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Bunty Aur Babli 2 movie review: A great opportunity squandered

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Bunty Aur Babli 2 is over 130 minutes long and yet it fails to supplement its characters with any flesh or blood. It would have helped had the film focused more on the new Bunty and Babli instead of fussing over the older ones as it does.

Bunty Aur Babli 2 movie review: A great opportunity squandered
When the sequel to an immensely franchise-able, much-loved film releases 16 years later, the stakes and expectations are bound to be high. You want the new instalment to take you where the original did and then a little farther. Bunty Aur Babli 2 does none of that.
The original Bunty and Babli, now better known as Rakesh and Vimmi Trivedi, are middle-aged, comfortable in their small-town life in Fursatganj, raising their son Pappu. They are doing everything they thought they could never do and rebelled against 16 years ago. Rakesh, a ticket collector at the local railway station, has a paunch and is particular about colouring his hair with henna. Meanwhile, Babli spends her time looking after him, Pappu, and the household, and wearing clothes so whacky, she could participate in a fancy dress contest at any moment.
They are shaken out of their domestic reverie by Inspector Jatayu Singh, who, following a few robberies conducted in their name, thinks they’ve resumed their old con business. Enter Bunty Aur Babli 2.0, played by a fantastic Siddhant Chaturvedi and debutante Sharvari Wagh. Both of them look so good together, they make everything and everyone else around them look forced and over the top.
His second film after a dream debut in Gully Boy, Siddhant is as effortless and charming in this one as we remember him from the Zoya Akhtar directorial. He finds a match in Sharvari, who is effervescent on screen. She lights up every frame she is in. This is one pair you need to watch out for.
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The new Bunty and Babli are fans of the originals. They say they have grown up reading about them and hence have chosen their moniker, logo, and the philosophy of stealing from the rich and the corrupt to help the needy and themselves. And much like them, they hope to never get caught. Fresh out of college, they find themselves without employment and hence decide to give it back to the system that has failed them so.
After a series of robberies, the older pair is forced to break out of inertia to catch the young ones. It is such a banal premise, even on paper. Add to it trite storytelling, a non-sensical plot, and music so atrocious, it makes you question your love for Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy.
I never thought I’d say this, but I missed Abhishek Bachchan. I also missed the freshness, the energy, the memorable music, and the crackling chemistry of the lead pair that made the first part what it is—an entertaining watch deeply aware of itself and rooted in the milieu it was set in. But what we see of Rakesh and Vimmi’s life in Fursatganj in Bunty Aur Babli 2 is the outsider’s perspective of tier-3 India and therefore doesn’t feel real at any point. The mannerisms, clothes, language, and even set design is so exaggerated, it is annoying.
It broke my heart to see Rani Mukerji be used largely for comic relief. To reduce an actor of her calibre to a get few laughs is just painful. So was seeing Pankaj Tripathi trying to pull off yet another version of the role he plays in everything he does. Yes, no one does the small-town man with straight-faced humour quite like him but he can do a lot more and just as well.
Bunty Aur Babli 2 is over 130 minutes long and yet it fails to supplement its characters with any flesh or blood. It gives no backstories to the new Bunty and Babli. We don’t know how they met, fell in love, or who they are when they are not looting politicians. In trying to establish the contrast between the two pairs, the film fails spectacularly in establishing context. Saif and Rani, who have worked previously in several YRF movies like Hum Tum, Tara Rum Pum, and Thoda Pyaar Thoda Magic, try to enthuse vitality into the film but the weak plot and drab direction by debutant Varun V Sharma just do not allow them the room.
When the final twist comes in the film’s last few minutes, you don’t care anymore. It would have helped had the film focused more on the new Bunty and Babli instead of fussing over the older ones as it does. This sequel takes everything that the original built so carefully and squanders it—the music, the small-town earthiness, the wide-eyed aspirations of young adults wanting to make it big, and worst of all, our memory of Bunty and Babli as we remembered them.
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