When I heard of Raja Menon’s latest offering, Barah Aana, I was reminded of a story narrated to me by my grandfather’s brother whom I lovingly refer to as Dada. He has a habit of repeatedly telling us a story about times where he could buy fish and chips in Hong Kong for Barah Aana’s or 75 cents. However, the film has nothing to do with fish and chips. Raja Menon has a reputation for jutting out films that are unconventional and seriously hatke. His first venture was the very funny and situational Bas Yun Hi with Nandita Das and Purab Kohli – a must watch. This time round, he is back with a different dark comedy, which has the likes of Naseerudin Shah, Vijay Raaz and Arjun Mathur. The film has gained massive accolades in a very short amount of time from some of the most talented in the industry including Aamir Khan, Imran Khan, John Abraham and Zoya Akhtar all individually claiming that the film is nothing short of fabulous. Out on DVD and ready to be re-screened for various cine-forums in Mumbai, Barah Aana is definitely one for your DVD collection. Read on to see why BollySpice is joining the bandwagon and cheering Barah Aana.
Very quickly we are introduced to the three protagonists of the film; Shukla, (Naseerudin Shah) driver to a rude-socialite housewife (Jayati Bhatia), Yadav, (Vijay Raaz) a building watchman who is constantly pushed around and a young waiter Aman (Arjun Mathur) who waits for his favorite customer the firangi Kate (Violante Placido). The story takes a turn when Yadav finds himself short of cash to send home to his wife for their ailing son. By pure mistake he involves himself in a petty crime, which he realizes is not only harmless but easy money. Along with his two other buddies, they get involved in a series of wrongdoings, which eventually puts them in a compromising situation. In between you are introduced to a cute love triangle between Rani (Tannishtha Chatterjee), Aman and Kate.
Raja Menon lives up to his reputation of being incredibly different; the plot, the characters, the treatment – all of it is different, however simple. The film is a riot with punch lines that keep you in laughs. However, most importantly is how each character of the film is so relatable including the story. Set in actual slums in Mumbai, the look of the film is surreally true to real life. The Barah Aana title has been incorporated figuratively into the script. The characters are not only looking for money to pay off small debts, not exactly 75 cents worth but yet minute enough, and additionally they are looking for respect which really costs nothing hence the Barah Aana metaphor. Raja Menon’s execution of the script is excellent.
Naseerudin Shah as usual steals the show in this small but effective film. Interestingly, for a large portion of the film, he does not murmur more than a few words but he is immensely effective as Shukla the tolerant driver. He deserves a special mention for agreeing to be a part of such an experimental film – kudos. Vijay Raaz is hilarious as Yadav and keeps you in some serious splits. His dialogue delivery is superb especially the drunken scenes where he pities himself and breaks down. Arjun Mathur is ultra talented. He takes the character of Aman to a completely different level in this cute, funny and vivacious avatar in Barah Aana, which gave him much more space to perform in. Post Luck By Chance, the actor has really blossomed and is totally deserving of a full-fledged film to himself now. The actresses in the film too are efficient. Jayati Bhatia as Mrs. Mehta is spot on, as is Tannishta Chatterjee who is cute and even village-like in her rustic role. Violante Placido as Aman’s love interest Kate, is a good find and plays the part correctly.
In terms of drawbacks, there were few but extremely minor. The dim lighting in the film needed to be worked on as it gave the film perhaps too much of a dark feel. Additionally, the climax is a bit iffy which may cause a few members of the audience to scratch their heads – without giving away too much. And lastly, while the film is just about an hour and a half, the pace is rather snail-like towards the second half. Although, this is not essentially a problem because the script is so enticing, the audiences will most likely not even recognize the sluggish pace.
If you’re one of those people who has been complaining of a lack of interesting films, Barah Aana is your best bet. The film is fun, appealing and even carries a social message and all this, in a 90-minute film. No unnecessary songs, no frills but a simple story, which entertains, and keeps you engrossed. The film is worth more than Barah Aana’s. If you can, catch it at your local cinema or else, watch it on DVD. This is the first time this year that I can whole-heartedly say this; Barah Aana is a must watch!