Watched Baabul yesterday night. Ravi Chopra seems to have made his choice of genre clear - the family melodramas of the eighties, the type that Visu used to be well-known for. (For a brilliant rant on the subject, check out this piece by dingchak).
Now, while this may not be obvious from my earlier posts, or my general preferences for movies, I don't have anything against the genre per se. If it's done well, I'll watch it, and even enjoy it. While I wasn't completely sold on his previous venture Baghban, I thought it had a few good moments. The final speech by Amitabh was, I thought, quite well-delivered.
This one, on the other hand, is dead in the water. And I use the word dead in every imaginable sense. Nobody, and I mean nobody, displays even the tiniest hint of a spark throughout its running time. This is a story about how a widow's father-in-law is willing to forgo every relationship he has to get her remarried. Not a bad plot for this kind of movie. And many scenes are set up in a way that gives the actors ample room to go ballistic. And yet, nobody seems to take that chance. I like understated acting (see my earlier post on the subject), but there's a world of difference between understating and being a lawn ornament.
Rani Mukherjee basically has to look pretty, look happy, and then weep for the rest of the movie's running time. She's the one getting remarried, but she never seems totally sold on the idea. She comes across simply as a device to demonstrate the protagonist's nobility of character. While it is true that the plot revolves around the father-in-law, his entire struggle makes no sense if the person he seeks to help doesn't seem to want it.
This is a quieter, more dialed-down Amitabh than we're used to seeing. This itself is not a problem, had he managed to convey a certain degree of intensity. This is a man who has lost his only son, and now is possessed by a fierce desire to see his daughter-in-law happy again. The plot tells us that. But his eyes tell us nothing.
Salman basically just has to appear as a random romantic hero in the first half and die at the end of it. The only good thing I can say about his performance is that the cringeworthiness per unit screen time has gone down marginally from Baghban. Which isn't saying much, considering that he has more screen time in this movie.
Hema Malini, John Abraham and Om Puri basically just occupy space and do little or nothing of note. I can forgive John for not being capable of much more than that; I'll even forgive Hema for the same reason, sacriligeous as it might sound to some (she never impressed me as an actress). But what Om Puri is doing (or not doing) in this dreck is beyond my comprehension.
On the whole, this is one of the most sorry-ass excuses for a movie to come out in recent times. That it boasts such a star cast only makes it even more of a tragedy.