Erstwhile called Billu Barber, the latest Irrfan Khan – Lara Dutta – Shah Rukh Khan starrer is now called just Billu. Apparently some saloon and barber association requested SRK to remove the suffix since it was offending to their caste! And I learnt this after I’d booked the movie ticket😐 . Priyadarshan’s movies are a good watch, not all of them but most of them are anyway. Most often than not, he packs his movie with some stalwarts and some bits n pieces actors and weaves a believable and enjoyable story around them in ordinary situations.
Billu is one such movie which revolves around an ordinary barber Billu Vilas Pardesi (Irrfan Khan), his doting wife Bindiya (Lara Dutta), his school-going kids and his struggle to make ends meet while running an empty saloon in a tiny village. Into this mundane existence breezes in the Super Star Sahir Khan (SRK) and causes an unwanted turmoil. People around Billu believe him to be a friend of the star and start bestowing goodies upon him in lieu of some favours. Little they do realize that Billu dreads even the thought of him meeting his so-called-friend. Is the star really Billu’s friend or was it all a blatant lie told with an ulterior motive? I’d rather not give the story away but I’ll tell you that I sat through it all just to know that very reason…
And when it comes out in the open, I couldn’t help feel disappointed! It wasn’t convincing enough IMHO. The movie’s engrossing throughout but the climax seemed contrived and tedium-filled. Traditionally, Priyan has ended his movies in utter chaos and confusion (Hungama, Hulchul, Bhagam Bhag etc are cases in point) but in Billu, he chooses emotion and subtlety. Impressive for some, not for me!
Performance-wise, Irrfan Khan indubitably is the star of the movie (un-literally). His cheery demeanour in the face of adversity lights up the first half and builds up the character of Billu suitably. He carries off the weighed-down and burdened individual pose well enough in the second half. SRK’s scenes are too grandiose and frankly, are over-hyped and blah! Establishing his “stardom” needn’t have required so much eloquence. And the various “montage scenes” made me feel I was watching some Farah Khan or Karan Johar movie, eulogising SRK!!! Priyan’s movies rarely have a “star” and this was an exception that will stand out! Lara Dutta is completely miscast as a village belle. I think that Rani Mukherji in Nayak was the worst-est village belle in Hindi movies and now Lara comes pretty close as well. The rest of the cast comprises of Priyadarshan regulars (Asrani, Om Puri, Rajpal Yaday, Manoj Joshi, Jagdish et al) but their characters are so loosely sketched that one wouldn’t remember them once the movie’s finished. Music (Pritam) is another sore point. Both the “item songs” – Love Mera Hit Hit and Mar jaani are mediocre at best and the other two songs are already outta my mind!
For sure, this is a modern interpretation [originally as Kadha Parayumbol (Malayalam), Kuselan (Tamil) & Kadhanayakudu (Telugu)] of the Krishna and Sudama story and given that Bollywood is no stranger to rich-guy-friends-with-poor-guy stories, it wasn’t something new and novel. Ordinary stories have been told successfully with the help of a hatke visualization, trendy picturisation and slick presentation (case in point: Dev D) but Billu doesn’t break any new ground in that and is a passable fare, if not a boring one. If you find your regular barber pre-occupied with customers, it might not be that bad an idea to look up Billu Barber on a lazy Sunday!
P.S: The theatrical trailer of Delhi 6 was shown before the movie. Looks like a good movie…must see!