New Delhi, 21 Mar 2022 18:55 IST
The Amrit Maan-starrer has strong performances but is undone by a convoluted script and needless violence.
The Punjabi language crime drama Babbar, written and directed by Amar Hundal and starring singer and actor Amrit Maan, takes us to a place where vengeance and power drive a dog-eat-dog world.
As the man at the top, Babbar (Yograj Singh) is the kingpin, the gang leader at the top of the pyramid whose seat of power everyone desires. Gamma (Raj Singh Jhinjar) is a mechanic who wishes to mind his own business but finds gangsters and the police at his doorstep for reasons unknown to him. On the other hand is Zorawar (Amrit Maan), who has forsaken the path of violence to pursue an honest living after his parents were murdered in front of him. He wishes for his brother Laadi to stay away from criminal elements and pursue his studies.
In a parallel track, Laali’s friend Cheeka (Raghveer Boli) is in love with Nimmi, who in turn is being hounded by Tota (Pardeep Cheema). Although there are different tracks in the story, the characters become connected as it progresses and despite their best efforts, Gamma and Zorawar are pulled into the world they wish to leave behind due to compelling reasons.
The three children in the film are the source of comic relief but they too exact revenge and develop unsettling torture methods in this violence-ridden world. The love triangle of Tota-Nimmi-Cheeka is a bit long drawn though that too has its funny moments. The story of Zorawar unfolds through flashbacks and we get glimpses of his past and the reasons for his present state in the second half. The film hints at a large nexus of power involving drugs and politicians but we do not quite get into that as the story concentrates on gang rivalries and fighting.
The action sequences are well-executed and Hundal wants to bring forth the action choreography seen in Western films. However, these sequences are predictable with all the bone-crunching sounds and effects, and the violence becomes senseless after a point. The story is convoluted and although Hundal wants to create an intertwined world where every action is connected to the other, there are elements that do not come together to create a cohesive narrative. The climax is rushed and one does not get the complete picture, which we are told will be revealed in the sequel. The title track, 'Kikli' and 'Gabru Di Akh Laal Hai' are peppy numbers.
The acting in the film is the high point as every actor has given a noteworthy performance, no matter how big or small the role. Yograj Singh is menacing and ferocious though he sadly does not have much to do in the film. Raj Singh Jhinjar is impressive and has a good screen presence. Amrit Maan too is well-suited for his role. Pardeep Cheema as Tota truly stands out as a funny-yet-menacing gangster trying to get Nimmi’s affections. Although the role of the child actors is quite disturbing, the three of them have performed very well as have Jack (Victor John) and Himanshi Parashar, as Gamma’s love interest.
The theme and treatment of Babbar are similar to those of Hundal’s previous film Warning (2021), which also featured rival gangs trying to get rid of each others’ enemies to grab power. Both films will be followed by sequels that take the story forward.
The idea of vengeance has become a convenient trope in Punjabi films where the protagonist is driven by some external reasons to take up arms. A disclaimer in the beginning of Babbar claims, "It is not our ideology to promote violence" but the film's imagery of knives dripping in blood, gunshots in slow motion and highly stylized and choreographed action sequences accompanied by heavy metal and rock music seem to say otherwise.
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