On: Hotstar+ Disney
DIR: Himank Gaur
CAST: Bhuvan Bam, Shriya Pilgaonkar
There is such a thing as the Mumbai of public imagination—it’s a living, breathing city of clichés, although wholly derived from an inanimate thing called cinema/showbiz! This is where people speak in the language of khokha (crores), ghoda (gun), khaneka, peeneka, bhai se milneka…
It is only in this darkly lit world of predominantly ’90s dreams and nightmares—between Sadak (1991) and Satya (1998)—reside, as we watch in this series: The hustling pimp, Shilpa Shukla (Chak De India), sex-worker, Shriya Pilgaonkar (OTT’s current No 1 star), her devilish customer, JD Chakravarthy (remember ‘Satya’?), the lover, Vasya (Bhuvan Bam)….
And then there’s the ghetto that surrounds them—with friends for families, such as Peter for a Pakiya-type loafer, the kind-hearted Mehboob Bhai, Deven Bhojani (‘Ghansu’ of JJWS), making/selling bread.
I’ve given you the larger, nukkad picture. From here on, you’ll get the drift. But you don’t—while you watch the poor ‘aai’ (mother), who works hard as the kaamwali bai, also to support the alcoholic pati.
None of it comes with any sense of irony. It is exactly what it is. If we must step out of the ’90s, on occasion, because those were really the roads for Fiats and Ambassadors, think of this as an early noughties’ (2004/5-ish), Jannat-type, Mukesh/Mahesh Bhatt reproduction—starring Emraan Hashmi, but without Sufiana songs, or sufficient sex.
It’s about a scruffy-looking boy, who grows rich overnight, through shady means, dumps his buddies, hangs with the high-class, in his S-class.
Sure, there’s at least one decent, action ‘money shot’, involving a human head cracking through a wash basin. The performers look convinced about the world they’re in as well. That merely tells you how good these actors are.
Because this is no ‘Bollywood movie’, for god’s sake—why would it even wanna be, unless it was a parody. It’s a BBVK production; meaning, Bhuvan Bam Ke Vines.
As in, starring in the lead, the top, desi YouTube sensation. This is Delhi-based Bam’s OTT debut, on Hotstar+Disney, India’s leading streamer. Given how expectations don’t even vaguely match the outcome—that Internet sensation is more of instant irritation, if you ask me. What was the expectation, to start with, anyway?
Anything even close to Bam’s first series, that dropped on YouTube, during the pandemic, Dhindora (2021), by the same director (Himank Gaur). Even if you weren’t an old-timer of BB’s vines/short-videos, which Dhindora was a long-form version of—you could easily recognise Bam as the absolute raja of repartees, prince of pun-ditry, throwing cracker one-liners after another.
Relying on nothing but, right away, pulling off 16 characters at one go—it got hard to pick the best Bam, from among Banchoddas, Sameer Fuddi, Titu Mama, Bablu, Janki, Mrs. Verma, Adrak Baba, Mr. Hola, Papa Maakichu, Detective Mangloo, Dr. Sehgal, Babli Sir….
Here’s the ‘Sunil Grover paradox’, though; if you’d like to call it that. With someone so good with spoof-like miming/mimicries—does it become hard to take the comedian as seriously as the brooding, solemn performer, with a strong purpose on screen; you think? Well, ask Ali G, or Sasha Baron Coen that, I guess (do catch Cohen’s last drama, The Trial of Chicago 7, on Netflix, if you get the time).
But, yeah, that’s the point. The series Taaza Khabar—mercifully, merely six episodes long, of about half an hour each—is BB, being Bollywood, in his head. To be thought of as a real actor, in a real movie, as we know reality in movies to be. Rather than a YouTuber, I suppose.
The show’s concept is credited to Aziz Dalal; the writers are Abbas and Hussain Dalal. I don’t know if these three are related, like the Burmawalla bhais (Abbas-Mustan-Hussain). Hussain Dalal, though, was the keyboard behind the much-lampooned dialogues of Bollywood’s big-league, Brahmastra.
What’s the concept here, since it’s separately credited in the opening sequence? That our main man finds, presumably, a city-based news app, which reports to him events from the future. Given this knowledge, he can make a lotta money. He does, including from a KBC-like show, in a slum-like Mumbai.
There isn’t a deliberate joke in any of this. Some zany characters, yes. But nobody’s mocking anybody or anything. The idea begins to overstay its welcome, more or less after it’s introduced.
I must finish the show, since I’ve started.
Also, for BB. Which, I guess, is the reason some of the best screen talents surround him—look at Mahesh Manjrekar; that’s the guy who made Vaastav (1999), that must’ve inspired this show’s world too.
It’s great to watch a YouTuber getting progressively ambitious with his time, plus immense talent. That way, Bam feels like our own boy up there in the mainstream, isn’t it? Surely is. Imagine playing with something that looks so strangely stale, for an experimental series, though—he could do with better scripts, for sure, too.
Also Read: Got to let go after two years of working on it: Bhuvan Bam