Bala

wogma rating: Catch on TV/online for sure (?)

quick review:

In that a body-shaming-themed film HAS to follow a certain trajectory, Bala holds no surprises. The one-liner insights and performances though are enough to see you through two hours. It actively avoids a few eye-rolls too.

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Director: Amar Kaushik
Running time: 130 minutes
Genres: Comedy, Slapstick, Social
More Movie Info

Films set in small-town India have a certain charm by default. Even if the makers catch bits from the look and feel of the streets, the mannerisms of the people, and their language, the tone is set. After that, it is just continuing with that texture, which Bala does perfectly. Despite the all-too-predictable arch that a film about body-shaming would have to follow, Bala makes itself well worth watching owing to the details and the performances. And by typical Hindi-movie standards, it does try to avoid the usual pitfalls.

Bala’s superiority lies in having delved deep into the harrowing aspects of body-shaming.

This is not just about women sticking to their ground, it is also that most characters behaving like real people would behave in the given situation. Of course, some of the supporting characters are exaggerated and/or caricatured like Bachchan Bhaiyya (Jaaved Jaaferi) and Ajju (Abhishek Banerjee). But, those are more exceptions than the norm. And their over-the-top characters are set off by the snappy quips written for them.

In fact, these witticisms are not restricted to just a few characters. Each character has a distinct personality, and each one throws in a wisecrack every once in a while—like real life. Almost everyone can say something funny. This depth in the character-writing is so integrated with the fabric of the film that you wouldn’t even notice it if you weren’t thinking about the movie after you have walked out of the theatre. 

And therein lies the problem. The film won’t necessarily stay with you for long after. It doesn’t have the grip that a Dum Laga Ke Haishaor a Vicky Donor had. I would say it is because of the predictability of the plot in hand. Of course, they did very well with what they could, but you know what is going to happen almost all through the film.

It is what the makers do within that realm then, that makes Bala worth a visit. While the toilet and sexual jokes could have totally been skipped, other tools used like making one of the lead characters a TikTok sensation (Yami Gautam) and another a lawyer (Bhumi Pednekar) that keep the going interesting. 

Then you have the protagonist (Ayushman Khurana) play an aspiring mimicry artist who can slip into being SRK or Big B or Rajesh Khanna within the fraction of a moment. This also allows for room for a lot of references which work sometimes and don’t at others. And a huge shout out to Deepika Chikhalia. That’s a call back to the 90s if there was one.

They actually made songs from the 90s work in a film from the 10s! These are the nuances in writing at play. TikTok a modern concept merges with the songs from 30 years ago to keep things interesting. Of course, you have all actors doing their bit a notch above what you expect from them. Yes, even Ayushman Khurana

Bala gets points for effort in trying to keep the speech entertaining.

Yami Gautam’s Pari is shallow, and she knows it. I absolutely love such completely aware personalities in real-life and thus took to Pari with equal awe. But it has to be owing to the performance which made everything believable. Including how it made sense that Pari wouldn’t bring up trust-issues while questioning a lie, but would stick to the superficiality of the lie. Bhumi Pednekar’s Latika is frowned upon because she is dark, but she doesn’t overcompensate it with overt gestures. Of course, you cannot once forget that she is dark because the make-up is so awful. But, it is compensated by her character’s defiant personality, which Pednekar completely makes her own. 

Above all else though, Bala’s superiority lies in having delved deep into the harrowing aspects of body-shaming. It doesn’t take a lame potshot at the marketing industry for creating a draw towards fair skin. It goes into how the salespeople are made to believe they are enabling. It goes into how tradition, society, mythology are all enabling factors. Even how mythology is conveniently interpreted to adapt to societal norms. 

These are interwoven complex issues. And I haven’t even discussed how it subtly and satirically shows bullying while pointing a huge finger at us—those who make the society which participates in the shaming. It has erring characters realise their double standards without making it preachy, and that can be a lesson in writing. To weave these intricacies into an entertaining film in terms of consistently making the audience laugh is no joke. It makes you forgive the times that the satire becomes a bit much or doesn’t work. Or even the exaggerated importance given to hair—whether it is through poetry written on hair and or it is when a bride thinks her hairstyle is more important than her wedding attire. I guess it has to be accepted when that is the film’s central theme, and ‘hair’ is almost a character by itself in the movie.  

That leaves the expected preachiness of the film. Yeah, it is preachy. But it gets points for effort in trying to keep the speech entertaining. Still waiting for the film that required a speech but didn’t succumb. A film which ends at the character feeling liberated by their realisation and isn’t compelled to teach the world how to get there. Because that’s not how realisations work, do they?

