Bob Biswas review: Abhishek Bachchan’s stand-in act falters on many levels

Pop Culture

Bob Biswas review: Abhishek Bachchan’s stand-in act falters on many levels

Illustration: Arati Gujar

Bob Biswas is not Bob Biswas. It’s Abhishek Bachchan masquerading as Biswas. It’s a Bollywood guy trying his earnest best to fill in the mighty shoes of a character so mundane but infinitely memorable. Everyone in the film recognises Bob; except us, the people who were so freaked out by the everyday creepiness that Saswata Chatterjee brought to the original role in Sujoy Ghosh’s 2012 film Kahaani.

Bob Biswas is a spinoff story of the serial killer who wakes up after eight years of being in a coma, following a road accident. In Kahaani, Bob’s character is run over by a truck, but the story doesn’t decisively show whether he survived it or not. If Bob Biswas is a prequel to Kahaani, then this is perhaps where the stories first intersect. Awake yet devoid of memory, Bob is dazed and confused as he meets his wife and children; he then starts to reintegrate with their lives but without a clue of who they are.

It’s a Bollywood guy trying his earnest best to fill in the mighty shoes of a character so mundane but infinitely memorable.

As Bob starts to piece together what his life may have been before the accident, we follow his trail, sharing his awkwardness along the way. How is this woman his wife? What exactly was the nature of his day job and how did he cover his nefarious activities in broad daylight? Who are the people who’re giving his orders and why is he traipsing around to execute them? All these questions swirl in Bob’s mind though his vacant expression conveys little to us about what really is going on in his head. He’s constantly thinking, observing and processing information, making us feel like someone who is trying to find missing pieces in his life to give it more sense and meaning.

Abhishek Bachchan plays Bob Biswas with the kind of deadpan-ness one can associate with Shah Rukh’s Suri in Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi. Sure the character itself demands a certain lack of drama, but Saswata’s Bob amplifies the creepiness of his role by an unmistakable sense of anti-oomph. Abhishek is merely expressionless most of the time and his smile is endearing at best. And we still don’t learn much else about his thought-process despite looking like he’s internalising his surroundings constantly. This is no James Bond back story from his pre-007 days. It’s a reboot, almost as irrelevant as George Clooney in Batman & Robin.

Bob Biswas runs on the strength of its supporting cast.

You cannot fault Abhishek’s earnestness but unfortunately for him, he just doesn’t have Saswata’s face, so the dice is indeed loaded from the start. His mere presence Bollywoodises a storyline that is replete with some brilliant character actors with short but effective roles. Prosthetics and hair-makeup departments do their best to recreate Saswata’s Bob in Abhishek but they truly remain at the surface level.

Chitrangada Singh, as Bob’s wife Mary, is gorgeous as Chitrangada usually is and has some interesting scenes but is largely there as the babe quotient. As the wife of a man suffering from amnesia, she would have been expected to experience a very traumatic private side reconciling with the fact that she’s got to start from scratch, but the filmmakers unfairly give her very little depth. An actress of her calibre deserved better writing but seems to have fallen prey to the typical strategy of “hero”-led stories.

Bob Biswas runs on the strength of its supporting cast, particularly that of Paran Bandhopadhyay who plays Kalida. Even a chubby school bully with a rabbit is more convincing than Abhishek’s Bob who waddles with inconsistency. The film has some interesting twists and is constantly oscillating between sharp unpredictability and woeful predictability. Clinton Cerejo and Bianca Gomes’ superlative score creates the right tension when needed and juxtaposing contrasting dark scenes with some riveting tunes. It plays a huge role in intensifying the drama even if the storytelling itself falls short.

The movie leaves you with many unanswered questions of continuity.

The movie leaves you with many unanswered questions of continuity, with one that revisits us frequently through the story: Did Bob really lose his memory or is he exploiting some legit memory issues? Are we convinced by this Bob the way we were by Saswata’s? Even if the story functions at a different time and place than the original, there are no answers to some obvious questions of practicality. Bob Biswas didn’t need Abhishek Bachchan but vice-versa need not hold true. In his bid to show restraint while portraying Bob with arthouse realism, the actor has ended up giving a vacuous performance in desperate need of the real Nux Vomica he has been using as a front.

Comments