Sahib, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns is a must watch — even for those who have not watched its prequel Sahib, Biwi Aur Gangster.
The film takes you to the regions of Uttar Pradesh where royalty is a fading tradition. Sahib (Jimmy Shergill), who belongs to a royal family, is a wheel chair-ridden raja living with his drunken wife Madhavi (Mahie Gill), who is a member of the legislative assembly. He desperately wants a son to continue his legacy, but not with Madhavi. When his mother presents Ranjana (Soha Ali Khan) as a candidate, he falls in love with her simply by looking at her photograph. Eventually, they get married, even though Ranjana is in love with the gangster Inderjeet (Irrfan Khan). To win Ranjana back and settle some old scores, Inderjeet decides to get rid of Sahib for good.
SBAGR is full of twists and tales of deceit, topped with powerful one liners that are an enjoyable mix of love and revenge. While most Bollywood films fall flat in the witty one-liner department, this one is a sure winner.
The performances are magnetic. Despite having opportunities to dominate the overall narrative, each actor in SBAGR sticks to his/her role in a calculated manner. Just like any well-written story, the viewer is unable to feel sympathetic towards any one character, and instead feels equally for all of them. The film may be a simple story with a flavour of royalty culture, but the well-balanced characters make a lasting impression.
After Special 26, Shergill again proves that he is an asset for the Indian film industry when used right. His innocent expressions and school boy looks don’t hold him back from playing the wicked role to perfection in the film. For Khan, all we can say is that anything he touches turns to gold. His portrayal of a mad lover driven by the thirst of revenge combined with occasional quirkiness reflects his youth and makes him the most suitable actor for his role. Fortunately, Neil Nitin Mukesh opted out of Inderjeet’s role — his looks would have given needless attention to the character.
Soha may not be as conventionally good-looking as a character like Ranjana (the biwi number two) might have required, but she has done justice to her role. Ranjana is a helpless woman in a patriarchal society where she sheds no tears but rather undergoes a self-realisation — only to find out how insignificant she is. By playing this to perfection, Soha has established that looks don’t matter when you have phenomenal acting skills — a brilliant combo in her favour.
Despite the rest of the heavy duty actors, the sultry, powerful and clumsy yet committed Madhavi is the trophy winner for the film. Gill carries out Madhavi’s emotional fragility and vicious commitment to gain attention beautifully. She eventually merges the two together in style, making her the most memorable character in SBAGR.
Hats off to director Tigmanshu Dhulia for making such a complex narrative flow like a river. The sound design is overdone in some scenes, so-much-so that the audio effects give a feel of horror films. A smooth script is enough to create tension, without using cheap-tricks (playing with sounds) to thicken the plot. The soundtrack is below average; the item song fails to become eye candy, or even a hummable tune.
Overall, the plot is well-crafted and rock-solid characters cover up for any unwanted complications.
Verdict: This is your film of the week. Watch it for some genuinely vicious characters and stellar performances.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 11th, 2013.
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