- meeta, a part of the audience

37 reviewers(?) - 27 yays 8 so-so 2 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, Behindwoods : ...Verdict: Ayushman's performance and the situational humour makes Bala a good watch.... full review

Thumbs up, by Subhash K Jha, Bolly Spice : ...Losers are the new heroes of Indian cinema. Ayushmann Khurrana reminds us of that. Bala is arguably the best film of this actor’s career so far. Fresh,engaging, winsome and deeply thoughtprovoking it starts off as a journey of self-realization of a prematurely balding else. By the end of it, Bala is something else. Something so close to life it hurts, though in a way that is welcome.... full review

Thumbs up, Bollywood Hungama : ...On the whole, BALA not only entertains thoroughly but also delivers a very important message that will surely be lapped up by the audiences. At the box office, the film will surely benefit thanks to great word of mouth and brand Ayushmann. It will emerge as a profitable venture for the producers and will make its entry into the 100 crore club.... full review

Thumbs up, by Susri Sahu, Bollywood Life : ...Watch it for another delectable performance by Ayushmann Khurrana and Bhumi Pednekar. You'll have lots to laugh at and with. And some to ponder about too. I'm going with 3 and a half stars.... full review

Thumbs up, by SUPARNA SHARMA, Deccan Chronicle : ...Except for a few dull moments in the beginning and the climax that becomes a bit preachy, Bala is mostly a pitch-perfect choreography of its actors, director, dialogue writers, cinematographer, musicians and editor that makes you laugh a lot, while taking note of Bollywood’s exceptional character actors who have lately been getting more screen time because they finally have real characters to inhabit. Seema Pahwa, Javed Jaffery, Saurabh Shukla, Abhishek Banerjee, Sunita Rajwar, Vijay Raaz create Bala’s ecosystem with their skill and brilliance.... full review

Thumbs up, by Mayur Sanap, Deccan Chronicle : ...Overall, 'Bala' is one crowd-pleasing, feel-good movie that starts off with a laugh, and ends on a heartwarming note. It is sometimes crude, sometimes predictable, but the film has a likable cast and delivers some poignant messages about self-love, acceptance, companionship and of course, bald is beautiful.... full review

Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...Cause-based films do bring out the best in him and the question is how long his romance with such subjects would continue...... full review

Thumbs up, by Madhuri V, Filmi Beat : ...'Don't Be Shy' which plays during the end credits leaves you with a happy mood. 'Tequila' makes for a perfect wedding dance song. Last but not the least, 'Zindagi' tugs at the heartstrings.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vishal Verma, Glamsham.com : ...BALA is the best coming of age drama to come to Bollywood in recent years, having Ayushmann Khurrana giving his best, Yami Gautam at her charming best and a class apart Bhumi Pednekar, this witty & densely woven gem on love, humanity & acceptance is destined to grow on the heads and hearts of the audience who will spread their arms in SRK style with those dimples of cheer. Do Not Miss.... full review

Thumbs up, by Manjusha Radhakrishnan, Gulf News : ...Khurrana is wonderfully flawed, yet you root for him as he learns to accept himself — baldness and all. And that’s the bald truth.Don’t miss it!... full review

Thumbs up, by Ankur Pathak, Huffington Post : ...It’s a potent film that exudes a lot of warmth and feel-good energy, a meta drama that winks at itself, one that knows what films can do and hence gives us a hero who subverts the very idea of what constitutes a Hindi film hero. He may not get the girl but still doesn’t lose the will to stretch his arms wide open with the hope of finding love.... full review

Thumbs up, by Jyoti Kanyal, india today : ...The music of Bala is composed by Sachin-Jigar and the film has five tracks. Every song fits well with the story, the controversial Don’t Be Shy song comes in the end and has no significance in the entire film.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sonal Gera, India TV : ...'Bala' exudes a familiarity, a warmth, a knowingness -- and channels it to bring forth the country's obsession with perfection. It's not flawless, but it's beautiful. Painfully awesome in parts.... full review

Thumbs up, by R.M. Vijayakar, India West : ...Technically, such films need apt support, and the DOP et al cannot dominate. But they all work competently. Special mention is needed for the flawless production design (Mayur Sharma and Amrish Patange), and the costumes (Sheetal Sharma). The choreography (Vijay Ganguly) is realistic and natural and the background music (Sachin-Jigar) wonderfully effective. Their songs hit a chord within the film but are not of the memorable kind.... full review

