Cast: Varun Dhawan, Janhvi Kapoor
Director: Nitesh Tiwari
OTT: Prime Video
Rating: 3.5 Moons
Nitesh Tiwari ne mahaul bana diya! That’s what Bawaal will make you feel after 2 hours 20 minutes. What started with an underwhelming and confusing trailer turns out to be one of the most mature, sensitive and cathartic take on relationships and acceptance. It offers incredible performances by Varun Dhawan and Janhvi Kapoor.
The story revolves around Ajju Bhaiya (Varun Dhawan) who is the stud of Lucknow. For Ajju, image is a serious matter and in order to be placed above everyone at school, he creates a fake perception about himself. On the other hand, Nisha (Janhvi Kapoor) is a spunky, educated and independent girl who stands taller than Ajju in every aspect of life. Making her his 'trophy wife', he wants to keep his image clean and doesn't want the secret of her neurological condition to escape out of the house.
Nisha has to set him straight and their Europe trip becomes the tool. Ajju, who is a disinterested and unaware history teacher at a local school, decides to visit locations that were affected by World War II due to an uncalled incident at his workplace. His perspective towards life changes and how. Bawaal is an explosion of unique ideas and unconventional execution. The concept is deep but not preachy.
Nitesh's ability to blend humour, message and a love story is what makes Bawaal an unique experience. It is made for a sensitive, mature and cinema-loving audience. While it isn't preachy, the message of acceptance and being comfortable in your own skin and reality is out loud and clear. Nisha has her own set of flaws but Ajju isn't flawless too. He learns to shed his inhibitions as she holds the mirror of reality for him.
The reality check and motivation are delivered through the medium of World War II. Ajju's transformation happens as he gets to understand and resonate with the events of the war where countless innocent people lost their lives. Nisha and he are shown to live that experience and feel the pain. When they explore locations that hold special importance in chapters of history, the palette turns monochrome. When they visit the beach where Normandy Invasion took place, Ajju wears a headphone to listen to the events that unfolded years ago. The frame turns grey and chaotic. There's chaos not just on the beach but within Ajju's mind too. When he takes it off, the beach is dead and silent. The picturisation is stunning and rich.
Amid a love story, the humour comes from a group of Gujarati men. Though stereotyped, it is hilarious. The first half of Bawaal is on a light note. The drama comes into force in the second half and that's when the story gets better and denser. The music of Bawaal is soothing and fits the mood perfectly. While being one of the best films to come out on OTT, Bawaal suffers from the problem of duration. It gets unnecessarily long. The last 5-10 minutes which are set in the school, seem underwhelming and extra.
Bawaal shows Janhvi’s growth as an actor. She displays more confidence in her craft and her screen presence is strong and infectious. The scenes where she has to emote Nisha's pain and trauma that come with a neurological disorder are simply beautiful. She delivers one of her career's most mature performances. Varun Dhawan has been the sweetheart of Bollywood but with Bawaal, one would not hesitate to hate him. When you love to hate Ajju, the actor wins the game. The gaze of self-obsession and image-consciousness is so evil that a new facet of Varun's craft is unearthed. The World War II sequences are a testament to what Varun can bring to the table if he gets the right script and director.
PeepingMoon gives Bawaal 3.5 Moons