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quick review:

As much a lesson in love, life, and its philosophy as in history—that is not much. Though it doesn’t fall short trying (on loads of issues!), it takes “put yourself in the others’ shoes” a little too literally. (Available on Amazon Prime)

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Director: Nitesh Tiwari
Running time: 135 minutes
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He’s an unlikeable person, Bawaal’s protagonist, Ajay. Sure, he might not be outright rude, but he is still not what you’d expect in a Hindi film, ‘hero’. The film borderlines on making the unlikeable, glamourous but keeps him largely unpleasant. And yet, it isn’t interesting. You kind-of know where it is headed and how it will end within the first few minutes. The ‘how’ ends up being a lot of metaphorical lessons through history.

And any day, it is better than him transitioning from a grade-A @**! with just one line or half an incident, like we are used to in watching mean characters change in Hindi films.

Ajay’s concept of self-image is a tad exaggerated. Yet, it is intriguing that for someone so shallow, he has sparks of self-awareness and honesty that make you sit up and notice. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t land.

It is not for want of effort from Varun Dhawan. He plays the self-centred yet insecure Ajay well enough for you to dislike him ‘just right’. Even his chemistry with—the otherwise blandly written Janvhi Kapoor’s—Nisha shows disgust, disinterest, awe, and reverence as called for by the story. It is also evident that her demure personality is written with the intent of her shining quietly as we see Ajay come of age.

And maybe therein lies the problem. Bawaal is reverse-engineered. It has decided to use the horrors of World War II to bring forth the trivialities of today’s day-to-day issues. And everything else is force-fitted to this aim. Alongside, it takes a shot at bringing out the futility of war, which almost all Hindi war films glaringly miss out on. It also takes potshots on how Gujaratis eat and dress. The mocking is too loud, and the conclusion, “That’s just another way to live,” is too subtle. The purpose of it all, is too ambiguous.

The main plot’s purpose, though, is to teach us about perspective through the lives of holocaust victims and survivors. The analogy is a bit too far-fetched. Do I really need a gas-chamber-level horror to point out the size of my problems?

But, hey, it seemed to work for Ajay. And any day, it is better than him transitioning from a grade-A @**! with just one line or half an incident, like we are used to in watching mean characters change in Hindi films. And then again, maybe this is what some of us need. Someone to tell us that we should learn from our mistakes, as human beings, and as the human race.

- meeta, a part of the audience

25 reviewers(?) - 6 yays 5 so-so 14 nays

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

Thumbs up, by Subhash K Jha, Bolly Spice : ...You know it will finally work out for Ajay and Nisha. You want it. They are played with such endearing fidelity. This is easily Varun and Janhvi’s career-best. As for Nitesh Tiwari, I am not too sure Bawaal matches the humanitarian spirit of Dangal. But then, that’s not even where Bawaal is going. The characters are not ambitious. They just want to find a place where they can breathe without wondering if the gas cylinder was switched off before they left home.... full review

Thumbs up, by Devesh Sharma, Filmfare : ...We all know that War is bad, Hitler was a liar, and that every relationship goes through its own Auschwitz – the three prime learnings from the film. But what’s the harm in reiterating these simple truths in an era where living in denial is becoming the norm…... full review

Thumbs up, by Rohit Bhatnagar, Free Press Journal : ...Keeping aside his routine roles, Varun yet again showcases his acting prowess. His transition from a flamboyant guy to a sincere human is honest. In the past, with films like Badlapur (2015) and October (2018), he drew attention from his fans to critics — Bawaal showcases his ability for risk-taking. Janhvi, who is improving with each of her films, packs a solid punch as Nisha. Manoj Pahwa and Mukesh Tiwari are noticeable.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sonil Dedhia, : ...Bawaal falls well short of perfection, but it never comes unstuck. It passes muster as a wholesome entertainer embellished with humour, warmth, authentic emotional trappings, and actors adept at going seamlessly along with the flow. Just like Varun Dhawan’s character says, ‘Mahul aisa banao, ki logon ko mahul yaad rahe, result nahi. Tiwari surely manages to create the ‘mahul’ and the audience will also remember the results.... full review

Thumbs up, by Avinash Lohana, Pinkvilla : ...On the technical front, cinematographer Mitesh Mirchandani beautifully captures the world of Bawaal through his lens, production designer Aditya Kanwar lives up to the vision of his director, Daniel B. George’s background music is in sync with the emotions portrayed on the screen, while Mukesh Chhabra’s casting for each character is bang on.... full review

Thumbs up, by Dhaval Roy, Times of India : ...Bawaal is worth watching for World War II history, especially the recreation of the holocaust, and Varun as well as Janhvi’s stellar performances.... full review

So-So, by Baradwaj Rangan, Blogical Conclusion, The New Sunday Express : ...Despite being stuck in a rotten marriage, she has found a reason to be happy. That, really, is the attitude that wins wars.... full review

So-So, by Nikita Thakkar, Bollywood Life : ...Bawaal is a one time watch movie but do not keep high expectations. It also has a good message to share with all.... full review

So-So, by Shruti Kaushal, India TV : paying tribute to the martyrs of World War 2, Bawaal gets lost somewhere in Western Europe. By the end of the film, you won’t even care about the performances. And yes, I am not going to mention it either.... full review

So-So, by Husain Rizvi, Khaleej Times : ...A World War II theme in a love story. Sure, the premise makes Bawaal an interesting weekend watch, though it could have been more layered.... full review

So-So, by Sukanya Verma, Rediff : ...Despite the uproar in its title, Bawaal is mild even with jazzily-dressed Gujaratis and their love for food thrown into the mix. It's only when things get too schmaltzy for their own good, history is doomed to repeat itself.... full review

