Shyam Benegal’s style of films is always a bit rural, but who’s complaining? I must be one of the many (I’d like to think so at least) people who have seen Welcome To Sajjanpur at least thirty times. The simplicity that comes from his film is rare and virtually unseen in the complicated minds of modern day writers and directors. Shyam Benegal’s films can easily be called a break from the usual complex films. And I love it! So when he comes back with Well Done Abba, you immediately know you are in for a fun joyride. Of course, his film never stars the popular stars. Nope. He brings together Boman Irani, Minisha Lamba and Sameer Dattani as they get involved in a complicated but hilarious film based in a small village outside of Hyderabad. Okay buckle down and get ready to tell Shyam-Saab, Well Done yet again for his current giving.
Driver Armaan Ali (Boman Irani) is back to Mumbai after a break for over a month. Basically, his boss kicks him to the curb after he overstays his so-called vacation. However, he is appointed to drive his boss to Pune before he loses his job. On the way we are told the reason for his delay. Ali goes home in hopes to marry off his daughter (Minisha Lamba) but lands up realizing his family is in need of a well due to the shortage of water. Of course, he has to pay his way around in order for things to happen and just as the well is about to be ready, it gets filled up. In the most humorous of ways, we see how Ali convinces everyone that his well has been “stolen.” In between we are introduced to a sex-starved couple, a greedy politician and a twin-brother who is super greedy.
Shyam Benegal is sheer cinematic genius. In a matter of time and in the funniest manner, we learn of how a democratic country is still plagued by extreme corruption. This in turn does not help the progression of rural parts of India. Okay, I made the film sound preachy and believe me the film’s message is very subtle and hidden amongst the humor. As a director, Benegal as usual is at his best. The dialogues and accent (kudos to the actors) are spot on. You believe that these people would exist as well as the village. Lovely! What’s nice to see is that as much as nothing has changed ala the mother selling off her daughter to the rich Arab track, we have a character, Bomans, who believes in modern ideas. He doesn’t mind chilling with his burkha-less daughter and even encourages her to study hard.
Boman Irani is A-M-A-Z-I-N-G! During the film, it was my mother who leaned over and correctly said to me, “Doesn’t he remind you of Mehmood?” What a compliment for the actor and she was a hundred percent spot-on. The role is not only made for him but he pulls it off with such ease and gallant, you are in awe of him and his performance. Benegal swore that Minisha Lamba’s career would be revived with Well Done Abba. He may actually be right. She is actually a find in this film. Her rapport with Boman is very very comfortable and as a father-daughter duo, they work well. The rest of the cast is superb too! Ila Arun is awesome. The same goes for Ravi Kishen and Sonali Kulkarni who provide a different angle to rural India.
Well Done Abba is clever and hard-hitting. You can’t ignore it simply because it is so different. If you’re a fan of political and social satire, WDA is a great watch. If you’re looking for a good feel good film sans the boring slapstick, once again Well Done Abba is your best bet. And if you’re simply a Shyam Benegal fan, you gotta watch this one!