2.5 Stars (out of 4)
He might be the title character, but Billu the Barber gets eclipsed in his own movie by Shahrukh Khan.
Billu (Irrfan Khan) is a poor barber struggling to earn an honest living. The one thing that his wife and bratty kids respect about him is that he knew superstar actor Sahir Khan (Shahrukh Khan) before he was famous.
When a film crew arrives in the village, Billu’s kids quickly spread the word that their dad is a friend of the movie’s hero. Billu, who’s not even sure Sahir would recognize him — even if he were able to get past the actor’s bodyguards — becomes a celebrity in his own right. Suddenly, the barber is showered in gifts and attention from neighbors who want to meet Sahir, to the dismay of Billu and to the delight of his family.
When the story focuses on Billu, the film is an insightful examination of the price of fame. Lara Dutta gives a nuanced performance as Billu’s wife, Bindiya. She’s not greedy, just tired of being poor, so she encourages her husband to contact his old friend.
As the film progresses, most of the insight on fame comes in the form of speeches by Sahir Khan. At those points, Billu Barber feels like a Shahrukh Khan vanity project. The ending is sappy and predictable, right down to Khan’s trademark tears.
If you’ve seen a few SRK dramas before, you might as well leave the theater at the intermission. You already know how the film is going to end.