Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Paa: Flawed but gives us a whole new Bachchan
First things first. “Paa” belongs to Amitabh Bachchan. And Vidya Balan. Or actually it belongs to Auro and his mother. Because that’s who you really see on screen and that is the hallmark of a great performance.
For this reason alone, R Balkrishnan’s “Paa” is worth watching. There are some hiccups (or hickis as referred to in the film) but on the whole, this film should leave you with a lump in your throat and nothing but admiration for Amitabh Bachchan.
Bachchan plays Auro, a 13-year-old boy who has progeria, a rare genetic disorder that causes the body to age much faster than is normal. As a result, this teenager has the body of an 80-year-old, with bulging veins, no hair and decaying skin.
He lives with his ‘maa’, Vidya (Vidya Balan), a gynaecologist. At a function in school, Auro meets Amol Arte (Abhishek Bachchan), India’s “youngest, coolest MP” who immediately takes a liking to Auro.
What both don’t know is that Amol is Auro’s father, and Vidya’s former boyfriend, who asked her to get an abortion because he doesn’t have time for marriage and kids. She walks out of his life, but chooses to keep the child.
Director Balkrishnan chooses to focus on the relationships in “Paa” and those are the high points. Whether it is the interactions between Vidya and her mother, or Amol and his father (played by Paresh Rawal), Auro and his friends, these are the moments that will grip you with their inherent humour.
It is when the director chooses to make statements about issues like poverty and corruption that the film tends to drag a little.
Also, for a film that is supposed to be about a father-son relationship, it does rankle that the director doesn’t take much time showing its build-up.
If only he had removed the subplot of Amol’s political rivalry and corruption charges, there could have been more time devoted to that relationship.
Thankfully, the director doesn’t make the same mistake with Auro and his ‘maa’. Vidya Balan delivers a powerhouse performance in the film, taking the viewer along on her bittersweet journey through motherhood.
But take a moment to put your hands together for a man who has been around for 40 years and still doesn’t stop enthralling you. Amitabh Bachchan gives up his baritone, height, his aura and yet emerges victorious as Auro.
Very few actors would have the courage to play a part like this one and yet no one could have done it better than Bachchan. He may not be as pleasing on the eye but he will capture your imagination. He is the star of this unusual story. Watch “Paa” for Auro and his maa.