Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns is a thriller worth its salt putt off by a few inconsistencies. Don't miss it, especially if you don't mind a good game of political double-crossing.
What would a king be if it were not for his ego masked under his pride? Even when he shows care and tenderness, there is an air of, "See, I can be nice." The queens are helpless, assured about their helplessness and yet maintain their dignity with elegance and grace. Or at least try to. And they are all hurt, conniving, and devious when they want to be. Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster Returns etches its characters in much more detail than this broad stroke and is a huge step ahead of the first installment.
Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns is one of those rare thrillers, with double-crossing at its core, to get the balance right. This once, the motivations are more or less clear and the character transformations are digestible given the context of the film. Yet, the film doesn't lose out on its unpredictability. You know that pretty much each one of the main leads is capable of anything, especially if wronged, yet you are curious about their next move.
At more than two junctures, a character is put in a wonderful dilemma. A dilemma that tests their loyalties and makes them question the loyalty of the person presenting the dilemma too. This is the most significant improvement over Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster, aided by the fact that sex isn't the only symbol of being in love. Unfortunately, some of these dilemmas don't see a proper conclusion. They are sort-of left hanging in the air.
Another distraction was the ambiance. Surely, the film had a majestic air about it. But that is only because of the performances, the language used - aristocracy oozing out of words. The rest of the setting, the background music, the production design were far removed from being royal. Yes, the palaces are supposed to be dilapidated. But some inconsistencies throw you off, like a run-down palace has a modern, expensive shower head, in the bathroom.
On the other hand a Polo sequence takes you to an atmosphere far away from where you are, into their world, into poised men and women who'd cross any limits to honor what they believe to be their heritage. But you don't stay their through the film, even for scenes that are set in palaces. For example, a wailing baby in the background seems completely out of place.
Also, out of place are some decisions. Did we really need an item number? Even worse, did we need a Raj Babbar to be comic relief in the said song? And how much of a sore thumb is the 'returns' in the title?!
If you let that be though, the lead characters are lovely shades of grey. Even if Mahie Gill didn't play it out well, her Madhavi wants it all with minimum effort is the most intriguing. Soha Ali Khan's Ranjana might be the lightest shade of grey, but some events in life do bring out the worst in you, don't they? These women are not the strongest ones around, but they somehow manage to stay on top.
Of the cast, Mahie Gill sticks out as over-the-top. Right, she is the sex-deprived unsuccessful seductress, who finds her way out through a drink and another, but she is extremely unconvincing. Especially amidst other wonder lead performances. Both Jimmy Shergill and Soha Ali Khan have a screen presence befitting their characters' ancestry. Jimmy Shergill more than Soha Ali Khan. Irrfan Khan as the only one fighting for his family's honor is as goofy and likable as he always is.
Just for these performances and some sharp dialogue laced around obviously film-y lines, Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster Returns is a decent watch. Add to that well-written lead characters and it becomes a must watch that can make you let the follies be.
- meetu, a part of the audience
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