Billu: Watch it for Irrfan Khan

February 14, 2009

When I met Priyadarshan earlier this week, I asked him why he didn’t make films like “Kanchivaram” (a Malayalam film) or “Kala Pani” any more.

He gave me a refreshingly honest answer – “I am here to be a successful commercial film maker, and those are not the kind of films I will make. I want to play it safe for now.”

That is why, when I saw “Billu”, I could see the film for what it is. Don’t expect technical brilliance or a tight script. But there is heart and soul to keep this film going, in spite of its many flaws.

It’s the story of Billu, a subdued, meek barber who struggles to make ends meet while running his saloon in Dubduba village. Life changes when the country’s biggest filmstar, Sahir Khan, comes to Dubduba to shoot his film.

Word gets around that Billu and Sahir used to be childhood friends and all of a sudden, Billu’s standing in the village goes up tenfold. The village miser buys him expensive hair styling equipment, neighbours drop off biryani for dinner and his kids’ school even offers to pay for their education — all on one condition — that he introduce them to Sahir Khan.

His wife Bindiya (Lara Dutta) also begins to enjoy the attention, confessing to her husband that she has no qualms advertising his “friendship” if it means more respect from the villagers.

To save his reputation, Billu tries desperately to meet Sahir, but to no avail. When the shoot is about to end and the starstruck villagers realise Billu will not be able to guarantee any access to the big star, they turn hostile.

How Billu deals with this crisis, and whether Sahir and Billu finally meet forms the climax of the film.

Of the cast, Lara Dutta tries really hard to play the doting village wife, but her English-accented Hindi gives her away. Watch out for Irrfan Khan, he is brilliant as Billu, bringing the right amount of meekness, bumbling simpleton quality that endears his character to you. 

He holds the film together and I wish Priyadarshan hadn’t taken away from his character’s struggle by inserting mindless item songs featuring Shah Rukh and a dozen leading ladies.

Which brings us to Shah Rukh; this isn’t his film — it’s entirely Irrfan’s. He plays what can be called a secondary role, but the best part is, he gets to play someone he has never played before — himself. And yet, Khan looks either jaded or hams his way through most of “Billu”. 

It is only at the end that he tones down his expressions and looks interested in the film. Watch out for those scenes in which he refers to the Khan rivalry in the film industry.

On the whole, go watch “Billu” for Irrfan Khan and for its soul — and ignore the rest of it.


We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see

i think shah rukh was awesome….whenever he spoke in the film it felt like he was talking from his heart……he’s the best…..

Posted by vanshika | Report as abusive

That was an Amazing movie….I mean END was just JHAKAAS…Such a touchy one can narrate the story…they just cant..YOU should see it to get the EMOTION..BOTH SRK and IRFFAN ROCKS..ROCKS… the END…JUST WATCH IT

Posted by Waishaak | Report as abusive

“Ignore the rest.”? I’ve got a better idea: ignore Shilpa. A ‘commercial’ film must have ‘heart and soul’, but does not necessarily need to be technically brilliant or posses a tight script? Does technical brilliance or a tight script make a film less ‘commercial’ or entertaining?
And when a filmmaker – who has proved in the past, especially through his Malayalam movies, that films can be made with technical prowess and a tight script without inanities, and still entertain and reap rich box-office rewards – gives an answer that is cowardly and defeatist to say the least, our dear ‘critic’ finds it refreshingly honest? Dear oh dear.
But most importantly, why is this a ‘touchy movie’? Do Shah Rukh and Irrfan indulge in something that everyone, except previous comment-poster Waishaak, missed? Seriously, dude, Waishaak; get a grip, man.

P.S. What is a ‘commercial’ film anyway? Because all widely released films are commercial, are they not? Otherwise no one would bother releasing them in the first place.
Also, define ‘heart and soul’. Don’t say ‘phrase frequently used by pseudo-critics’ – we knew that already.

Posted by PN | Report as abusive

such a pathetic movie which i have ever seen in my whole movie…… it is like a promotional campaign was goin on for sharukh and he was doing it himself .. This movie is a complete wastage of money..

Posted by sundeep | Report as abusive

Here in Karachi, the film has received a very huge opening due to the fact that, Billu Barber is the first movie of Shahrukh khan, that has been allowed to screened in Pakistan. Irfaan Khan has worked very well in the movie. Overall, sizzling songs of Shahrukh are the lifeline of this movie.

Posted by Nauman | Report as abusive

I am pretty much disappointed with this movie. no story no masala. id not for SRK then this movie would have been a super flop.

Posted by Joy Lynford | Report as abusive

i really appreciate Irfan Khan’s fabulous acting and the best thing is that SRK was there throughout the movie but never tried to impose his presence over the protagonist i.e.”‘Billu’. A good package with decent comedy and foot tapping music(three item songs with Kareen stealing the show).
Billu’s character is very interesting with his dilemma between a dignified man and a family man who’s struggling to fullfil his family’s demands.
Good entertaining movie.

Posted by tinyfroggies | Report as abusive

srk u r da best
marjaani n love mera hit sngz rocked along wit da movie

Posted by pooja | Report as abusive

u r typing and typing …..wt r u trying to say PN….? ? ?

Posted by WAISHAAK | Report as abusive