Thumbs down, by Bobby Sing, Bobby Talks : ...Ending on a personal note, in Mumbai. It all depends upon who pitches such an absurd idea to the producers and what is his background/reputation. If a Nitesh Tiwari is narrating such a weird script, then the production houses will readly accept it as an interesting novel concept. But if the same comes from a fresh newcomer writer, then they will throw it right away, calling it ridiculous. That is the ground reality, whether anyone accepts, agrees, or not referring to BAWAAL.... full review

Thumbs down, by Abhimannyu Mathur, DNA : ...With Bawaal, Nitesh Tiwari attempted something bold and brave. But sadly, the execution is where he faltered. This is a director who has given films like Dangal and Chhichhore, which is why Bawaal’s misfire looks all the more stark in contrast.... full review

Thumbs down, by Rahul Desai, Film Companion : ...Thanks to Bawaal, however, I am an enlightened moviegoer. A film teaching us to appreciate things through the relativity of hindsight has convinced me to criticise things through relative hindsight. you can't say Bawaal is a bad teacher, after all. This is not an education I will forget... full review

Thumbs down, by Nitin Jain, : ...Coming to think of it, Bawaal as a concept, had scope to be made into a good comedy drama with Varun playing the lead had the writing been given more importance and not shooting insignificant foreign locales. All that one takes back, if at all, is that after so much of commotion, it is Nisha’s character that has to give her life / marriage one more shot.... full review

Thumbs down, by Satatnu Das, Hindustan Times : ...There's no point in even trying to contextualise that horror and imagine what would one do in that situation. It is a deeply problematic exercise of narcissism and worse, invalidation of the stories of countless victims, whose experiences can never be put under the examining lens. Bawaal is perhaps the most tone-deaf and insensitive film Hindi cinema has produced in recent memory. This is a history lesson no one deserves to sit through.... full review

Thumbs down, by Anvita Singh, india today : ...Saddled by the weight to be more than just your average romantic drama, Bawaal staggers throughout the duration of the film and ultimately ends on an all too predictable note with nothing new to add to the conversation about either war or love.... full review

Thumbs down, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...Instead of being moved by the plight of the millions who lost their lives in the concentration camps, as our leads do, walking through Auschwitz (imagine, a Hindi film actually being shot on location; that’s really something ), all we feel is a sense of waste: simplistic and trivialising takes on Hitler, ‘who was greedy for more countries’, something we get to hear in an actual exchange between Ajay and Nisha (you don’t say), and World War II, do not make a history lesson. Forget about heroes, when will our movies come of age?... full review

Thumbs down, by Umesh Punwani, koimoi : ...All said and done, Bawaal has a few things going in its way but a lot of them are against it, hence proving why the decision of releasing straight to OTT was the wisest one the makers could’ve made.... full review

Thumbs down, by Hiren Kotwani, MiD DAY : ...While the ending is predictable, it makes you feel that perhaps Tiwari could have told the story better without dressing it up with international locations, lavish production values, and unnecessary mahaul to make this bawaal of a film.... full review

Thumbs down, by Sameer Ahire, Movie Talkies : ...Bawaal has Varun Dhawan in a heroic role, who later drops all the heavy stuff. Yes, Varun Dhawan is a fine actor, but only in Badlapur and the October zone, where the character graph takes complete control. Not something like Bawaal, which takes him to the Coolie No. 1 zone for half the time and makes him a contrary guy the rest of the time. Yes, Janhvi Kapoor can suit the role, but it has to be in the Dhadak or Mili zone, where she actually looks like the characters she is playing. Watching her play a wife, and such a mild one, is not at all appreciated, while her voice tone needs a lot of cleaning. And where was the chemistry we needed for this so-called romantic drama, which it hardly is? Bawaal hardly gives a chance to supporting actors, even if they are highly talented. Manoj Pahwa and Mukesh Tiwari are known faces, yet they get so little to do, while Anjuman Saxena, Vyas Hemang, Prateek Pachori, Shashie Vermaa, and child artists pass on without any impressive scenes.... full review

Thumbs down, by Saibal Chatterjee, NDTV : ...Bawaal is as fake as its fibber-hero - a film that... full review

Thumbs down, by Nandini Ramnath, : ...Ajay’s redemption arc goes only so far. Varun Dhawan does a fine job of portraying an obnoxious man with a visibly nasty streak. But the speed with which Ajay is transformed beggars belief, just as the earnest endeavour to personalise history falls short. The recreation of key historical events reaches its nadir in Auschwitz, where a gas chamber becomes a staging ground for a peak lovey-dovey moment.... full review

Thumbs down, by Shilajit Mitra, The Hindu : ...Shilajit Mitra... full review

Thumbs down, by Pratikshya Mishra, The Quint : ...Bawaal is the kind of film that subscribes to the folly of its own character: its beautiful imagery is supposed to mask its flaws but in the second half, it barely manages to.... full review

Twitter reviews for this movie are not available.

1 readers - 0 yays 1 so-so 0 nays

So-So, by Raj : Too far-stretched, time-pass..

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

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: A slap.
  • Language: Clean
  • Nudity & Sexual content: One scene with characters talking about Amsterdam’s prostitute and one brief scene with them.
  • Concept: Coming-of-age of a full-grown man.
  • General Look and Feel: Crisp and matter-of-factly.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

Comments (2)

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Dear Meetu, Exactly, too far-stretched. Director feared taking inspiration from Indian history due to current Hindutva backlash; and also to self-gratify "intellectual-tag" perceptions. Something different.than gore and violence that's dished out.

That is true. Its views are not visually strong in terms of violence and gore.

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