“Bombay Talkies” has four stories by four celebrated filmmakers. Each of these stories has a distinct stamp of its director. Clearly, Karan Johar’s story does not fit as well into the projected theme of the movie. However, as a gay man, I feel extremely happy to see what I did see in that particular story. The titles in this review have been concocted based on the content of the story. (This review focuses on the two stories with LGBTQ context)
“Ajeeb Daastaan” by Karan Johar
This story opens with a gay guy walking into his father’s bedroom, pulling him out of his bed and screaming, “Main chhakaa nahi hoon! Main homosexual hoon! Naa chhakka hona galat hai, na homosexual!” (I am not a transgender! I am a homosexual! It’s not wrong to be a transgender, not wrong to be a homosexual!), and walks out fuming. That’s when you know this is going to be different.
And it *is* different – to start with, it is actually sensitive towards gay people. Both the actors who play gay are, for one, not ‘acting’ gay as in Dostana, and are also not the flirting-with-anything-male caricatures that we get to see in Bollywood. The story will reach parents and relatives of gay men, who perhaps know their child is gay but still think “marriage will cure (sic) him/her”. The beggar’s songs interspersed with the story, take the impact to a higher level.
Rani Mukherjee looks absolutely sexy and expectedly performs very well. Randeep and Saqib both fit their characters very well. The scene where the beggar sings ‘Lag jaa gale’ and the two of them look awkwardly at each other is definitely the highlight – I am so happy I got to see that in a Bollywood movie.
On the flipside, there are two places where this movie falters. One, on being asked how one could ‘guess’ if someone’s gay, the gay guy replies, “Ask him to choose between Madhuri and Sridevi. If he likes Madhuri, he’s not. If he likes Sridevi, he is.” Now this may not go well with many guys I know and in fact, does not correlate with what the gaydar of many gay men tells them (I have had countless cat fights with gay friends divided between the two beautiful ladies!). Also, it is strange that the gay guy really pushes himself into the married guy’s life. Why he does that is almost unanswered.
A story with a sensitive message about gay people, a sexy Rani Mukherjee, a superbly rendered ‘Lag jaa gale’ and a 8-odd-second long liplock makes this my favourite story in the movie!
“My father’s role in a movie” by Dibakar Banerjee
This story is adapted from an original by Rabindranath Tagore. This one totally belongs to Nawazuddin Siddiqui portraying the role of a failed actor crazy about Bollywood movies, with elan. The turn of events towards the end is sure to leave a smile on your face! Sadashiv Amrapukar has a tiny role, but it is nice to see him after a long time.
“Sheela” by Zoya Akhtar
“Sheela” is the story of a child who hates playing football, who wants to be a dancer like Katrina and who gets slapped across his face by his father for dressing up like a girl at home. Story of my childhood? Yes, almost!
The child actor does a really good job – it is almost bold of him and his parents to have taken up this one. Ranvir Shourey as the father is convincing as well.
The dance at the end is really good – but then, you also see people in the movie laughing at the guy dressed up like a girl. Not cool, boss! In the cinema hall, I heard an aunty tell her husband, “Bachha hai, Bachpan mein samajh nahi aata!” (He’s a kid. Kids don’t understand things). However, her reaction is valid because the story carefully leaves the gender identity part aside and focuses only on the chasing-your-dreams bit – but does that really well. So overall, in the LGBTQ context; this movie could have done better and in fact, helped a lot of those kids out there who are regularly mocked for being effeminate (ask me!).
“Amitabh Bachhan” by Anurag Kashyap
While I have not heard positive responses from friends about this one, I liked this movie because it depicts how mad people can be about actors – and how small gestures from actors could mean so much to these admirers. The story does drag in between, but the twist at the end makes up for it. Vineet Kumar Singh looks quite hot as the North Indian guy – I had my eyes popping out in the visuals where he takes a bath! *wink*
The much-publicized “Bombay Talkies” song comprising of an ensemble of film actors is low on audio appeal – and hearing a signature tune each time an actor appears in the frame becomes repetitive and irritating beyond a point! The song is definitely the weakest part of the movie.
Overall, Karan Johar’s story was definitely the story I liked the most while others also make an interesting watch.