Bilquis aka Bobby is a first in Bollywood. She stomps about in frumpy salwaar-kameez-dupatta and worn-out keds. She dreams of becoming a jasoos, to which end she will fight an ultra-conservative father, and a fumbling lover, and come out on top.
So yay for Bobby, played by Vidya Balan with verve and a twinkle? Up to a point, yes. I quite enjoyed the build-up, in which we see Bobby careering around her bustling Hyderabadi locality, accent and body language mostly in place, trying to get her jasoosi business going.
Her co-conspirators range from a plump internet café owner to a tall, rangy tech support-type fellow. And a good-looking, ambitious neighbour (Ali Fazal) who tags along with her as she goes about solving the one big case flung in her lap by a taciturn Pathan called, what else, Khan (Kiran Kumar).
The smiles pile up as Bobby gets to the point of hanging up her shingle, announcing the arrival of a new jasoos, despite her growling abba. She is supported by her loving ammi, and sharptongued khala (Supriya Pathak, Tanvi Azmi respectively) and beautiful cousin (Goenka), who’s having a little chakkar with a brooding, heavily kohl-eyed fellow (Bajwa).
We get a Hyderabad minus the stereotypical showing of the Charminar, and lots of busy biryani eateries, which becomes a plot-point. Nice. And a well-done middle-class Muslim homestead involved with roza and sehri and communal breaking of fasts, and the ladies’ continuous engagement with loud TV serials, one of which acts as a smart counterpart to what Bobby wants to do: there’s a flash of CID, Indian TV’s longest running detective serial, and we dutifully snicker.
And that’s just it. There should have been more laughs in this thing. Balan is all over the movie, really trying to make a zesty meal of her role, even if her tone remains the same in all those over-the-top disguises.
But the leading lady and her fine supporting cast (especially Fazal, who holds his own) is let down by the writing, which loses steam after the half-way mark, and becomes an improbable reup of a Manmohan Desai-style lost-and-found saga.
There’s also a strange minatory layer about “independent” girls and how they upset the system: that’s the whole point of a Bollywood leading lady top-lining a female-centric movie, and not a superstar Khan or a Kapoor, isn’t it? Bobby Jasoos works till the time Balan gets to lead from the front: the courtship with