HOT ON THE HEELS of Lakhot and Sajjanpur, Billu plunges us into Budbuda. Small-town tales are here to stay. This story centres around Billu (Irffan Khan), a penniless barber beset on all sides: his shop is falling apart, he can’t pay his childrens’ school fees, he’s refused loans from the government and the local bigwig, Daamchand (Om Puri), wants to give him a loan he can’t repay. Despite all of this, he remains plucky and bites back at fate with wry humour.
Things change dramatically when superstar Saahir Khan (Shahrukh Khan) comes to Budbuda to shoot for his upcoming film. Saahir Khan is an overdone spoof of a superstar who has acted in all of Shahrukh Khan’s movies. He always wears sunglasses and is surrounded by bodyguards because of a threat to his life.
As it turns out, Saahir and Billu were childhood friends. Billu’s children share this with the rest of the village and soon everyone is knocking at Billu’s door, requesting him to help them meet Saahir Khan in person. The most worrisome of these requests comes from the school. The principal offers to pay the fees if Billu arranges for Saahir to come and talk at the golden jubilee of the school. Billu gets more and more uncomfortable. He doesn’t want to meet Saahir, feeling that Saahir won’t remember him and that he’d only make a fool of himself. But Billu’s wife Bindiya (Lara Dutta) puts her foot down and Billu is forced to give it a shot.
The strengths of the movie lie in its depiction of Budbuda and of Billu’s family staying afloat on tenderness and laughter. What a great mix of people in Budubuda: marble-playing layabouts, thugs, an overambitious poet (Rajpal Yadav), a chatty chaiwala (Asrani), a modern barber. Billu’s interactions with his children are also wonderful. It’s a relief to see the two pesky little brats hounding their father. Yet, if there’s one reason to watch the movie, it’s Irrfan’s acting. Funny, touching, restrained and convincing, he is the soul of this movie.
Which makes it all the more irritating when the movie insists on giving too much space to Billu’s friend Saahir, with the ridiculous insertion of songs and attempts at Bollywood commentary that distract from the simple story that drives this film. If the makers had stuck to what makes this movie tick it would have been a better movie.