Reviews - Specialty Releases


Film Review: Billu Barber

A small Indian village gets upturned with excitement when a big Bollywood film comes to shoot, and the townsfolk think their local barber is great buddies with the star.

Feb 19, 2009

-By Frank Lovece


filmjournal/photos/stylus/71866-BilluBarber_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

There is a type of movie, particular to the U.K., that I like to call "Stiff Upper Brit": A village of charming eccentrics either pulls together or seems to come apart before recovering when an important newcomer arrives, or there's an emergency or a contest at stake. The classic is Bill Forsyth's Local Hero (1983), in which an oil-company rep only thinks he's in charge of negotiations with a seaside village all too eager to sell out, and others, of course, include the likes of Waking Ned Devine (1998), Blow Dry (2001) and The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (1995).

The Bollywood film Billu Barber (its onscreen title in the U.S. and the U.K., after objections by the Hairdressers Associations of Mumbai resulted in the removal of "Barber" from the title in India) is one of these, and a delight it is. Irrfan Khan, the police inspector in Slumdog Millionaire, plays poor, decent, put-upon barber Bilas Rao Pardesi, a.k.a. Billu, in the fictional provincial town of Budbuda. A more modern hairstyling salon has stolen most of his business, local ne'er-do-wells hang around the entrance to his modest shop, and the local elementary school is threatening to remove his two children, daughter Gunja (Mitali Mayakar) and son Duggu (Pratik Dalvi), for lack of tuition payment. His only consolation seems to be that his wife, Bindiya, unaccountably looks like Miss Universe—which indeed co-star Lara Dutta was in 2000 before starring in a score of films.

When Bollywood superstar Sahir Khan (real-life superstar Shah Rukh Khan, playing a thinly veiled version of himself) arrives in town with a major film crew to shoot a picture in the quaint, northern India village, the sleepy town understandably goes bonkers. It gets even more crazy after Billu's kids, to whom he's said that he used to know Khan, brag about their dad's connection—feeding the local gossip chain until everyone from the local rich blowhard (Om Puri) to the local bad beatnik poet (Rajpal Yadav) all think Billu can introduce them. No matter how hard Billu tries to dissuade them, the deluded denizens won't listen. No good can come of that, and doesn't. But thank goodness for superstars with long memories. What? Did you think it wouldn't have a happy ending?

Billu Barber reaches that point with sharp pokes at self-important bureaucrats, merchants, "artistes" and others, and wry humor throughout. What makes it work, however, is that neither Billu nor his situation is played for laughs—his hardscrabble poverty isn't glossed over, and neither is his wife's longing for acceptance in the class-conscious village. And a climactic speech by Khan at a school gathering works fully well emotionally, despite a huge potential for hokiness—and incidentally provides concrete reason why real-life Khan, who's often starred in glowering action-hero roles, is a genuinely top-notch actor in addition to being a popular star.

Speaking of which, babelicious Bollywood starlets Kareena Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra appear as themselves in pretty ka-pow musical numbers from two movies-within-the-movie.


Film Review: Billu Barber

A small Indian village gets upturned with excitement when a big Bollywood film comes to shoot, and the townsfolk think their local barber is great buddies with the star.

Feb 19, 2009

-By Frank Lovece


filmjournal/photos/stylus/71866-BilluBarber_Md.jpg

For movie details, please click here.

There is a type of movie, particular to the U.K., that I like to call "Stiff Upper Brit": A village of charming eccentrics either pulls together or seems to come apart before recovering when an important newcomer arrives, or there's an emergency or a contest at stake. The classic is Bill Forsyth's Local Hero (1983), in which an oil-company rep only thinks he's in charge of negotiations with a seaside village all too eager to sell out, and others, of course, include the likes of Waking Ned Devine (1998), Blow Dry (2001) and The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain (1995).

