Babli’s (Tamannaah) father runs a successful akhada in their Haryana village. The USP of the gym is that it successfully churns out bouncers bound for Delhi clubs year after year. Babli has grown up around pehalwans, knows all their tricks and can lift as much, if not more, weight as them. She’s a tomboy supreme who talks to her buffaloes, likes to drink copious amounts of lassi, eats 12 rotis at one go and loves riding a Bullet. She’s smitten by the phoren returned son of her former class teacher. She finds out he’s based in Delhi, convinces her father that she wants to work as a female bouncer and lands up there. She becomes friends with him but after a while realises there’s a huge gap between them. This moment of epiphany convinces her to better herself. She starts learning English and even completes her 10th successfully after so many years. And also realises that she doesn’t need a man to complete herself.
Babli Bouncer got struck, thanks to the coronavirus. It’s finally seeing an OTT release. Its feel-good recipe is just right for the medium. Madhur Bhandarkar is known for his dark, edgy, slice of life films, so it’s a surprise to see him making an attempt at action comedy. It’s his mildest film yet. In fact, the grim start of the film convinces you that you’re in for a gritty ride but barring that, the film is all sunshine and positivity. A woman wanting to become a bouncer – that’s kind of unusual but alas the film doesn’t go beyond the one-line plot. Being a trained wrestler herself, she takes no time to become a bouncer. But then what? Yes, she goes through a journey of self-discovery but we have seen it all before. The film reiterates the point that it’s important for girls to earn their own money and wait for real love to happen, instead of giving in to attraction. And that they should learn to love themselves first as accepting yourself as you are is the key to fulfilment.
Most of the dialogue in the film is in chaste Haryanvi, especially in the earlier portions. That takes getting used to. The writers have tried to keep things real. Abhishek Bajaj’s character doesn’t fall in love with gaon ki gori but finds her uncouth and doesn’t hesitate from saying so. Sahil Vaid plays the childhood bestie who secretly carries a torch for Babli. He risks a heartbreak and blurts out his feelings, instead of keeping them bottled and suffering in silence. Babli’s character is full of quirks and idiosyncrasies. While she does want to polish herself and finish her education, she also realises it’s her eccentricity that makes her unique.
The role was written for Tamannaah and one can see she’s having fun essaying it. She’s known for her acting prowess down South but in the Hindi industry, her films such as Himmatwala and Humshakals didn’t create any magic. So Babli Bouncer is a comeback film for her in Hindi cinema. She grabs the chance with both hands and runs with it. Her Haryanvi accent is spot on and so is the comic timing. She makes Babli entirely believable and never deviates from character. The action sequences involving her feel real and don’t look like the usual superhuman stunts seen in our films. It’s time Hindi filmmakers took notice of her talent. Tamannaah‘s the best thing about the film and carries it on her shoulders. Watch the film for her natural acting and for its empowering message.
Trailer : Babli Bouncer
Rachana Dubey, September 23, 2022, 1:31 PM IST
Story: Babli Tanwar uses emotional tactics to take up the job of a bouncer in a night-spot, hoping it would win her brownie points from the man she loves. Heartbroken, she decides to use the opportunity to follow her career path and get a hold on her life.
Review: Babli belongs to a Haryanvi village bordering Delhi, famous for providing bouncers to clubs in the city. A chance encounter with Viraj (Abhishek Saxena) changes the course of her life and she decides to take up the job of a bouncer at a club in Delhi. Eventually, when Viraj leaves her heartbroken, she finds true happiness in educating herself and taking her employment and her career seriously.
Madhur Bhandarkar returns with a directorial venture after a gap of five years, and once again, picks up a plot that revolves around a woman’s quest for her love, and for identifying her real strength and identity. While watching the film, you can sense that it has been crafted by someone who knows the beats of this sort of cinema, set in a commercial space, pat down. Even though Babli Bouncer is not a patch on Bhandarkar’s previous national-award winning work, he doesn’t seem to have entirely loosened his grip on such narratives.
The subject of the film is one of its pluses. The life of a bouncer, leave alone a female bouncer, has never really been explored in a movie in India. The barely-visible women bouncers lead a tough life, which has been depicted in a lighter vein. The writing, however, falters here. Babli faces hurdles all throughout her journey of self-discovery but she gets past them without much ado. She’s depicted as a feisty, go-getter, who doesn’t care for what the world says. And yet, the moment her heartbreaker holds the mirror to her, she begins to change the course of her life, and corrects everything he points out is wrong with her. That and a few other nuances dilute the narrative and limit the scope the story actually had. The dialogues are decent, although there was plenty of room for them to be great. Throughout the film, Babli keeps saying she’s very funny but the comic punches don’t work in every situation.
Having said that, Babli Bouncer is a fast-paced, light-hearted watch that doesn’t waste much time before the story sucks one in. The film has been shot well, neatly capturing the essence of Haryana and Delhi. The songs are decent and help push the story forward. The few scenes where Tamannah slips into action mode have been done well. Tamannah Bhatia nails those with ease.
Among the performers, Tamannah’s the one that shines really bright. Her effort to speak like a Haryanvi local, her body language and the depiction of naivety of her character all hint at her potential to deliver. She seems very comfortable playing Babli, and more emotional heft to her part would have only added a silver-lining to her performance. Sahil Vaid as Babli’s friend Kuku is okay but doesn’t seem to have much to do. Saurabh Shukla works well on screen, though could’ve been given some more to do. Abhishek Saxena, as Babli’s love interest, could have bitten harder into his part.
After delivering some crackling films in the past, Madhur Bhandarkar stands quite far from his own benchmarks, though he hasn’t lost form. However, the film is still a breezy watch and has some light and sweet moments that see you through its near-two-hour run.