1 Star (out of 4)
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Dramatic tension is a necessary element of any film, even comedies. A hero has a goal, he must overcome obstacles to achieve it, and the consequences of failure must be dire. In Bajatey Raho (“Play On”, according to the subtitles of the title track), the heroes achieve their goal with minimal effort and little at stake. Why bother watching?
The story concerns the members of a family on the verge of losing their home. Flashbacks show the recently deceased patriarch, Mr. Baweja — a bank manager — unknowingly caught up in a scheme devised by the villainous Mr. Sabbarwahl (Ravi Kishan). Sabbarwahl stole the money from the neighborhood bank run by Mr. Baweja and pinned the crime on the manager, causing him to die from shame on his way to jail.
Faced with the prospect of having their house seized to cover the debts owed to their defrauded neighbors, the remaining members of the Baweja family set out to steal the money back from Sabbarwahl.
The composition of the Baweja family is confusing. Besides Mr. Baweja’s widow, Mummyji (Dolly Ahluwalia), and their son, Sukhi (Tusshar Kapoor), there’s an orphaned kid named Kabootar (Hussan Saad); Mintoo (Vinay Pathak), who’s either a nephew or a son-in-law; and Ballu (Ranvir Shorey), whom Mummyji refers to as Sukhi’s “brother,” but who probably isn’t, biologically speaking.
The large Baweja clan is an example of the film’s tendency toward character sprawl. There are so many people affiliated with Sabbarwahl — servants, gurus, underlings, future in-laws, sexy Russian yoga instructors — that it’s impossible to keep track of them or give them meaningful roles in the story.
The police give the Bawejas a couple of weeks to return their neighbors’ money or face eviction. This perfectly coincides with the timing of the wedding of Sabbarwahl’s daughter to a soap actor. The family devises a plan to steal the money during the wedding.
“Devises a plan” isn’t exactly accurate. Stuff happens, then after the fact, the audience is told it was part of a plan we never see discussed. In fact, the circumstances by which Sukhi’s new girlfriend, Manpreet (Vishakha Singh, whose performance is the only good thing about Bajatey Raho), agrees to participate in the theft are never disclosed. One minute she’s eating ice cream and dancing with Sukhi outside of a movie theater, the next she’s acting as a mole inside Sabbarwahl’s house while posing as a dance instructor.
Why would she agree to get involved in this criminal activity so soon after meeting him? Isn’t she afraid of jail? How does she know that Sukhi’s telling the truth?
All of the moral conundrums are glossed over. No one questions whether it’s right to steal from a thief, or whether Mr. Baweja’s name can truly be cleared if done through devious methods . The characters are divided into childishly simple categories. Sabbarwahl is the bad guy and the Bawejas are the good guys, so whatever they do is okay.
As far as bad guys go, Sabbarwahl is a wimp. He only once brandishes a gun, and he doesn’t have any menacing bodyguards. He’s rich enough to buy people off, obviously, but the Bawejas don’t ever seem to be in any mortal danger from him.
Absent threat to life or limb, surely there are lots of obstacles to the plan succeeding, right? Wrong. Everything works out exactly as expected. There’s never any threat that the family will have their covers blown (Sukhi and Ballu pretend to be caterers, Mummyji and Mintoo a rich lady and her bodyguard, respectively), nor does Sabbarwahl suspect that anyone is conning him.
So the Bawejas steal the stolen money back, and then lecture Sabbarwahl on the evils of mistreating the less fortunate. No chase scene, no shootout, no case of mistaken identities. The heroes get what they want without any trouble. The end. What a waste of time.