What is it all about?
Shyam Benegal - the pioneer of 'middle cinema' does it again. 'Well Done Abba' is a double whammy. After the success of 'Welcome to Sajjanpur' Shyam in this light heartner, again uses strong intelligent repartee rather than the usual buffoonery and slapstick prevalent in many Bollywood comedies giving us a major relief once again.
Shyam Benegal's 'Well Done Abba' is more deep in its satire and comment and less cinematic then 'Welcome to Sajjanpur' but this flaw doesn't stop 'Well Done Abba' from being a standout, that's the quality of a genius - there can be a flaw but still you maintain your brilliance. The prolific veteran provides Big Pictures it's another potential earner after the super mighty success of '3 Idiots'.
The Story..........of course
Inspired by two short stories, 'Narsaiyyan Ki Bavdi' by Jeelani Bano and Sanjeev's 'Phulwa Ka Pul', 'Well Done Abba' is the story of Armaan Ali (Boman), a driver working for a Senior Executive in Mumbai, who goes on leave. He wants to find a match for his teenage daughter (Minisha), who stays with his brother Rehman Ali and his wife Salma (Illa Arun). When Armaan returns to work after 3 months his young employer wants to sack him.
But Armaan Ali has a story to tell. The story he tells is a humorous and often hilarious account of the events and happenings that delayed him from returning after a month. He avails a government scheme to dig a well in his agricultural patch. Things spiral out of control so much so that the Government is about to collapse! The question remains, how true is this compelling story!
The film is a political satire that veers from the farcical to the often witty and sharp but largely ironic comedy without losing sight of its control theme that deals with the many development projects that the government has initiated which frequently get hijacked by systemic corruption.
What to look out for?
Maintaining the 'middle cinema' pattern, Shyam in 'Well Done Abba' succeeds in bringing lightheartedness in the social comment without going for the over the top speech and yet succeeds in lending distinction to the film by developing personalities out of minor characters.
Satires are rare species in Bollywood film, 'Well Done Abba' is a rare and subtle bird that finds its tone and stays with it. The movie is a mirror of the system we dwell in the red tapism babugiri, bureaucracy we find in our country/state politics.
Shyam Benegal makes no bones about his comment, the movie is well written backed by excellent dialogues like 'mujhe makaron se dar nahin lagta' (I don't fear dishonest people) and the preachment is strong. Highlighting the water crises.
Boman Irani gives one of his finest portrayals as a Hyderabadi, mind you his physic and appearance doesn't give the impression of a driver but from his mannerisms and smart guidance from the master helmer Shyam, Boman overcomes the hurdle very easily and carries the film above his able shoulders in the duo role of a honest driver and a chalu brother and raises his bar as a marvelous actor. Minissha Lamba proves that she is not just a glam doll and the girl can act and act wonderfully. Minissha Lamba's role as Muskan will remain the highlight of her career for long. Sameer Dattani also impresses while Ravi Kishen as the newlywed despo engineer is enjoyable.
Ila Arun, Salim Ghouse, Rajit Kapoor chip in with valuable support.
Technically the movie is brilliant; Cinematography by Rajan Kothari is up to mark. The location is apt. Aseem Sinha's editing is sharp, Sound by Hitendra Ghosh and Manas Chaudhary is according to the mood of the film. Production values are first rate. Music by Shantanu Moitra is another highlight. "Bano badi hoshiyar" sung by Illa Arun has the potential to hit the popularity charts and it reminds of Delhi 6 'Genda Phool'.
But the film is not away from its flaws like the human trafficking episode involving the Arab Sheikhs is out of place from the track. The movie drags in the end. It's disappointing to see talents such as Sonali Kulkarni, Yashpal Sharma and especially Ravi Jhankal who gave such a marvelous performance in Shyam's 'Welcome to Sajjanpur' as a eunuch being wasted.
Conclusion: 'Well Done Abba' is true flag bearer of 'middle cinema' maintaining a fine level of wit, and insight those who loved 'Welcome to Sajjanpur' will certainly enjoy this also.