This one is a brief (and spoiler free) recco/review of the film. We happened to catch this at a private screening and quite enjoyed it. Here’s the post containing the trailer and the short story on which it is based on. The film releases on 12th July. Here are two small reviews by Kartik Krishnan and Nusrat Jafri.
Ajay Bahl takes us through the narrow lanes of Pahadgunj and the badi badi kothis of Kamla Nagar/Rajpura/DU in his adaptation of Railway Aunty by Mohan Sikka (one of the many stories in the must read book Delhi Noir). The days are lazy with the freshly served wahi-purana-Rajma-Chawal-wali-Punju-Middle class Dilli-Roohafza sherbets-Cokey Coley; while the nights are neon lit with all kinds of depraved creatures on the prowl (Beer se naha kar Gaddi chalane wale Jaat, Rishwatkhor Thulley – you know the ilk). Such is the world the characters of BA Pass inhabit.
The story is fairly straightforward in the Noir ballpark. This ‘Postman Always Rings Twice‘ begins with the very talented Shilpa Shukla playing the seductress with zestful ferocity and oomph, charming the young & unsuspecting Shadab Kamal, who then delves deeper into the behind-the-parde-wala world of Kothiwali aunties residing in posh Delhi colonies. Money is tempting; Sex with ‘experienced’ married (lonely) women is irresistible, and a combination of both is a potent enough mindf**k for any below average BA/B Com/B Sc student. Not only is he struggling to make ends meet with two younger sisters (and their troubles) but is also feeling suffocated in a not so pleasant rishtedaaron ke ghar mein PG environment. Slowly but steadily, the pyaada goes onto becoming the wazir but not before he traverses through the netherworld, with the transition punctuated by clear daylights transforming into rang birangi tubelit hazy nights.
This erotic drama boasts of arresting performances by the supporting cast right down to the junior artists. While the ‘Bijis’ & the ‘Chachis’ add color to the story, the benevolent gravedigger Johnny (played adequately by Dibyendu Bhattacharya – though may be a Vinod Nagpal or M K Raina might have taken the role to another level) and the ever reliable Rajesh Sharma (once again pitching in with a bravura 3-4 scene performance) stand out. Shilpa Shukla nails Sarika Aunty to perfection and hope she gets meaty roles like this in Bollywood. One wishes however, that the pivotal performance by the sincere Shadab Kamal had been a little more nuanced and multi layered as opposed to the two note one. Also may be the film could have gone one a tangent than in the somewhat predictable direction, but that is perhaps a limitation imposed by a faithful adaptation of the short story.
But a special mention for Ajay Bahl (the Director – Dop – Producer) who’s done quite an impressive task of faithfully adapting the story and embellishing it with realism and drama. It is to his credit (along with the enthusiastic production design) that the film (considering the subject material at hand) steers away from B Grade/Kanti Shah/tacky-pulpy/Low budget ‘gareeb’ film territory and that there is enough foregrounding/back grounding in the frames to lend an aesthetic richness to the film. Definitely looking forward to the director’s next.
Ajay Behl’s Erotic Noir film, BA PASS is based on Mohan Sikka’s short story “Railway Aunty,” which was published in Delhi Noir. And true to the tagline of the book, B A Pass is indeed the story of “Darkness and Despair.”
Mukesh, is a young, shy, small town boy, who moves in to live with his Bua’s family in Delhi, after tragedy strikes home. He is burdened with the responsibility of two younger sisters, with whom he longs to re-unite. He runs errands in the house and plays chess in a graveyard at leisure. Until Mukesh meets the flirtatious Sarika “Aunty” at his Bua’s kitty party, and his rollercoaster ride of sex, life and deceit begins. Their surreptitious affair and dealings go on till Sarika’s husband walks in on them. Things go out of control and life reveals it’s ugly teachings to Mukesh.
When I saw the promo of the film, I was captivated. It looked classy and well made, even though the amount of sex in the promo itself was a bit concerning. Films made on such shoe – string budgets, can easily look tasteless but B A Pass is aesthetic to say the least.
Ajay Behl, donning the cap of both the Director and the Cinematographer takes you into the world of Mukesh, the naïve, and emotionally vulnerable boy. In a perverse world that not only exists but also flourishes behind the veneer of boredom that middle class lives project. It takes us into the mysterious world of Sarika, who is not only fiercely attractive but has desires that break the hypocrisy of our middle class notions of modesty. Shilpa Shukla, adds power to the character with her is impressive performance. She has gotten into the skin of the character and not let inhibitions get in the way. Rarely seen in Indian films.
Sex is a big part of the film. Seeing purely from the growth of Mukesh’s character, it goes from initial lust driven to fulfilling the quirky requests of Sarika, to hilarious script narrations with one of the other women clients! But never once is it lewd. The scene when Khanna, (Sarika’s husband) walks in on her and Mukesh, gave me goose bumps. It was scary and real in equal measures.
Behl has captured a middle class Delhi of colonies and gullies. One that is aspiring and ruthless at the same time. He uses sound and silences beautifully. Shadab Kamal, is raw and his performance as the lonely, timid and vulnerable boy, is very good. Though at some point I felt the transformation in his character didn’t surface too well. Supporting cast members, Dibyendu as the graveyard caretaker and Sarika’s husband are all fantastic.
I loved Bibiji, in the scene (it’s in the trailer too!) when she says “vo dayan hai” to Mukesh, she is brilliant!
Mohan Sikka’s short story ends quite metaphorically; Behl’s screenplay leaves Mukesh with even fewer choices.
If Noir has it’s roots in German Expressionist Cinematography, BA Pass has it’s in Neon – Realistic Cinematography (If I may be allowed to coin a phrase!). This is the Pahargunj we saw in Dev D, but only more asphyxiating, garish, neon lit, and yet real. Tough lessons for this BA Pass.