EVERY MOVIE HAS a premise. Sometimes, the filmmaker (Ashu Trikha, in this case) himself doesn’t recognise it. Baabarr, to my mind, has only three moments that make sense. First, when 12-year-old Baabarr (Sohum Shah) kills a man and Mamu (Tinnu Anand) looks at the gun in his hand with horror. Second, when Baabarr kills Mamu, Ziya (Urvashi Sharma) realises for the first time the monster Baabarr is. And finally, when SP Dwivedi (Mithun Chakraborty) meets Baabarr after 10 years, and says, “I see a young man who does not know what can happen to him, that life can betray him.” Baabarr replies, “Life can betray me if I trust life. I gave up that trust when I was 12.”
These moments should have been the key to the film. Yet they go unexplored. The film is carried away by gunshots, betrayals and counter-betrayals, egos and bigger egos. And remains nothing more than a video game with blaring noise and a very large score of deaths. The characters are predictable – vote-bank appeasing politicians, corrupt police officers, ineffective women prototypes (mother, keep, wife) that can do nothing to stop or even question the violence around them. None more predictable than Baabarr. You call a boy ‘Baabarr’, place him in a family of butchers, in a predominantly Muslim locality Amanganj, and lo and behold, you have a hardened criminal.
Baabarr is what he is since he is a boy and that makes the story seem pointless. Sohum’s shortage in the expressions department also does nothing to help us understand his innate violent streak, nor why an inane line from his wife — “a child needs both its parents, like a cart needs two wheels” — should suddenly reform him.
Dwivedi’s character is the only one that stands for life, for an existence based on values and reason. But he has little more to do than stride into the frame in garish shirts and carefully dyed black and white hair, which distracted me and set me wondering, surely Mithun is very, very rich and can afford a better hairdresser and a better stylist? The film is held together only by its ‘nehle pe dehla’ style of dialogue. Its rhythm helps the actors, stock characters though they may be, deliver credible performances.
Baabarr brings back the 1980s, with its no-nonsense camera work. Plonk a camera in front of a scene, roll, action, cut and you are done. No, that’s not gritty, nor film noir, just a struggle against a low budget and uncontrollable crowds at locations.