BOB BISWAS (2021)

Abhishek Bachchan as Bob Biswas
  • Release Date: 03/12/2021
  • Platform: Zee5
  • Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Chitrangada Singh, Paran Bandopadhyay, Pabitra Rabha
  • Director: Diya Annapurna Ghosh

Abhishek can’t hold sway over Saswata but Bob Biswas is still intriguing

— Ambar Chatterjee

Bob Biswas (Saswata Chatterjee) was an assassin in Sujoy Ghosh’s captivating Kahaani released in 2012. In that film, the character of Bob met with what looked like a life-ending accident. In Diya Annapurna Ghosh’s latest offering we learn that he was not killed but seriously wounded in that accident. The character remained in a coma for 8 years and suffered a complete loss of memory. As luck would have it, Bob Biswas (now Abhishek Bachchan) miraculously recovers from his injuries but still doesn’t remember anything. He is thrust back into his family life by the doctors at the hospital who believe that only after he returns to his normal life will he remember his past and his broken mind will be healed.

Bob learns that he has a beautiful wife, Mary (Chitrangada Singh), a loveable boy, and also a daughter from Mary’s previous marriage. As he is trying to cope with his new life, he is contacted by men from the special branch of the police who inform him of his sinister past and his particular set of skills that make him a person of interest for men and women on both sides of the law. They tell Bob that his past will remain a secret only as long as he is willing to carry out hits for the special branch. Bob finds it all too much to absorb but understands that he has no way out of the predicament. As he tries to cope with his situation he soon finds his life spiraling out of control when successive revelations dawn on him the fact that he might just be a very bad person.

Bob Biswas is an efficiently made film. While the protagonist of the film moves at a lethargic pace through his life owing to obvious reasons, the film always has something or the other happening in its screenplay. From the very first time we see him, Bob constantly keeps landing in one awkward situation after another and while he is at it, the goodness that the character exudes from the very beginning is questioned at every juncture. We always get the feeling that the guise of his composure and goodness will be dropped in a moment at the realization of a moment of brutal and sinister reality. The director doesn’t disappoint and makes his protagonist do things that are not only questionable but plain evil.

Saswata Chatterjee as Bob Biswas in Kahaani with Vidya Balan in the background

A bathroom singer who thinks that he is a champion is dispatched with a bullet to the head simply because his singing was disturbing Bob’s daughter during her late-night studies. A fluffy and harmless rabbit has its neck snapped because its owner had bullied Bob’s son. When he goes on a mission, he is not one bit hesitant about killing the men and women who come in his way. Bob does all this with a straight face and a clean conscience. This proves that he still has the vibes of the demented soul that he was before he ended up in a coma and makes the character unpredictable. This also makes us wait for the moment when we will see him for the real devil that he truly is.

I thoroughly enjoyed Abhishek Bachchan’s performance as Bob. He excels especially in the dramatic bits where he leaves an emotional impact. I just loved the sequence where he remembers his past in bits and pieces but clearly recollects how he won over Mary from her husband David (Karanuday Jenjani) by brutally murdering the man. This scene is built up beautifully wherein we see him in the company of the couple and experience through Bachchan’s rendering of the character how he must have secretly coveted Mary for years before he coughed up the courage to do the unthinkable. It must also be added that the confused look on his face that Abhishek carries for a long time worked wonders for the character. His camaraderie with Chitrangada Singh felt real and was immensely likable. The fact that Bob is just as bad a character as he tries to be good here gave the character an interesting duality that I felt worked very well in ensuring that the film remained interesting.  

Sujoy Ghosh is credited with writing the story of the film and he has taken inspiration from films like John Wick for certain things (that I wouldn’t spoil here) but Indianized those aspects of the story so well that they feel like a much restrained and humble version of the clandestine assassin’s world from John Wick. Paran Bandopadhyay is one of my favorite Bengali actors of recent times and he has a terrific part in the film as the provider for Bob Biswas. He is so good here that I wished that his and Abhishek’s scene together would just not end. Assam’s very own Pabitra Rabha has a stellar cameo and he does wonderfully well in the role. My only complaint with the character was with how it was ended. Even Purab Kohli does well as a drug peddler.

Chitrangada Singh as Mary with Abhishek Bacchan as Bob Biswas

Now to address the elephant in the room, I have to admit that there was no reason for the makers of this film to choose Abhishek Bachchan over Saswata Chatterjee who would have most definitely done a far better job. The only reason that the makers could have to cast anyone else other than Saswata was if the film was a prequel to Kahaani and was about a younger version of Bob Biswas. Atleast that was what I was expecting from this film. For any other iteration of the character that relates a story post-Kahaani, Bob should have been Saswata for his sensational rendering of a character that had a minuscule screen time in a film starring Vidya Balan and yet was talked about more than the protagonist played by Balan. The man’s presence in itself would have put butts to seats for this film but for reasons unknown he was left out of the equation.

The result is a film that though is proficient and has a good performance from Abhishek but still invariably raises the question, how would it be if Saswata was playing the character instead of Bachchan. This is the biggest insult that a character actor can be subjected to. This factor also ends up making the film a little less intriguing than what it could have been had Saswata been given the character to play.

Having said all that, I still believe that Bob Biswas is a well-made film with good performances and an investing plot. It knows its limits and stays within those limits. It is able to keep the audiences invested and entertained. It is a tad bit slow in its approach to the story but that is in keeping with the speed at which the protagonist moves through his life after a crippling accident. Abhishek looks nothing like Saswata and will definitely be ridiculed by a large section of the viewers for his performance and efforts to rekindle fond memories of Saswata’s terrific performance from Kahaani through his mannerisms and distinctive styles and gestures. I still feel that this film is a step in the right direction for Abhishek Bachchan and he should try to do more of these kinds of odd roles in the future.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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