Writer: Kapil Sawant, Nikhil Mehrotra, Ravi Jadhav
Claps: Riteish Deshmukh, Concept, Theme Music
Slaps: Sluggish pace of the film, predictable plot
What's New: While Bollywood has seen many underdog stories, Ravi chose to base his story in a banjo player's land.
Popcorn Refill: Interval
Plot:During one of his usual outings on Mumbai streets, Mikey (Luke Kenny), a sound recordist is enthralled by a musical piece played by Taraat (Riteish Deshmukh) and his banjo players during a Ganpati procession. He immediately records and sends it to his New York based musician friend Chris (Nargis Fakhri) who ends up equally impressed.
In turn she takes a flight to Mumbai in search of these banjo players to record two singles and participate in a SoBo music festival. But first, her friend's uncle who has agreed to help her in hunting these boys, assigns her with the task of doing some research on slums dwellers. In a twist of fate, Taraat who resides in the same slum is appointed as her tourist guide. However he chooses to keep his identity of a banjo player secret from her as he feels that she will think lowly of him. Slowly Chris even befriends Taraat's buddies from the banjo troupe- Grease (Dharmesh Yelande), Paper (Aditya Kumar) and Vajaya (Ram Menon). However she remains unaware of the fact that Taraat and his boys are the same very people whom she is searching all over the city.
Oh wait, did we tell you that our hero's sleep is 'udan choo' as he is completely besotted by Chris since the time he first saw her? Meanwhile when he is not playing banjo or day-dreaming about her, he doubles up as a extortionist for a local politician and a saviour for the locals.
Slowly in a chain of events, Taraat's real identity is revealed to Chris who convinces him and his banjo players to dream big and live their passion for music. Will they finally earn their due respect especially where there is a jealous rival, land mafia and a lecherous studio manager to deal with?
Performances: Admit it or not but most of us have always associated Riteish Deshmukh with films like 'Housefull', 'Dhamaal' or say a 'Masti'. That's why the first thought that entered my mind after watching 'Banjo' was why often isn't he offered a film like this where he gets to whip up an array of emotions instead of doing monotonous sex comedies one after the other or being one of the ingredients in a multistarrer? Probably the answer lies in one of his interviews where he had candidly confessed to me that there was a point in his life where he kept doing comedy films due to lack of choices. He said, "Whichever different genres you do, it needs to be successful so that people can offer you more such films. That didn't happen for a while so I kept going back to comedies." But now one thing is for sure after 'Banjo', the time has arrived where he gets to choose his palette of work. For me Riteish's Taraat is a winner! The actor has worn the character like his second skin and makes sure that you stay engrossed in his world even as the narrative goes the zig-zag way. Some more of this Riteish, please!
Nargis Fakhri is passable in her scenes though you can clearly see the discomfort on her face when she is mouthing the Hindi dialogues. There is a scene in the film where she is seen picking up some abuses in Marathi. It made me awkwardly giggly. After 'Baar Baar Dekho' this is the second movie in this year where the director comes up with a valid reason for his leading lady's accented Hindi. (Throughout the film she keeps pronouncing 'Taraat' as something which sounds more like the word 'parrot'..*lol*).
One strong point of Ravi Jadhav's Marathi films have always been his well-sketched supporting cast. So this time when he plunged into Bollywood to make his directorial debut he made sure that he ticked off all those checkboxes. So there you have Dharmesh Yelande's Grease as a car mechanic who wants some 'safeedi' in his life, Aditya Kumar's Paper whose only goal is to make sure that his house doesn't run out of water supply and then you have Vajaya and his obsession with air-hostesses. All these boys share an amazing camaraderie with Taraat and their humorous lines are fun!
Luke Kenny as always is a delight to watch and reminds you slightly of 'Rock On' days. Mahesh Shetty too puts up a fair play.
Direction: Ravi Jadhav who has made memorable Marathi films like 'Natrang' and 'Balak Palak' finally sashayed into Bollywood with a subject that's so left unexplored. 'Banjo! Ek time tha jab raste ke is music ka apna hi ek watt tha. lekin kismet ne aisa toss udaya, na banjo ka sikka chala na use bajane walo ka' ...people living in and around Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra might so very agree to this! In fact I have vivid memories of me dancing to these banjo tunes as a kid during weddings and festive occasions. Sadly as time passed by, we slowly lost touch with this art form as Ipods and DJs replaced our world. That's why the curiosity level skyrockets high when we hear someone making a film on such a subject and that too of Ravi's calibre!
So was I impressed with 'Banjo'? Well, almost until the writing of the film came into the picture. Kudos to Ravi for initiating something new but then why fall prey to all the standard clichés of a typical Bollywood template? Firstly the film builds at a snail's pace with songs coming up one after the other in first half which might not appeal to all and inspite of delivering regular laughs you keep wondering where the film's essence gone. Bingo, you get some sparkling moments and then the film dips down again leaving you confused as before. Had these flaws been taken care off, the film might have been an even more enriching experience for the viewers! Neverthless it still makes up for a one time dekko!
Manoj Lobo's cinematography depicts the Mumbai ghettos as real as possible and beautifully captures the rich canvas and the vivid colors when the banjo players are at play.
Of all the songs, 'Bappa', 'Radda' and 'Udan Choo' stand out the most. Oh, did I mention I am already in love with the theme music?
Combo-on-offer: Drama+ Action +Humour + Music
Verdict: We give 'Banjo' CLAPS for Riteish Deshmukh's refreshing act! Life gives you two choices- to watch this film or not. 'Banjo' deserves a chance for Taraat & Co.!