Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster (“Sir, Wife, and Gangster” literally, “The King, His Wife, and the Gangster” colloquially) is a romantic thriller full of passion and intrigue that entertains while falling just short of its potential.
Aditya (Jimmy Shergill) is the descendent of a noble family in northern India. As a sign of respect, everyone — including his wife — calls him Saheb (“sir”). But Saheb has a secret: he’s broke. He relies on handouts from his wealthy stepmother to pay for his army of thugs and his mistress, Mahua (Shreya Narayan).
A mafia don named Gainda Singh aims to usurp Saheb by murdering the nobleman’s thugs and undercutting Saheb on lucrative construction contracts. Gainda even arranges for a desperate young man named Babloo (Randeep Hooda) to spy on Saheb while serving as a fill-in chauffeur.
At Saheb’s compound, Babloo is warned about the dangers of the place by spunky Suman (Deepal Shaw), the daughter of Kanhaiya (Deepraj Rana), Saheb’s right-hand-man and head assassin. Saheb’s wife, Madhavi (Mahie Gill), is mentally ill and prone to fits. She’s also lonely and seduces Babloo, placing him in peril.
Madhavi identifies Babloo as an opportunist, though he bristles at the label. His actions drive the plot forward, as his allegiance switches between Gainda, Saheb, and Madhavi. All this happens under the noses of Saheb and Gainda, who are absorbed in their own power struggle. Screenwriters Sanjay Chauhan and Tigmanshu Dhulia (also the movie’s producer and director) do an impressive job keeping many different balls in the air.
While the machinations of the characters are varied and entertaining enough to sustain interest, the characters themselves aren’t as fully developed as they could have been. Madhavi is particularly problematic. She’s introduced in a kind of manic state, prone to wild outbursts. Those outbursts disappear almost entirely once she begins her affair with Babloo. Whether he has some kind of calming influence on her or they disappear as part of some sort of manic-depressive cycle is unclear.
Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster eventually hints that perhaps Madhavi’s erratic persona is an act, but nothing that comes before supports such an abrupt change. If she is genuinely as disturbed as she appears to be, she would not be able to turn it off when a better opportunity presents itself.
Suman is underused in what could have been a pivotal role. Apart from her initial warnings to Babloo, she has little to do until Saheb suggests that she and Babloo get married. Even then, the idea is scuttled by Babloo’s reaction, which essentially amounts to, “Eww. Gross.”
The film could’ve amped up the tension had there been real romantic chemistry between Babloo and Suman. How would she have reacted if he pushed her aside to pursue an affair with Madhavi? Would she have protected him from her father’s suspicion? Ratted on him to Saheb? Sought revenge in other ways?
On the whole, the film has an entertaining amount of intrigue but doesn’t go far enough to be a great thriller. Perhaps Dhulia will push the envelope in his upcoming sequel to Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster.