Kali da, played by Paran Bandhopadhyay, is the most profound and earthy character of the movie. He spouts wisdom of the ages, like Oogway from Kungfu Panda, as he has seen life from close quarters. His oft repeated line “Ei toh jibon” as response to questions about morality and ethics that Bob Biswas poses to him, has the much needed calming effect on Bob.
Bob has just come out of a 8 year coma, and he remembers nothing from his past. His wife Mary, played by Chitrangada Singh, and son come to pick him up, as they seem to recognise him. So, does the street vendor Dhonu, who affectionately feeds him hakka noodles; multiple plates at a time when Bob is stressed and tends to overeat. This reassures him that he is Bob, and not someone else who has assumed the identity of a Bob. But his anguish grows due to the amnesia, as he fails to connect with the world around him.
Just as he is trying to come to terms with these new developments, he gets nabbed by two guys who take him to a warehouse and instruct him to carry put certain hit jobs. They talk him into believing that he was a hitman, before going into coma, and that he should continue his job to bring a balance between good and evil by eliminating the evil. That’s when Bob has his first encounter with Kali da, as he goes to the medical store which serves as a front, to collect Nux Vomica, a homeopathic medicine that’s actually a code word.
With the pistol in his hand, on the roof of his house, Bob suddenly has an epiphany and knows exactly how to assemble the parts together. Armed with the lethal weapon, he now awaits orders to wipeout evil. But he still fails to recall anything about Mary and the kids.
Bob’s step-daughter Mini, played by Samara Tijori, is a student preparing for medical entrance exam. The movie begins with a student who has attention deficit, and he is unable to concentrate unless he takes a “blue” which helps him focus. Mini falls into the same trap, as she needs to work harder to crack the exam.
This is where the thought of good versus evil, disturbs Bob. When he returns to Kali da, with his existential crisis, Kali da narrates an anecdote from Lord Krishna and serpent Kaliya, where Krishna asks Kaliya as to why he is so filled with venom and bent upon destroying lives. Kaliya responds by saying that venom is all that the lord has blessed him with; thereby laying the blame at Krishna’s feet. We all have to work with whatever is bestowed upon us. Kali da’s succinct advice gives Bob a new purpose.
Abhishek Bachchan, in the titular role of Bob Biswas, does justice to the character. His innocence comes across very sweetly in the school scene, where he tries to understand why his son Benny was visibly sad and crying, after a bullying incident at school. Bachchan was able match upto Saswata Chatterjee’s enactment of Bob Biswas. He gained weight to look the part of a commoner without hope and job prospects, lost in his thoughts. But with gun in his hand, he becomes a totally different animal.
However, the movie is slightly let down by some lazy writing. Samara, daughter of Deepak Tijori, gives a restrained performance and a good debut. She could have easily gone hyper or hammed because of the overwhelming feeling, but she was in total control. Chitrangada lends the much needed grace and charm, as she tries to anchor Bob’s life. Amar Upadhyay, as Mary’s boss, and Purab Kohli as a “blue” distributor, in very brief roles, are totally wasted.
Sujoy Ghosh should have written a tighter script for his daughter’s directorial debut. Diya Annapurna Ghosh, as first time director does well, with the limited back story that was provided to her. Also, converting a 10 min role, a spin-off character from movie Kahaani, to a 2hr 10 min affair, was always going to be a daunting task. She stuck to the idea of a family man being a serial killer, and how he lives an ordinary life but his extraordinary actions affect society at large.
This movie paves the way for many such memorable characters who deserve a back story and a movie of their own, like Subodh from Dil Chahta Hai, Vijaylakshmi from Queen; and Kali da himself deserves a full length movie on how he operates and the “niyam” that he follows without crossing the “lakshman rekha“. We don’t choose our lives, but life chooses us. In his own words, “Bhagwan hi banata hai, Bhagwan hi mitata hai” is the crux of the movie. Ei toh jibon …