Billu poster


wogma rating: Watch but no rush (?)

quick review:

The stargiri is truly a huge put-off. So bad that even though the dialogues have a consistent, fresh bounce and Billu starts of as an interesting character, it falls flat as the film progresses. Human emotions can keep you glued as long as there's some movement in them. Just Irrfan's brilliant facial muscle movement does not suffice. Simple, at-times sweet but predictable too.

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Director: Priyadarshan
Running time: 135 minutes
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Billu - Preview

NOT A REVIEW - just wondering if snipping 'barber' from the title will chop the story/humor, if any...

The stage is set for this friendship tale with acting by Irrfan Khan, dance-routine from Shah Rukh Khan and his ladies, and marketing courtesy Salon and Beauty Parlors’ Association.

It's extremely interesting that Shah Rukh Khan's home production is doing a film with Irrfan Khan. I mean commerce meets art. Pretty cool. Irrfan will emote and Shah Rukh will do the slo-mo entries, play himself, and all that jazz. Everyone is happy. Except for a few like me who can't handle it when he plays himself. But we're a minority. So, let division of labor and specialization take over.

Also, isn't it good in a way that an Irrfan starrer is promoted by Shah Rukh? More people will watch and hopefully admire Irrfan. Maybe 3-4 movies down the line Irrfan would have multiplied his following by a huge factor. Shame that we need a Shah Rukh to do that, but so be it.

But, then again the last Priyadarshan movie that delivered a decent laugh was Hungama. That was 6 years ago.

Meanwhile as is in vogue these days, we have the barbers hairdressers getting offended by the original title. So, Shah Rukh gracefully took the "offensive" word off -

Billu has been made with good feelings about love and goodness. If it is hurting somebody, let me not do it.

Also turns out other words meaning hairdresser - hajaam, nai - are going to be beeped out. Tch-tch-tch. There goes the last hope of having any reality.

On the other hand, Irrfan has been working hard to get it right -

Not hair-styling, mind you. I don't want to learn the barber's art from some posh salon in a 7-star hotel ... The bonafide barbers hold the scissors in a different manner and the way they hold the customer's hair is different. ... As soon as I finish learning I'll probably cut Shah Rukh Khan's hair.

Here's hoping some of that humor passes on to the film too. And of course, the research too. Ahem.

- meeta, a part of the audience

"Look at me people, I am the star, who needs police protection". "Hey...even if you can't see me, you won't miss the star who offends politicians... that's ...ME!"

Even if the credit rolls claim that Shah Rukh Khan's appearance in Billu is only incidental, each frame has a heavy Shah Rukh aftertaste along with posters and songs from almost all his movies. When he's not on screen, awe for his character (Sahir Khan) is persistently thrown around. And Sahir is so strinkingly similar to Shah Rukh that it's hard to think of him as Sahir. And this feels like you are having Shah Rukh for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. That is, you are choked up to your throat with the adulation for him. The boasting needs some serious toning down.

Sure, modesty is for losers and kings don't need to be humble. Especially when humility is left to the other character, Billu. Yes, the story is about Billu - his diffidence, his friendship, his dignity. Irrfan plays it with such intensity that this simple, believable character gets me attached to him. Unfortunately, the attachment is not used any further. It just lays hanging out there for the most predictable thing to happen.

This is the bane of a high-profile production house film. You know how it's going to end. So what's left to the writers is to engross you with how it gets there. No number of item numbers with superstars in bikini bras can replace the need for a strong conflict and a charming resolution. The climax does have its emotional peak but it gets there only after a few eye-rolls through a long, long spiel. And it wouldn't have worked one-bit if it weren't for Irrfan's confused, dazed eyes.

Just like the village-fool Billu, endears himself to you, the witty dialogues stick a smile on to your face for a good length of the first half. It begins to wear out slowly but never fades away completely. It does carry its share of sms-forward jokes but it's such a relief to see Priyadarshan restrain himself from the usual loudness his recent films carry. It also doesn't hover around side-issues and sticks to its very basic plot.

He also comments on this star-struck nation we are. How we use this star-craziness to make our uninteresting life meaningful. And in this crowd there can be a simple person who is content with what he has. Yet the crowd won't let him live in peace. They'll make a hullaboo, create havoc, belittle him and make him doubt himself. We also have a potential answer to the recession. Get a movie-shoot going in every corner of the world. Not a bad idea! I, for one, will not complain.

