s a standard Bollylalaland in which reside the pretty boys and girls of the romcom territory,there’s one which is Bollybadland. I should make that Bollybadhinterland. Vaguely,but not identifiable as to town or kasba,North Indian. A fictional place where feudal outposts still exist,peppered with jodhpur wearing-rajas,pearl-bedecked ranis,and gun-toting goons. Somewhere a film like ‘Sahib Bibi Aur Gangster’ can exist,with its odd mix of dialects,never quite making you believe it is anything other than a talented director trying to get back to that terrific trajectory of a first film (‘Haasil’) which none of us have forgotten.

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Deogarh is as generic a name as you can think of,for a film struggling to be specific,and making it only occasionally. Tigmanshu Dhulia,after the forgettable and plain bad films he made after his debut,is back showing us that he can do better. There’s atmosphere. Characters that are not cookie-cutter. And a stab at a story.

But for all its frills,some of them nicely executed and attention-grabbing,’Sahib Bibi Aur Gangster’ never quite rises above its familiar plot points,and ultimately stodgy story telling. I’ve lost count of the times I’ve seen greedy politicians handing out contracts to greedy contractors bypassing worthy candidates,and the obscenity-laden skirmishes between the warring parties : even the smirks and the ‘gaalis’ are now standard-procedure. The decrepit palace,the decadent ex-royal (Shergill),the dissatisfied wife (Gill),the needy mistress (Narayan) and the faithful retainer,all have had variants before : the actors are skilled only to the level of filling in their characters,but not creating any truly memorable moments.

Homage can produce good films sometimes,not always. It’s especially ironic because the broad brushstrokes are borrowed,intentionally,from the classic,’Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam’. Sahib Shergill is a Dhulia regular with competent delivery. Bibi Gill is the drink-swilling ‘choti bahu’ who’s given a now-it’s-there-now-it-isn’t streak of insanity to be able to scream and shout uncontrollably : she isn’t worn enough to play it with conviction,nor does she know what to do with hysteria. The Ghulam-Gangster is Hooda,who arrives at the palace gates in exactly the same way as Guru Dutt did,standing at the palace gates,being welcomed in but never quite fitting in. The girl who plays the mistress has a fresh appeal which lingers,though : she is one of the better things about this film.

‘Sahib Bibi aur Gangster’ is one of those films which occasionally slides smoothly into top gear,but the ride overall bumps over traversed terrain.

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