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Article Hindi

15 years of Bunty Aur Babli (2005): A life of crime fuelled by small-town ambitions

Portraying a glamorized, easy life of crime, the film inspired some people to commit crimes in real life, much to their detriment.

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Long before small towns started to feature prominently in Hindi films as they do today, there was Shaad Ali’s Bunty Aur Babli (2005), with a unique story by Aditya Chopra and screenplay by Jaideep Sahni. The film begins by telling us about the two Indias that exist — one a dream and the other, reality — as it takes us to small, forgotten towns where there is desire and ambition to spare but precious few avenues to realize them.

Rakesh (Abhishek Bachchan) and Vimmi (Rani Mukerji) are young with stars in their eyes and desperate to escape their dusty, nondescript towns that have no room for their aspirations. They set out to accomplish their dreams with earnestness but soon realize that the world is too crooked a place for their straightforward ambitions. So they decide to become crooked themselves and make their way to Mumbai by hoodwinking and impersonating people, stealing from them, and engaging in all kinds of petty crime.

Soon, the police, with JCP Dashrath Singh (Amitabh Bachchan) heading the team, is hot on their heels, determined to bring them to justice. But by the time Dashrath Singh catches them, they have already decided to give up a life of thieving. Being a police officer who never once wears his official uniform but has a heart of gold, he is taken by their earnestness and cannot bring himself to arrest them.

Three years later, we find Vimmi and Rakesh as model citizens, but they are bored to tears. Rakesh pleads with Dashrath Singh, “Humein iss izzat aur sharafat ki zindagi se bacha leejiye, please [Please rescue us from this humdrum life of dignity and respect] while Vimmi says she will die if she has to make another jar of mango pickle! Thus they go back to living an exciting life, but this time working for the law rather than against it.

While the film is mostly fun and games, the two young people conning their way through life are seen as essentially innocent do-gooders, who are delighted when they hear their names making the news and start creating trouble just for fun. They disobey their parents, run away from home, steal people’s money, engage in elaborate impersonation to rob people of more money, all because they want to make their mark and achieve their ambition.

But what is this ambition? It is simply to wear fancy clothes, drive expensive cars, live in luxurious hotels and consume the things that they have seen on television but can't have in real life. At one point Rakesh admits that he doesn’t really have it in him to be a successful industrialist, but they are still enamoured with that lifestyle, like countless people who are constantly reminded about the things they do not have access to. Vimmi and Rakesh don't think about the consequences of their actions unless there is something at stake for them, and even when they get arrested, they get a free pass!

The film was a big hit and swept awards with 'Kajra Re' becoming a permanent fixture on the airwaves for a long time, but there was another less mentioned impact of the film — it inspired some couples to emulate the pair and commit crimes, 'Bunty Aur Babli' style. Well, they found out that some things are only possible in the movies when they were soon nabbed by the real police.