But, the down-to-earth character is surrounded not only by characters with superficial needs but also with artificial surroundings. The houses and other surroundings are painted and then color corrected/saturated to give a very synthetic feel to the already orchestrated frames. They take away from the otherwise possibly earthy look a film set in the interiors of the country could have carried.

Though Lara Dutta as Billu's wife is convincing by her performance, she doesn't gel with the village milieu. Mostly because of the way she's dressed up. While a lot of it has to do with how differently her sari is draped from the other villagers, the almost-backless blouse is a certain giveaway. Even the supposedly-carelessly done hair looks composed.

Anyway, you have Shah Rukh mocking himself and the films he works in, but lately we've seen him do that often enough. Who am I to doubt that an entire village can go crazy with a film actor showing up in their vicinity? I'll buy that. But don't choke me with it.

- meeta, a part of the audience

34 reviewers(?) - 15 yays 18 so-so 1 nays

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

Thumbs up, by N K Deoshi, Apun Ka Choice : ...It’s a story that throbs with emotions. It tugs from within you love and sympathy for its titular protagonist... full review

Thumbs up, by Beth, Beth Loves Bollywood : ...The complex characters were especially appealing and endearing. No one was flat... full review

Thumbs up, by Daliya Ghose, Bollywood Mantra : ...Simplicity is the trademark of director Priyadarshan and he has kept his tag intact again in Billu.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rony D'Costa, BOXOFFICE INDIA : ...One of the decent Priyadarshan film’s in recent times. The last few minutes are the best part about the film.... full review

Thumbs up, by Phylis J Iqbal, desi hits : ...The movie seems to be a little boring in the beginning. It almost feels like it is reaching for a plot and yet by the end this feeling disappears.... full review

Thumbs up, : ...You almost get bored every time Billu is on screen, thanks to the lack of nuances and expressions on Irfan Khan's face... full review

Thumbs up, by Martin D'Souza, : ...Priyadarshan has veered slightly away from his trademark comedy and he handles the subject with sensitivity.... full review

Thumbs up, by Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM : ...Like VIRASAT and MALAMAAL WEEKLY, BILLU, the accomplished director's new outing, is also set in a hamlet.... full review

Thumbs up, Indicine : ...Billu Barber is different; it’s a realistic take on what could happen when a life of an ordinary barber clashes with that of a hugely popular superstar.... full review

Thumbs up, by Vandana K Mittal, merinews : ...Asrani to Rajpal Yadav to Om Puri, to child actors and other assorted characters in minor roles there is a treasure trove here of roles well enacted... full review

Thumbs up, Movie Talkies : ...he film's story is very simple and it has a heart tugging quality about it which lifts it from its ordinariness and makes it a very good film, if not an excellent one.... full review

Thumbs up, by Ashok Nayak, Now : ...Billu is a typical Priyadarshan film (thankfully without the loudness this time around) with its share of Khatta Meeta (Sweet and Sour) moments,... full review

Thumbs up, by Goher Iqbal Punn, Radio Sargam : ...The film is much appealing from all respects and what makes it more scrumptious is the finale portion when the superstar harks back to his childhood friendship... full review

Thumbs up, by Sampurn, real bollywoood : ...Billu is more of an Irrfan Khan film than a King Khan one. He is simply superb and natural to the core.... full review

So-So, by Noyon Jyoti Parasara, AOL INDIA : ...The script could have been more solid if efforts were made to cut out the songs and replace with an actual story in a film inside film format.... full review

So-So, Blogeswari : ...The story is on Billu as the title suggests. Saaruk has no scene to be a part of the film except for some ten minutes in the climax... full review

So-So, by Baradwaj Rangan, Blogical Conclusion, The New Sunday Express : ...As you exit the theatre, you feel you’ve witnessed an exposé on what it entails to be a smashing superstar.... full review

So-So, by Sanjay Ram, Business of Cinema : ...With on the surface characters, the film really does not delve into the background of the characters; something which Kuselan to a certain extent did.... full review

So-So, by Abhishek Mande, Buzz18 : ...Clearly the most underrated actor in Bollywood, Irrfan delivers such a spirited performance it makes your heart go out to him.... full review

So-So, by Udita Jhunjhunwala, DNA : ...Surprisingly for a Shah Rukh Khan film, while the songs are visually grand and the cameos a nice gimmick, the music and choreography are disappointing.... full review

