Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

September 23, 2016

Out of tune

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:36 pm

September 23, 2016

Cast: Ritesh Deshmukh, Nargis Fakhri, Dharmesh Yelande, Luke Kenny, Mohan Kapur

Director: Ravi Jadhav

Ever cast even a cursory glance at the fellows who pound their drums in Ganpati processions? Or those that play at navratri pandals? Probably not.

With Banjo, Ravi Jadhav, director of celebrated Marathi hits Natrang, Balak Palak and Timepass, makes a strong case for recognising small-time street musicians as bonafide artistes who have the potential to create vibrant, original music.

It’s a promising idea, but the script (written by Jadhav and Kapil Sawant) is too simplistic and steeped in cliché.

Tarat (Ritesh Deshmukh) is the leader of a ragtag group of musicians from a Mumbai slum who perform at local events and religious celebrations. The men in the group all have day jobs: one is a car mechanic, another a newspaper delivery boy, the third plays alongside his father’s shehnai at weddings. Tarat, meanwhile, is an extortionist working for the local corporator, taking care of his dirty business.

But the group lands the opportunity to show the world what they’ve really got when Chris (Nargis Fakhri), a singer from New York, seeks them out to form a band and compose songs for a US-based music competition.

Most of the film’s tepid first half wastes away with Chris searching for her banjo band, unaware that her guide into the slums, Tarat, is the one she is looking for. Predictably, this motley crew must overcome many obstacles before they hit it big as original musicians. Now, tick off every cliché that comes to mind: sleazy club promoter, jealous rivals, fallout between friends. Just when things are finally looking up for the band, an ugly incident involving Tarat’s ‘other job’ threatens to derail their success, until our hero finally resolves to turn his life around.

To be fair, the film touches upon interesting themes like the power of performing from one’s heart over performing for one’s supper. There is also the group’s desperate need to feel respected. But these ideas are only briefly flirted with, even as the script takes familiar and formulaic turns.

There is wit in the dialogue, especially in scenes depicting the musicians as fish out of water in posh places. And there’s genuine feeling in those bits where we learn about the simple dreams that these men are nursing. But alas the film’s weaknesses far outnumber its strengths.

There is literally nothing original or unpredictable about how the story unfolds. Jadhav knows his characters and their world but fails to set it up dramatically. The acting is serviceable at best, but watching Nargis Fakhri on screen, you still feel like she’s in the wrong profession. There isn’t a moment on screen – not one – that she looks or sounds convincing.

Part of the reason you stay in your seat nevertheless is the entirely hummable music score that Vishal-Shekhar have come up with. And a word for Riteish Deshmukh, who appears to be the only one here making any effort. From the body language to the cockiness, his Tarat may be the sole interesting character in this ordinary film.

In the end, the notion of a film about an undervalued genre of musicians is more compelling than Banjo itself. It starts out from a promising place, but never make any leaps or strides. I’m going with a generous two out of five.

(This review first aired on CNN News18)

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