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Banjo review: This band makes some decent noise

The Riteish Deshmukh-starrer is a one-time watch musical entertainer. 

Keyur Seta

Film: Banjo
Rating: 2.5/5

From the promos of Ravi Jadhav’s Banjo, it was evident that this is yet another story of the triumph of the underdogs. Such genre of films are not only predictable but also laden with various cliches and this film isn’t an exception. But this is not the reason that stops it from rising higher than above-average level. 

Banjo is the story of a group of street musicians from Mumbai’s slum area headed by Taraat (Riteish Deshmukh). These blokes have different jobs, but transform into Pied Pipers during festivals like Ganeshotsav to earn a quick buck and to add some noisy flavour to festivities. Taraat's 'job' description is being an extortionist for politician Patil (Milind Shinde) as he is indebted to him. But despite venturing into crime regularly, we're told Taraat is your regular, nice, kind-hearted guy.

Mikey (Luke Kenny), a sound recordist working in Mumbai, sends the recording of a song by Taraat’s group to his friend Chris (Nargis Fakhri) in New York. She is so impressed by the music that she instantly decides to collaborate with them for a music competition. She travels all the way to Mumbai, but is unable to find them despite a lot of efforts put in by her and Mikey.

Various aspects about the city of Mumbai have found space on the silver screen over the years — the fast life, contrasting standards of living, large-heartedness of its people, the criminal world etc. But Jadhav has thrown light on the unexplored band or banjo players who are aplenty here. Amidst scenes of poverty, he has smartly added glamour to keep the commercial appeal high. This doesn’t hamper conviction. The film is high on entertainment, largely because of the music and humour born out of the adorable characters.

Banjo has all the cliches one can expect from a film with such a subject. But, as mentioned before, this isn’t the reason for its downfall. The pace slows down in the second half. But the biggest problem here is the way a simple story is complicated in the pre-climax portion through unecessary subplots and the events born out of it. A song during this time adds to the woes.

The subject demanded impressive work from the composers and Vishal-Shekhar have ensured that. Songs like ‘Bappa,’ ‘Rada,’ ‘Udan Choo,’ ‘Rehmo Karam’ and ‘Om Ganapataye Namah’ not only go with the theme, but also appeal for repeat listening. This is a rarity in today’s times. The background score mostly goes hand-in-hand with the subject, but they could tone it down a bit as it tends to get noisy. DoP Manoj Lobo captures Mumbai’s slums and New York decently. 

Deshmukh had got stereotyped as a specialist in mindless and sex comedies (Ek Villain being an exception). But in Banjo, he got a chance not only to act in a genre that is poles apart, but also play the main lead. He gets into the pulse of the character and delivers a fine act. This is his third best performance after Ek Villain (2014) and Rann (2010). Fakhri isn’t known for her acting. But Jadhav has extracted an average performance from her. The fact that her character is an NRI works in her favour. 

Kenny, as Chris’ friend, provides an earnest act. Dharmesh Yelande and Aditya Kumar (Perpendicular from Gangs Of Wasseypur), as the band members, force you to smile through their innocence. Shinde is one of the top Marathi film actors and he shows a glimpse in his portrayal as corporator Patil. Mohan Kapoor’s stereotypical character make sure his performance only provides an average impact. The actor playing the head of a rival band member shows improvement in his act through the film.

Overall, Banjo is a decent musical entertainer. As far as its box-office prospects are concerned, its chances of success lie heavily in the state of Maharashtra. 

Director: Ravi Jadhav
Producers: Eros International 
Writer: Ravi Jadhav, Nikhil Mehrotra and Kapil Sawant 
Cast: Riteish Deshmukh, Nargis Fakhri, Luke Kenny, Dharmesh Yelande, Mohan Kapoor, Milind Shinde 
Music: Vishal-Shekhar
Genre: Drama
Runtime: 137 minutes