Film Review: Badmaash Company

Directed by: Parmeet Sethi

Starring: Shahid Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Vir Das, Meiyang Cheng and Anupam Kher

I do love an early bird showing at the cinema. Arriving at the cinema just as it opens gives one a certain amount of satisfaction as well as the opportunity to sit in a relative quiet cinema whilst those who usually make a noise are no doubt having a lie in (having disrupted a screening late the night before) is too good to pass up. There is also that feel of a ‘first day first show’ – unwrapping a brand new film and seeing it before everyone else (even if it has played in previews and the night before) which always makes me feel good too. Added to this, if the film is very good, it sets up the rest of the day accordingly.

After Housefull earlier in the week, I was secretly hoping Badmaash Company would also take me by surprise. The trailer had led me to believe the film was a heist movie and had more than a passing resemblance to the TV series Hustle. Coupled with this was Shahid Kapoor who has not been having the best of times after a career high with KamineyDil Bole Hadippa, Chance Pe Dance and Paathshaala did less well than expected and failed to utilise Shahid as an actor. After watching a trailer for The A-Team (by the way, I don’t mind Hollywood trailers with Bollywood films but it would be nice to stick in a Bollywood trailer as well – and I wonder how the audience would react if a Bollywood trailer was shown before a Hollywood film – hmm, one to ponder at a later date…), I hoped Badmaash Company would be an adequate platform for his talents.

Badmaash Company is the story of three friends in 1994 Bombay (as it was known as then) – Karan (Kapoor), Chandu (Das) and Zing (Chang) have finished college and are off to Thailand to bring back foreign goods to sell on the black market. En route, they meet Bulbul (Sharma) who is also going for the same purpose. Karan comes up with an idea that allows the friends to set up their own company and soon they are in business. However, there are repercussions in form of Karan’s father (Kher) who disapproves of the business as well as the fact that the run of good luck cannot last forever. But rather than stopping, the friends decide to raise the stakes with more to gain but just as much to lose…

The film is well made, with a good story and a strong emotional core. As one would expect with a Yashraj Film, technically the film is very good, with brisk editing and some interesting cinematography – I liked the way we would see the characters in long shot one moment, then close up, then back into long shot again as well as the spinning camera shot and the aerial camera shots when Karan leaves home. Similarly, the locations are well used and the production design is of a high standard (and I forgave the fact there was a poster of Hamara Dil Aapke Paas Hai and a VHS of Sliding Doors in some shots, even though both released well after 1994 – maybe they put that in there so I would notice it…)

I did have a few problems with the script and story though. First off, the first half is very good, tightly written with good dialogues and character introductions. However, the second half felt a little too long and for me, the ending didn’t quite capitalise on the unique premise of the film as it had the potential to do. This is not to say the climax of the film is bad but I felt a different route could have been taken to get there. Secondly, the characterisation in the second half was a little patchy, especially with Karan’s character. In the first half, he is made out as quite likeable but then develops a mean streak which feels a little confusing, as the film claims it was there all along and it is this character trait that drives the second half forward – a smoother transition would have aided the film and Kapoor’s performance enormously.

I was also disappointed with the racism in the film that revolves around Zing who is from Sikkim in India and has Oriental features and is constantly referred to as being Chinese. The film does perpetuate a casual racist attitude which is a shame as it doesn’t need to resort to this and though the makers may argue that this is to do with attitudes in the time of the film, there is no attempt made to counteract this strand of the film and it is definitely something audiences would like to see less of (after Housefull caricaturing Italians, not a good week for race relations and Bollywood).

Aside from that, Sethi can be forgiven as a first time director and writer as when the film does venture into grey territory, it is at its strongest and exploits its potential.It is interesting how thematically, the film shares similarities with Rocket Singh – Salesman of The Year (bright young man uses initiative and beats the system) and its good to see Yashraj venturing into morally ambiguous territory and then showing the consequences of these actions in a realistic manner. Whilst Rocket Singh was more offbeat and darker, Badmaash Company is more commercial and has a stronger emotional core with the father-son relationship that runs through the film, whereas Rocket Singh was more subtle in the emotions it showed. Of course, both films are different in their own right but it is good to see Yashraj experimenting with a spectrum of themes rather than repeat themselves ad nauseam.

Of course, with a Yashraj film, one cannot fail to note the styling and costume design of the film, which is of a high standard. I liked Shahid’s look of plaid shirts and tees with jeans and almost whooped when I noticed he was wearing a blue Zara kurta with jeans (when he leaves home) – I have a similar one in purple!  (Oh dear…) I also liked the slick designer suits and then the utility look near the end, with the clothes mirroring the journey the character takes. I loved Anushka’s look which was bang on trend with more than a nod to the Eighties – neon colours, acid wash jeans, jersey tops and ra-ra skirts to start with, as well as the nods to Versace with the eye catching dresses and scarves followed by a sophisticated look in the second half that feels modern and relevant. I also liked the fixer’s shirts – the counterfeit Louis Vuitton and Gucci monogram shirts are a nice in-joke and reflect the film’s theme of how imported goods in 90’s India were highly desired with trends filtering down right to the average man.

Performance wise, the cast all give great performances. Shahid is very good as Karan, playing the different facets of the character with apparent ease and dealing with the emotional scenes very well. As I said before, the script sometimes lets Shahid down as it doesn’t offer direction for his character but when it does, Shahid is very strong and back on form. I preferred this type of role for Shahid as the boy next door with some edge rather than the sweet and simple lad he has played in some of his previous films. Shahid has excellent chemistry with all the cast and carries the film confidently on his shoulders – hopefully, this should end the perceived slump he is experiencing at the box office. I really liked Anushka Sharma who reminded me of a modern day Divya Bharti (one of my favourite actresses) – she plays her role very well, with lots of energy and confidence but never overbearing or irritating. I thought her dialogue delivery was very good in the first half and also liked the way she embraced the character in a fearless manner – with memories of Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi still fresh in many minds, Anushka clearly has potential and hopefully will continue in this vein. Vir Das is very good as Chandu, giving a likeable performance and managing to be equally satisfying in both comic and serious moments as well as provide good support for the rest of the cast. Chang is very good, and also gives an even performance that stands out for the right reasons and plays the character sympathetically but truthfully. The always excellent Anupam Kher also plays his role with a great deal of subtlety and tailors his performance so that his character becomes three dimensional rather than a stock character and lends the film its emotional backbone.

Badmaash Company deserves to do well as it is a very watchable film – though it may be primarily aimed at the youth who will identify with some of the issues, I think it would also appeal to a wider maturer audience who will appreciate certain nuances in the film.  The film is darker than your average commercial entertainer but not so ambiguous to alienate the audience which is easier said than done. I quite enjoyed the film and the rest of my day passed by quite well with various thoughts about the film floating about  (always a good sign when you are thinking about a film after you have seen it), so whichever showing you plan to catch, early or late, Badmaash Company will be very well behaved and won’t spoil your day…

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