A film where Vidya Balan looks good and Amitabh is not ‘Amitabh’ sounds almost too good to be true, but such a film has finally been made.
Any character Amitabh has played in over three decades has veered on a spectrum between Anthony and Narayan Shankar (Mohabbatein). His character always ends up being ‘Amitabh playing a certain character’. As Paa’s Auro, one is only vaguely aware of Bachchan’s presence. Yes there is that slight glitch of his voice, which just sounds like Amitabh being nasal and high-pitched, special dentures notwithstanding – but apart from that once can’t detect a trace of Amit ji anywhere in the film.
By now everyone knows that Auro is a kid with the rare genetic disorder progeria, and Vidya (Vidya Balan) is his mother raising him single-handedly. That is where the progeria issue in the film ends. Paa isn’t dealing with the pros and cons of progeria; the disorder is just part of the storyline, not the protagonist (unlike dyslexia in Taare Zameen Par).
Paa kicks off by introducing all the main characters in the film within the first 10 minutes, a plus which helps the story develop fast. We learn why Vidya is a single mother within the space of a very short song and how she dealt with Auro’s progeria in early days. We also discover very early on in Paa that Amol Arte (Abhishek Bachchan) is a minister with big plans to change India and has hence made loads of enemies.
With basic characteristics defined for everyone right off the bat we can then appreciate the little details that start falling into place. Amol and Auro encounter each other at Auro’s school and Amol is quite taken by the odd little boy. Being the atypical politician, Amol strikes up a friendship with Auro while dealing with his office and the politics that surround it.
Okay so the way Amol takes his critics head on (be it politicians or the media) is unrealistic – anyone who tries to pull that for real will be ripped to shreds. And while you might indeed be very suspicious if your own child becomes chums with the friendly local MP, in Paa it seems like a natural thing to do. It’s Bollywood dreaming… especially once Auro discovers that Amol is his father, and develops a rather quirky relationship with him.
One would have wanted to see more of how things progress between Amol and Auro but Balki ran out of time and tried to wrap up things ASAP. If one is making a film two hours, 43 minutes long, there had better be a more intricate web woven. Paa disappoints in that aspect.
What is truly great to see is Vidya Balan sans her short hair which looks like she pissed her hairstylist off. She’s also lost weight in all the right places and looks younger, more vulnerable, which works for her character. Her wardrobe is impeccable with saris which one would expect to see on a working Indian woman. Kudos to Sabyasachi Mukherjee & Co.
A delightful watch, Paa is a gentle take on strange human relationships and brings out the best in every actor. To really enjoy the film for all it’s worth, wait till a good print is available – Amina Baig (Rating – 4.5 OUT OF 5)
Cast and Production Credits
Year – 2009, Genre – Drama, Country – India, Language – Hindi, Producer – Sunil Manchanda, AB Corp, Big Pictures, Director –R. Balki, Music Director – Ilayya Raja, Cast – Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Vidya Balan, Paresh Rawal, Arundhati Naag, Taruni Sachdeva, Pratik Katare, Nimit Dhaiya, Varun Shukla, Dhruvin Doshi, Karan Bhiwandkar, Gaurav Bajaj