Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Well Done Abba: Not that well done
Shyam Benegal’s last two films have had similar themes — humour coupled with a social message (actually lots of social messages). The last one “Welcome to Sajjanpur” was a delightful watch, with neither the humour nor the social message getting too overpowering.
But in his latest film “Well Done Abba”, Benegal doesn’t quite manage to recreate the same magic, cramming in too many messages, because of which the humour accompanying it spreads out too thin.
Boman Irani plays Armaan Ali, an amiable, simple man from a small town in Andhra Pradesh, who works as a driver in Mumbai. On a visit back home, he chances upon a government scheme which encourages those below the poverty line to dig a well and get paid for it.
Since he also needs money to marry off his daughter Muskaan (Minissha Lamba), he applies for the scheme.
But red tape in India being what it is, he doesn’t find the going too easy. For every document he needs, he also has to promise a share of the money he will receive to some government officer or the other.
Dejected and defeated, Ali tries to fight the system by using loopholes in the very same system, helped by Muskaan and her admirer Arif (Sammir Dattani).
While the film does make you laugh quite a few times, there are also times when the pace lags and you are tempted to bolt from the theatre. Was there a need to cram in subplots like girls being sold off to Arabs or concentrate on the very colourful bedroom life of one of the engineers?
Perhaps if the focus could have remained on Armaan and the fight for his well, the movie wouldn’t have suffered. As it stands, the intermittent humour in the movie doesn’t quite make up for the slack pace.
A word here though for Boman Irani, who plays Armaan (and his twin brother Rehman) with such affection that you can’t help but root for him and cheer him on.