"Life isn’t just about marriage and having dozens of kids" — if you have the privilege of saying this statement, you are either a man or someone who is not part of the majority of Indian women whose reality is this.
Babli Bouncer attempts to make a naïve young woman from a remote village in India to believe that her life’s purpose can be more than merely finding a prince charming and serving as a birth machine to his children.
The novelty and brilliance of director Madhur Bhandarkar's premise end right there. The rest of the film is loaded with cliches alongside a formulaic screenplay.
The story revolves around Babli (Tamannaah Bhatia), a girl from a village in the outskirts of Delhi, who becomes a lady bouncer in a nightclub. She takes on a self-introspection journey to discover her true potential after her romantic proposal to an urban lad Viraj (Abhishek Bajaj), who leaves her heart broken.
The film touches upon gender, class, and privilege, digging into what it takes to love someone, simply seeing who they are and not their pretense to fit into societal standards.
Coming from a conservative village, Babli evades arranged marriage and becomes a lady bouncer to pursue the man of her dreams. Instead of delving further into the intriguing female bouncer angle and going into the details of her inspiring transformation, the film treats it as a mere one-liner, with easy conflicts and resolutions.
However, Tamannaah stuns us by perfectly acing the physicality of a female bouncer.
Saurabh Shukla shines in an interestingly layered father's role — a well-meaning dad who is semi-progressive, dangling to find a middle ground between societal judgements and his daughter’s dreams. Sahil Vaid scores with his innocent charm as an understanding best friend.
Abhishek as Viraj, features in a very strangely-written character. He is empathetic yet a snob. While he is established as a nice man, he turns out to be mean when Babli expresses her interest in him. A few scenes later, he says, "I know Babli is a nice girl, just that she is not my type,” to justify that he is not as cruel as we thought him to be. Basically, his intentions fluctuate quite rapidly which doesn't come across as convincing. However, it does make you feel happy that he does get schooled by Babli when he reciprocates his love after it's too late. She resorts to a dignified rebuttal instead of returning the hurtful behavior.
The best part of the film is — ‘A woman saves a man’. Yes, read it again. Though the staging was artificial at times, I must admit that it was refreshing to see a film where a woman is standing up for herself and taking charge to protect others around her.
The sequences where Babli confronts Viraj for demeaning her and an annoying lady for creating a ruckus in the bar are fascinatingly congruent. Babli fights them both and later thanks them because she wouldn’t have gotten her bouncer job without the lady’s tantrums and she wouldn’t have discovered her self-respect if not for her love-interest’s insult.
With an intriguing premise, Babli Bouncer tries to be a quirky distant cousin of Aamir Khan's Dangal. However, it falls short of being a unique blend of a hilarious dramedy and a coming-of-age story.
Babli Bouncer is streaming now on Disney+ Hotstar.