Thumbs up, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...Still, Khurrana’s Bala is an achievement. He’s perfected the art of playing people who are not instantly likeable, and he works the characters’ kinks to the point where we can see them, and yet sympathise. This is an unfiltered, bare performance, unafraid to be seen as ridiculous: this kind of shucking of vanity, even if it is self-aware, is rare amongst Bollywood actors. Bala is human, he is flawed; he is one of us. He makes us smile. So does this delicious line, Kaushik throwing in a politically acute curveball, just like he did in Stree — ‘poora Uttar Pradesh chal raha hai bhagwaan bharose, aur bhi chal jayega’. Or words to that effect.... full review

Thumbs up, by Ambika Sachin, Khaleej Times : ...Overall, Bala is a feel-good, highly entertaining movie that will definitely make you laugh out loud, though we are not sure if the message of self-acceptance and being comfortable in your own skin is something that comes through convincingly. But one thing is guaranteed - you will walk out of the theatre with a feeling of empathy for those who are inflicted with this condition and a smile on your face.... full review

Thumbs up, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...All said and done, Bala along with bringing in a house full of laughter also has something very important to say. It’s a significant message draped under the entertaining layer of humour. A MUST WATCH!... full review

Thumbs up, by Mayank Shekhar, MiD DAY : ...There's so much layer—giving this the touch of the mainstream entertainer. The talent to pull this off with ease lies with svery few. Director Amar Kaushik (Stree) is certainly one of them—allowing this low/medium budget movie the legs to travel across theatres, with people rightly excited, both on their way in, and their way out. Sure you feel the protagonist's pain. Can that be mixed with much joy? Hell, yeah. Enjoy!... full review

Thumbs up, by Karan Singh Chilotre, Movie Talkies : ...I would recommend everyone to watch Bala with their family, as it has a strong social message well packaged with humour that leaves you completely dumbstruck at the end. Taking all these points into consideration, I give this film a rating of 3.5 Out Of 5 Stars.... full review

Thumbs up, by Kunal Guha, Mumbai Mirror : ...Apart from the numerous digs at the precarious position balding young men find themselves in, the film takes a jab at those desperate TikTokers hoping to crack the popularity theatre of social media. It’s a world where the number of ‘likes’ determine your self-worth and ‘faking it’ is the new ‘making it’. Or as someone says in this film, ‘asli’ and ‘asliyat’ don’t always overlap.... full review

Thumbs up, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...Bala is undoubtedly Ayushmann Khurrana's film. But Bhumi Pednekar and Yami Gautam play second fiddle with such aplomb that they are never put in the shade. Especially striking is Pednekar, who played another kind of Uttar Pradesh woman with great flair in Saand Ki Aankh, amps up the power of the no-nonsense activist-lawyer she etches out here.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rajeev Masand, News18.com : ...Supported very ably by his two leading ladies, Ayushmann Khurrana cuts a sympathetic figure as another not-instantly-likeable loser. Watch how he tears into his father for passing down the baldness gene. Never understating the troubling blackface of Bhumi’s character, the truth is that the film is consistently enjoyable. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Bala.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vaibhavi V Risbood, Pinkvilla : ...Bala is not a spotless human; he has flaws. Ayushmann deftly lives the good and bad side of the character, confiding in the audience that these are complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...This may not be a new performance, but it is an exuberant one. He seems to have found the magic formula for rising, falling and redeeming himself before those very eyes he seems to be looking at and looking through.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vinayak Chakravorty, Sify Movies : ...Overall, Bala is a winner all the way for Ayushmann. This is the actor's 13th release in Bollywood, ever since he made his debut with 2012's Vicky Donor. That makes the film a very lucky 13 for the actor. Coming after six consecutive hits over the recent past, this film is guaranteed to complete a Super Seven run for Ayushmann at the box-office.... full review

Thumbs up, by Gaurang Chauhan, Times Now : ...There are only a couple of songs and that too in the second half but are forgettable. The background score is fine. The editing is good and the cinematography is fine too.... full review

Thumbs up, by Ronak Kotecha, Times of India : ...But overall, 'Bala' remains a light-hearted comedy with situations that are relatable. Just like the film’s message, 'Bala' is beautiful even with its flaws, and never fails to entertain.... full review

So-So, by Deepa Gahlot, Deepa Gahlot : ...Bala learns to laugh at himself when others do, but in his stand-up act, his jibes are still at the physical shortcomings of other men. Bala is a well-made comedy, but as shallow as its Bollywood-aping lead characters– all the actors are excellent, even the ones in tiny supporting parts. The Tik Tok medley of eighties songs that Khurrana and Gautam perform, looks hilarious now, but this is what India tapped its feet to not so long ago. At least our mainstream cinema is not quite so gauche any more.... full review

