Well Done Benegal…
Shyam Benegal was never known for comedies but for meaningful cinema that was labeled art-house and alienated mainstream audience. Films such as Ankur, Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda, Mandi, Mammo, Sardari Begum and others may have been extremely good but not money spinners at the box office. Even Zubeidaa featuring Karisma Kapoor, which was almost a mainstream Bollywood flick, pleased only the niche Benegal audience and not the masses. However, with the evolution of the multiplex audience, Benegal has started dabbling with a genre that he hasn’t attempted before – comedy. Well, actually it is satire and he touches upon a lot of relevant issues through his latest films like Welcome to Sajjanpur and Well Done Abba. This new Benegal brand of cinema is extremely refreshing when all we get today are sexist and vulgar jokes in the name of comedies.
Well Done Abba is set in a village called Chikatpalli, somewhere near Hyderabad and focuses on a number of issues such as corruption, water shortage, illiteracy, emancipation of women, amongst others. Boman Irani plays Armaan Ali who is concerned about his daughter, Muskaan Ali’s (Minisha Lamba) marriage and wants to get a baori (well) dug in his fields under a new scheme by the government. The film traces Armaan’s journey as he struggles with the corrupt government machinery and later his battle against the same, which is master-minded by his fiery daughter.
Boman Irani is simply outstanding in the film and proves that the character and the actor playing it are more important than the star. Minisha Lamba is the film’s surprise package and is extremely confident even with the Hyderabadi accent. Other supporting actors like Samir Dattani, Ila Arun and Ravi Kissen are good but fine actors like Rajit Kapoor and Sonali Kulkarni are not given substantial roles.
The film’s strength is its simplicity and situational comedy while its length is its weakness (nearly two and a half hours). The first half of the film moves slowly establishing each of the numerous characters and the film picks up post interval. The editing could have been much better to make the film crisp and more impactful. Music by Shantanu Moitra is nothing great and the songs were not required at all; why couldn’t they just stick to only background score?
Overall, Well Done Abba is a delightfully refreshing film but requires a little patience due to its length.
My Rating: * * * ½ Three and a half stars on five
– Shrey Khetarpal