Thursday 20 September 2007

Bluffmaster (2005)

When a Mumbaiker friend dropped Bluff Master (which we also like to call BM) in our lap, we were skeptical.

"This looks like crap!" we thought tartly.

But never judge a film by its DVD cover!

Truly MTV hip-hop. Where's Jay-Z?

First of all, BM is stylish. It has an instantly appealing background score and gorgeous cinematography, with quick cuts and a great wit. Like an opera, each major character is introduced with their own theme, while a Polaroid-style snapshot floats amidst a red, racing background. The protagonist and con artist, Roy (Abhishek Bachchan), has a rousing, raging brass accompaniment - jazzy and bluesy. His love, Simmi (Priyanka Chopra), has light, frothy violins. The ultimate villain and Supremo, Chandru (Nana Patekar), has angry horns. And so forth, from Roy's likable partner, Dittu (Ritesh Deshmukh), to even his doctor, Dr. Bhalerao (Boman Irani).

Like the characters, these musical cues mingle and bump into each other while the story sweeps along. At first, the plot feels like an old 1970s, indulgently silly cops 'n robbers film in the style of Abhishek's father's; Parvarish springs to mind. (Indeed, the Big B and his effect on Hindi cinema is referred to in a number of dialogues.) There is much playful deceit as Roy swindles a movie producer out of millions. There is a fun romance, uber-trendy settings, and, of course, the not-inconsequential brain tumor.

"??!!" you cry.

Oh, come now, like any masala movie, especially one starring the Big B's son and largely styling itself on the Big B's 1970s Fluff Vehicle, there's no way they couldn't have fit a tragic, heart-stringy undercurrent in there. Hello, Kasme Vaade!

Indeed, much like Kasme Vaade, BM is ultimately the story of redemption - as hip-hop stylin' Roy learns that maybe his love for Simmi actually outweighs everything he once valued: money, cars, the swirling camera thing you see in gangster videos, even his own life. The way that BM gets around to this tired-yet-always-nice-to-reaffirm message is genuinely entertaining and uplifting. There's a wonderful moment, late in the film, when the fourth wall - and, seemingly, all walls of Roy's reality - beginns to crumble. "Hey, which movie is this? Is Shah Rukh in it?" an extra asks, startling us and Roy. As things become more and more surreal, Roy breaks out into a joyful run down the street: suddenly everything seems free, open, and possible. When we first watched this scene, we caught ourselves thinking, "Gee, this must be the best Hindi film EVER MADE." We revised our opinion on second viewing, dampening it to, "Gee, the background score is lovely." But we stand by how effective these moments in the film are; it really is good.

The requisite wedding scene. Note: excellent music.

Like those old 70s hits, the film flirts briefly with hedonism before resting assured that all you need is love and family. It's fun and heart-warming. Unlike those old 70s hits, however, BM is also surprisingly cerebral, as it twists and turns and does everything in its power to remind you that you're watching a movie, and that movie stars Amitabh Bachchan's famous son. Hello, Brecht! "Naah," a character tells Abhishek at one point, "you don't look like Veeru [the character from Sholay, a Hindi classic and one of Amitabh Bachchan's biggest hits]." For a moment, the audience member might think he'll say Abhishek looks like Jai, Amitabh's character. Instead, he says, "You look like Gabbar!" Gabbar Singh being the villain, played by Amjad Khan. At another point in the film, a major deal is struck between Roy and the villain, Chandru, while both are in a cinema watching another one of Amitabh's big hits, Shaan. (Hey, small bonus for Shashi fans, as he cameos - at least in film-within-film form.)

We've been talking a lot about Abhishek in this review, and yes, he plays Roy with that same dull-eyed, yet oddly appealing and certainly stylish vibe that Amitabh was so good at. Like his father, he hunches his shoulders and shuffles when he dances. Thankfully, it's not his only move. The rest of the cast is likewise charismatic, especially Ritesh Deshmukh as the boyish sidekick and Nana Patekar as the villain. Patekar in particular manages to do such about-turns of behavior that make for a delightful performance.

Aaaand review. Party time!


Beth Loves Bollywood said...

I loooooooove Bluffmaseter. The more 70s masala I watch, the more I love it. I made my parents watch it and even they liked it. I'd never noticed the characters' musical themes before - great point. The soundtrack is one of my very favorites. For awhile I wasn't leaving the house without a fleet of (male) backup dancers (clad in black pleather) and "Sabse Bada Rupiyaa" blaring.

Unknown said...

I think Ritesh Deshmukh is such a underrated actor, he has done a brilliant job in bluffmaster!

Bollywood_convert said...

I loved it!!!! Abhishek is so hot, although he is not as good a dancer as Hrithik..oh well, not everyone can be perfect. The female lead (I forget her name)was also very good.

Indy said...

Watch Bluffmaster at - Relax, take a break