So-So, by Anna MM Vertticad, FirstPost : ...If this film had no Latika (or she was better written and appropriately cast) and the humour of the opening half had been maintained in the second, it would have been near perfect. There is a Latika though and the humour does dip, making Bala a 50-50.... full review

So-So, by Punarvasu Pendse, fullhyd.com : ...Bala is not as one-dimensional as the other film about male pattern baldness that released this month, but that's not saying much. Watch it if you must, but take its message about acceptance as it speaks, not as it does.... full review

So-So, by Uday Bhatia, Live Mint : ...In his first film as director, last year’s surprise hit Stree, Kaushik showed he had an ear for sonorous writing and the rhythms of life in Tier II towns. His delight in language continues here – ‘lolup’ gives him such a kick it turns up again in the next line (the screenplay is by Niren Bhatt). Like Stree, this is a strong comic ensemble, Khurrana and Gautam supported by Shukla, Seema Pawha (sporting a moustache for some reason), Abhishek Banerjee... full review

So-So, by Vinamra Mathur, MiD DAY : ...Bala may have asked all of us to cheerfully accept our imperfections and love ourselves, but will the mindsets of the society ever change? Can a film really make a difference? Maybe not! So how about we just enjoy the film and move on to the next one sevens days later!... full review

So-So, by Priyanka Sinha Jha, News18.com : ...Bala could have been a crackerjack of a film but allows the novelty of its premise to wear out too easily. Bala, Kanpur’s “edible young man” (sic), certainly gets your attention, but does not manage to sweep you off your feet.... full review

So-So, by Nandini Ramnath, Scroll.in : ...Bala, Bala, Bala: the movie is absorbed with, and better at, dealing with its self-pitying hero.... full review

Thumbs down, by Prathyush Parasuramanhyush, Film Companion : ...It is essentially saying that you are unable to find dark-skinned talent to play a dark-skinned character. This either means there isn’t dark-skinned talent out there, or there is an unwillingness to discover and propagate that talent. It sure isn’t the former. There is a big difference between writing a progressive story and depicting a progressive story. The latter needs not just conviction but also gumption. This movie lacked gumption.... full review

Thumbs down, by Kennith Rosario, The Hindu : ...If you wish to make a film rooted in intersections, you cannot abandon other perspectives in the service of just one. That’s more like hiding behind a combover than accepting your baldness.... full review

Twitter reviews for this movie are not available.

3 readers - 3 yays 0 so-so 0 nays

Not Interested in Watching, by moviefan

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Absar Ahmad : I gave it 9 out of 10 for wonderful script, great acting, and good social message that it wants to c

Yay! Thumbs Up, by Mandar

Yay! Thumbs Up, by pomita : Has a nice depth to it apart from being fun. Ayushmann gets better by the day.

This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: A couple of fist fights
  • Language: Words that rhyme with swear words are used in place of the words itself.
  • Nudity & Sexual content: Sex and semen is talked about. A couple of making out scenes
  • Concept: The world of body-shaming
  • General Look and Feel: Small-town India

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

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Bala - Cast, crew, links

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Running time:
130 minutes
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Comments (5)

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Roy J

I honestly can't get past the fact that the movie uses a fair skinned actress with dark make up to talk about the prejudice against dark skinned people. The promotional song has her in her fair skin and not as the character. Tough to watch a movie that lacks self awareness. I think it's disgusting they couldn't find an appropriate actor to play that character anywhere in Bollywood. I'm going to have to pass on this movie. I couldn't get watch Super 30 for similar reasons. Thanks for the review, though.

I loved your review and looking forward to follow your website in future.

Pomita

"Still waiting for the film that required a speech but didn’t succumb. A film which ends at the character feeling liberated by their realisation and isn’t compelled to teach the world how to get there."...
Isn't Queen that film?

Other than that, completely agree with your review.

@Roy J I see what you mean. It is disturbing indeed.

@Absar thank you.

@Pomita True, another one I could think of after I wrote the review was ZNMD. But still, not enough, right?

Mandar Purandare

As always a brilliant review. Though there is criticism for an actress like Bhumi playing a dark skinned woman's role, I don't really have a problem with it. For me its important, how the actor plays the character and whether he/she does justice to it and Bhumi surely did that well.
Also, I don't see Saand ki Aankh review here. It would be nice to read it from you while its sti im theatres :)

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