During my days in school History/Social Sciences was one of my favourite subjects. The World of Kings and their Kingdoms always fascinated me and in addition to my history books I would fulfil my curiosity by reading more; be it Amar Chitra Katha Comics or any good book suitable enough. Growing up I also started reading and appreciating the Indian independence movement, starting with the Sepoy Mutiny of Meerut in 1857 (one of the earliest known reference points of the Indian independence movement). As much as I found the fight for freedom interesting it was also fascinating to see how the various numerous Indian Kings and their Kingdoms reacted against this backdrop. We all know that while we gained our independence in 1947, it took more than 2 years to integrate all the independent kingdoms/provinces into the National amalgamation of states and finally lead to the formation of the Indian Republic in 1950.
While a few Kings and their Kingdoms did wholeheartedly fight against the British and even embraced Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s plans of integration there were many others who preferred to actually pay obeisance to the British in return for being allowed to run their rule like before. These were the very people who did not readily agree to give up their royalty and their right to rule their kingdoms, before eventually having to agree for the integration of course. Post the Indian Independence again it has been interesting to note the fate of some of these erstwhile Princely States and their rulers. While a lot many of these ruling families were at least financially well off, there were many who had nothing but their past legacy, which remained in the form of a few family heirlooms, to talk about.
In a very logical move a lot many of these former rulers and/or their descendants went on to enter the Indian Political scenario to ensure that they stayed in power and control in some way or the other. Now why am I writing all this here? Well if I am sounding full on crazy by disclosing my fascination with royalty and their ways, then I will only blame Tigmanshu Dhulia and his latest film, Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns 🙂 . In 2011 Tigmanshu came back from hibernation with back to back films like Shagird and Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster (followed by Paan Singh Tomar in 2012). While the former did not set the screen on fire as such, the latter took everyone by surprise. A tale of a Nawab and his begum and the Nawab’s political rival and the machinations surrounding them, the film had sex, lies, deception, and intrigue in the right doses. The tone clearly bordered on the lines of Hindi pulp fiction novels of writers like Surendar Mohan Pathak, Ved Prakash Sharma etc.
And now less than 2 years since the release of Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster we have the sequel and it’s a sequel in the true sense. The film literally takes off from where the earlier film ends and during the opening credits you even get a fleeting glimpse of the entire (earlier) film. The Saheb i.e Aditya Pratap Singh (Jimmy Sheirgill) is now crippled and is trying hard to recover back to his earlier fitness and make up for lost time among political circles. The Biwi i.e Madhavi Devi (Mahie Gill) is an M.L.A now and virtually surviving on alcohol as she pines for the attention of her husband while he is clearly not interested in her anymore. In the meanwhile there’s Indrajeet Singh (Irrfan Khan) of royal vintage who’s desperate to restore his family’s lost respect and royal heritage. Indrajeet loves Ranjana (Soha Ali Khan), the daughter of Birendra (Raj Babbar), and things take a different turn when Aditya also falls for Ranjana. It’s again time for another round of sex, lies, deception and intrigue as its business as usual of sorts.
With Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns we see Tigmanshu look and sound as if he has not been in control as the film’s structure is a bit uneven. The background score (Sandeep Chowta) is loud and in various places of the potboiler vintage variety, but this is deliberate and in line with the tone of the film. Similarly when it comes to characters we see one too many and some of them more than loud for their part, again they add a lot of character to the film. The writing is also of similar fashion, clearly not refined but more on that later. All these are enough pointers to suggest that actually Tigmanshu has been in complete control of the film and in fact must have had a blast during the making of the same.
The film touches upon the classical case of people with people royal lineage trying to maintain their earlier customs and show of grandeur. As seen in the earlier film here also we continue to see Aditya employing a band of dacoits who kill and loot and using their spoils to boost his coffers. Aditya clearly wants to be a political biggie but does not want to be seen as a ‘neta’ and this is just one of the examples of the smart writing seen in the film. The film has a lot of wonderful moments in the film and many of them have smart dialogues to match as well. One of the highlights is indeed the politician’s (Rajeev Gupta) interview by Indrajeet posing as a journo, a moment that’s filled with superb humour and also sets the tempo for future developments in the film.
The dialogues by Tigmanshu have a lot of spunk and character and clearly it is one of the best things about the film. Sample this-when Indrajeet asks Ranjana as to how does Aditya look; she candidly replies that everyone looks the same in a wheelchair i.e helpless. Another good example is when Aditya tells Madhavi that men swear more because they cry less 🙂 . It’s not that the film is without any blemishes, the songs in the film which include 2 item numbers (featuring Anjana Sukhani and Mughda Godse respectively) really make no impact. In fact the only song which reaches out to us is ‘Lag Jaa Gale’ (from the yesteryear hit Woh Kaun Thi, composed by Madan Mohan and sung by Lata Mangeshkar) which works more or less like a recurrent theme song over here.Also at times there’s a feeling of too many things happening with Tigmanshu desperately trying to bring in twists but that’s why I mentioned earlier on that it does fall into Hindi pulp fiction novels in terms of storytelling in a way.
In terms of casting it’s another ace delivered by Tigmanshu and the casting director as it works very well for the film. Pravesh Rana makes a confident transition from T.V to Cinema and even gets good mileage in the film while Raj Babbar is super effective as Birendra, as he gets to unleash a wide range of emotions. Rajeev Gupta plays the politician with considerable aplomb and is a treat to watch and Deepraj Rana is good once again as Kanhaiya though this time his role doesn’t carry much scope. Soha Ali Khan as Ranjana plays her character of a girl caught in the intricate web between the other characters quite well enough and Irrfan is of course first rate as Indrajeet.
Be it in the initial scenes where he’s playing the wannabe politician or later on as the power broker, he’s clearly in his elements, but this is something we’ve more or less begin to expect from him. Mahie Gill plays an over the top character, someone who’s clearly not in control of herself early on, only to swing things her way once again towards the end of the film and she does make it look easy to the eye. But its Jimmy Sheirgill as Aditya who is indeed the pick of the lot, strange as it may sound but very true as well. The role requires him to carry off shades of vulnerability, control, anguish, romance etc at various points and he traverses them comfortably. This is a performance that he can be proud of.
Eventually Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns is a throwback to books like The Private Life of an Indian Prince by Mulk Raj Anand and at the same time give us a glimpse of the days of the Raj in its present avatar. If you liked Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster then there’s all the more reason that you might like this one too.