So-So, by Khalid Mohamed, Hindustan Times : ...Though the film has its share of stock characters, maudlin and over-the-top moments and sags in the latter half, there’s also good story-telling, some great acting, and a healthy dose of masala in the item numbers.... full review

So-So, by Rajeev Masand, IBN Live : ...Billu Barber works smoothly as a simple, moral tale, its charm interrupted every time the director goes for broader, more 'commercial' appeal. But it's enjoyable and heart-felt too... full review

So-So, by Harshita Kohli, : ...Shah Rukh Khan pulls off the superstar role well but for me the last 20 minutes are something that I want on constant repeat.... full review

So-So, by Subhash K Jha, Now : ...The two actors at the core of the conflict play their parts with such empathy you forgive and forget the excesses in the earlier parts of the narrative where the star-fan relationship was converted into a melee of caricatural encounters.... full review

So-So, by Jahan Bakshi, Now : ...Billu is simplistically told, and justificably so- but it lacks the heart-tugging warmth and charm that makes the mythological story so irresistable... full review

So-So, by Sethumadhavan, Passion for Cinema : ...There are a lot of light moments in the movie interspersed with the emotional moments... full review

So-So, by Bhargav Saikia, Planet Bollywood : ...Billu is that kind of a film which defies the practice of good filmmaking and is solely aimed to rake in the moolah while the initial hype lasts.... full review

So-So, by Raja Sen, Rediff : ...Shah Rukh Khan's [Images] latest production is a simplistic, well-meaning take on a familiar story, and Billu -- perhaps inadvertently -- ends up being a naive little children's film... full review

So-So, by Sonia Chopra, Sify Movies : ...The cast does well. Irrfan is remarkably restrained as usual. Lara is a pleasant departure from her glam roles. SRK drips charm in every shot. And still, the film doesn’t affect you.... full review

So-So, : ...The central plot sounds fair enough, but the execution is below par.... full review

So-So, by Nikhat Kazmi, Times of India : ... You cast Irrfan Khan in your film and you have half your work already done.... full review

So-So, Zee News : ...‘Billu’ is both an original and honest film. It sucks where it is original, and where the sequences are snipped straight out of the Malayalam version, they are honest.... full review

Thumbs down, by Gaurav Malani, indiatimes : ... Priyadarshan and Mushtaq Sheikh take credits for the screenplay, though ironically they only snip out scenes from the original Malayalam film Katha Parayumpol .... full review

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

Plot Summary

Barber Billu's (Irrfan Khan's) long-lost friend Sahir (Shah Rukh Khan) is now a film star with a huge fan following. Sahir happens to be in Billu's village for a film shoot. The whole village is ecstatic that Billu knows Sahir, but is he?

What Worked

  • The opening credits were cute.
  • The first sequence is one of the most hilarious and witty sequences in a long time. It sets up Billu's character pretty well too.
  • Asrani's make-up and hair-do. Who's the barber, again?
  • Loved the lyrics of the title song! Wish some words didn’t have to be beeped out.
  • The shots in front of the road-side mirror shop. Very nicely done!

What did not

Note: This section simply lists the things that I did not like in this movie. This is not the overall impression about this movie. Please read the full review here

  • Costumes in all the item numbers.
  • The choreography in the 'hit-fit' song. It looked as if they were pumping that HIT mosquito repellant spray around while looking at me!
  • The sabers in the dance!
  • Does an actor really have a say in what will be the "soul" of the film? Or can he instruct a co-actor on how to say his lines when the director is calling the shots? Then again, it's SRK, so maybe he can and he does.
  • How is money for a lawyer organized so easily when there wasn't money for a square meal earlier?
  • How does anyone know that Billu knows Sahir?


This section lists things that I think are not important to the overall impact of the movie. In most cases, it could be explained away by something like, "we noticed the glitch after the scene was shot and there were schedule/budget issues and thus we could not re-shoot it". I like giving the makers the benefit of doubt, but I am amused nevertheless. Hopefully, they will tickle you too.

  • Shah Rukh's teeth! No make-up for teeth available?
  • When did it rain during the climax for the streets to be all wet and muddy?

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: None
  • Language: No offensive language
  • Nudity & Sexual content: Skimpily clad women in 3-4 songs.
  • Concept: Long lost friends and the distance between them.
  • General Look and Feel: Light and peppy. Thought don't know if kids under 10 will get most of the humor.

Billu - Cast, crew, links

Supporting Cast:
Background Score:
Action Choreography:
Music Director:
Costume Designer:
Running time:
135 minutes

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