The Bollywood film Billu Barber (its onscreen title in the U.S. and the U.K., after objections by the Hairdressers Associations of Mumbai resulted in the removal of "Barber" from the title in India) is one of these, and a delight it is. Irrfan Khan, the police inspector in Slumdog Millionaire, plays poor, decent, put-upon barber Bilas Rao Pardesi, a.k.a. Billu, in the fictional provincial town of Budbuda. A more modern hairstyling salon has stolen most of his business, local ne'er-do-wells hang around the entrance to his modest shop, and the local elementary school is threatening to remove his two children, daughter Gunja (Mitali Mayakar) and son Duggu (Pratik Dalvi), for lack of tuition payment. His only consolation seems to be that his wife, Bindiya, unaccountably looks like Miss Universe—which indeed co-star Lara Dutta was in 2000 before starring in a score of films.

When Bollywood superstar Sahir Khan (real-life superstar Shah Rukh Khan, playing a thinly veiled version of himself) arrives in town with a major film crew to shoot a picture in the quaint, northern India village, the sleepy town understandably goes bonkers. It gets even more crazy after Billu's kids, to whom he's said that he used to know Khan, brag about their dad's connection—feeding the local gossip chain until everyone from the local rich blowhard (Om Puri) to the local bad beatnik poet (Rajpal Yadav) all think Billu can introduce them. No matter how hard Billu tries to dissuade them, the deluded denizens won't listen. No good can come of that, and doesn't. But thank goodness for superstars with long memories. What? Did you think it wouldn't have a happy ending?

Billu Barber reaches that point with sharp pokes at self-important bureaucrats, merchants, "artistes" and others, and wry humor throughout. What makes it work, however, is that neither Billu nor his situation is played for laughs—his hardscrabble poverty isn't glossed over, and neither is his wife's longing for acceptance in the class-conscious village. And a climactic speech by Khan at a school gathering works fully well emotionally, despite a huge potential for hokiness—and incidentally provides concrete reason why real-life Khan, who's often starred in glowering action-hero roles, is a genuinely top-notch actor in addition to being a popular star.

Speaking of which, babelicious Bollywood starlets Kareena Kapoor, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra appear as themselves in pretty ka-pow musical numbers from two movies-within-the-movie.
Post a Comment
Asterisk (*) is a required field.
* Author: 
Rate This Article: (1=Bad, 5=Perfect)

*Comment:
 

More Specialty Releases

Time is Illmatic
Film Review: Nas: Time is Illmatic

Intended as the portrait of an artist as a young man, the music doc Time Is Illmatic is actually more interesting as a look back at the place and time that created him. More »

The Decent One
Film Review: The Decent One

A behind-the-scenes portrait of one of the Nazi regime’s most fearsome executioners. More »

The Two Faces of January
Film Review: The Two Faces of January

Good pulp yarn about three disparate Americans—an aging con man, his lovely young wife, and an impetuous tour guide—who meet their destiny among the ancient ruins of Greece. More »

Tazza 2: The Hidden Card
Film Review: Tazza 2: The Hidden Card

Wildly entertaining and kaleidoscopic, this sequel to a Korean hit is strictly aces. More »

ADVERTISEMENT



REVIEWS

The Equalizer Review
Film Review: The Equalizer

Former agent is drawn out of hiding to fight a Russian gang in a reboot of the 1980s television series. More »

The Boxtrolls
Film Review: The Boxtrolls

Another amazingly meticulous and stylish stop-motion tale from the Laika studio, this time focusing on a boy adopted by a population of maligned underground trolls. More »

Player for the Film Journal International website.


ADVERTISEMENT



INDUSTRY GUIDES

» Blue Sheets
FJI's guide to upcoming movie releases, including films in production and development. Check back weekly for the latest additions.

» Distribution Guide
» Equipment Guide
» Exhibition Guide

ORDER A PRINT SUBSCRIPTION

Film Journal International

Subscribe to the monthly print edition of Film Journal International and get the full visual impact of this valuable resource for the cinema business.

» Click Here

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES

Learn how to promote your company at the Film Expo Group events: ShowEast, CineEurope, and CineAsia.

» Click Here