Movie Review: BESHARAM (2013)
BESHARAM is a genuinely funny film and works amazingly as mad cap comedy of errors combined with an amusingly sweet love story and action sequences that entertain and make the film an over all enjoyable experience. Or rather, this would all be true… if the movie was made in the 90’s. Everything from the filler story, the go-nowhere love angle that’s being forced onto the audience as much as it was being forced on the girl herself, the over the top action and the intentionally pandering to emotions by exploiting kids… are all staples of 90’s era Bollywood.
BESHARAM, literally translated into ‘Shameless’, follows a car thief as he lives life large and loud, without any regard to anything else and does so with what he perceives to be style. Growing up in an orphanage, Babli, boosts cars for a living in order to support himself and the other orphans at his orphanage as the oldest ‘kid’ never to have been adopted. He’s brash, arrogant, tacky and overbearing. It’s a great character because it’s reminiscent of the overly cocky Bollywood swagger that was better seen in the 80’s or 90’s. The lovable street thug with a heart of gold and immovable resolve. This shtick worked wonder for many actors decades ago, but it’s laughable and pathetic today.
The main conflict is lightly introduced in the beginning of the film, setting up a ‘ruthless’ villain played by Javed Jaffry, but then is pushed aside for the main romance sub plot to come to fruition. Sandwiching the love story in between the wheat goodness of a bad guy and fight scenes with kidnapped children and random explosion is SO 90’s. So anyways, the bad guy who is this super international money launderer for rich politicians, but for some reason he needs to hire a petty car thief to do business with. Yea, it makes little to no sense, but that’s okay. It’s not the what that’s important in a story like this, it’s the how. And boy howdy does the how blow your mind. But not really.
The romance blooms, completely against the will of the leading lady, which is a great commentary on the treatment of women in movies like these. Granted Babli’s character is essentially harmless, but he does often cross the line; like an entire song devoted to, him basically lying to the neighborhood about how he made out with the girl, Tara, when she actually kicked him out of her house. In real life India, such allegations ruin lives. I’m sure most run of the mill creeps also think that their words and actions are harmless and cute. So then, circumstances force the two to go to a different city in search for her car, which was originally stolen by Babli in the first place. When this is exposed to the girl, her reaction is more amusing than serious, simpley due to how the scene was executed. Speaking of the girl, Pallavi Sharda as Tara is breathtaking here. While technically not her debut, it’s her first lead role, and she’s so comfortable in front of the camera that it shows in her natural acting ability. Despite playing a character that spends most of the screen time huffing and puffing at the hero’s antics, she never exaggerates or is obnoxious. For a newcomer, she’s extremely natural, and even when she loosens up and does the song and dance stuff, she’s in her element being goofy and ridiculous, while still maintaining her dignity, which is rare in a new actress, especially in Bollywood.
BESHARAM attempts to be funny but comes off crude and disgusting. The treat of seeing real life parents and son, Ranbir, Rishi & Neetu Kapoor is completely undercut by the kind of performances they deliver, which is a waste given the acting talent in the family. Neetu Singh’s character nagging her husband into being a corrupt cop for her own greed, goes from silly to just plain cruel. The ending is forced and trite, while undermining any moral of the story that Ranbir’s Babli might’ve learned during the course of the story. Ranbir’s imitation and/or homage and channeling of legendary Loafers like Akshay Kumar & Anil Kapoor is bang on. His mannerisms and expressions are all lifted straight a Dhawanesque Salman Khan, but the movie itself is out of place and context with today’s standards of cinema. BESHARAM would’ve been a genuine success if it was released, roughly 19-23 years ago, when Bollywood humor consisted of feathered hair, bandanas wrapped around the hero’s neck, preceding a hairy chest and uttering weird noises as punch lines to every dialogue.