Bubble Gum

wogma rating: Beg or borrow, but do watch (?)

quick review:

A clean, fresh movie about growing up in 1980's India. Family, friendship and love (in that order) are the elements of this teen-capers flick.

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Director: Sanjivan Lal
Running time: 120 minutes
Genres: Docu-drama
More Movie Info

I couldn't review Bubble Gum because it didn’t release in Pune. And such a shame that is, for my guest reviewer IdeaSmith loved it and has some really good things to say about it. Here's hoping you can catch it. - meetu


When the promos for Bubble Gum first flashed on my TV screen, I changed the channel. I figured that the title was a description of the superficial lives of over privileged kids who date at 12, have their own cars at 14 and a passport stamped with all the fashionable destinations, by the time they are 16. Indeed, if Meetu hadn’t asked me to do a guest-review, this movie might have passed from my notice. The loss would have been entirely mine.

The promos and posters tell you that this is a story of puppy love and teenage friendships. I’m almost loath to say any more since it would go counter to reviewing without giving the movie away (Oh Meetu, this is so hard!). Let me start by saying that my perceptions were entirely wrong. This is not bubblegum of the fancy ‘Oh, I lurrrrve San Francisco, I got this tee-shirt at Disneyland on my last visit’ crowd. It’s the bubblegum of the local-brand-chews-like-eraser variety that anyone who grew up in India of the 80s would remember. The story is set in a time before mobile phones, satellite television and neighborhood coffee bars. Bubble Gum starts with this simple introduction and explains how at that time, the most one could expect from love was a stolen glimpse of the beloved or a surreptitious hand clasp during kabaddi.

Bubble Gum explores the world of 14-year-old, Vedant in Jamshedpur in the days drawing up to Holi. A grown-up Vedant (who is never shown) narrates the tale, giving it a very 'The Wonder Years’ feel. The movie touches on every aspect of the boy’s life so artfully that anyone who is or has ever been fourteen will feel a sense of kinship. Vedant chafes under parental authority, has an ongoing war with his arch rival Ratan, sighs deeply over the pretty girl next door and is frequently bailed out of scrapes by his brother, Vidur. So what makes this teenager, this story special?

For starters, it is the first Hindi movie in recent times, about this age group. It’s not a cutesy monsters-and-noises tale for a primary school child. Nor does it have the teeny-bopper flavour of a number of other recent releases, which target either older teenagers or ‘the cool set’, focusing exclusively on puppy love. Infatuation is only one of the things that concern a preteen/early teenager and it is accorded the same status in Bubble Gum. Peer pressure, sibling jealousy and detachment from the parental unit are also major aspects of a young adult’s life and Bubble Gumexplores each of these without ever turning preachy or predictable.

Secondly, every character, even a minor one, is etched in the kind of detail that makes a story truly delightful. You watch most of the movie through Vedant’s eyes but you also recognize his parents’ dilemma and his brother’s blind protectiveness. You even feel certain camaraderie with the roguish, rough-and-ready Ratan. Even characters who only appear in a couple of scenes add to the funny nostalgia value as they make the audience think of someone just like that from their own lives - the rakhi sister who is a go-between for the lovers, the pushy Bengali mother combing her hair on the balcony, ready to take up cudgels on her Partho’s behalf, the gulal-seller who moonlights as a goon, the baby brother who must and can be bribed with chocolate, to play messenger.

One of the major aspects of this movie has not been detailed in the promos and in keeping with the theme of this blog, I won’t mention it either. You’ll know it when you see it, in the first five minutes of the film. All I’ll say is that it’s been done only a few times in Bollywood and never quite as well as this.

As it turns out, Bubble Gumis only being screened at a select few theatres. Of the multiplexes, PVR Cinemas is the only one in Mumbai that I could find with a show and even then, only a single one per theatre in the morning. There must have been a special screening for schools since there were two groups of children present with their teachers in tow in the audience. You would think that a theatre full of preteen kids would make for a raucous audience. But the movie kept us all glued to our seats, with only an occasional cheer or laugh at Vedant’s adventures.

I thought Bubble Gum would be the perfect group outing movie for a bunch of preteens. My mother who accompanied me to the film, thought it would be an interesting watch for parents of teenagers. And though neither of us is a part of those two groups, we each still immensely enjoyed the film.

This article is by guest author IdeaSmith. Ideasmith is a moniker for Ramya, an ex-business analyst on sabbatical and an aspiring novelist. The free-spirited verbal performer in her shows up at The Ideasmithy and The XX Factor.

13 reviewers(?) - 9 yays 2 so-so 2 nays

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

Thumbs up, by Taran Adarsh, Bollywood Hungama : ...A film like BUBBLE GUM transports you back to your childhood and the director, actually, does that.... full review

Thumbs up, by Rachana, Glamsham.com : ...The best part about the film is its engaging performances and perfect casting and characterization. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Shubhra Gupta, indian express : ...Getting a verbally-challenged/hearing-impairment act to feel natural, and steering clear of turning it into an exaggerated mime or milking it for pathos, is another toughie.... full review

Thumbs up, Movie Talkies : ...The others, like Apoorva Arora and Suraj Singh are quite natural as well, while the parents, Sachin Khedekar and Tanvi Azmi play their roles to perfection.... full review

Thumbs up, by Ankur Pathak, Rediff : ...It could have done with better editing as it appears longer, dimming our interest slightly. ... full review

Thumbs up, by Nikhat Kazmi, Times of India : ...a moving film on parenting, specially in a case where one of the kids is physically challenged... full review

Thumbs up, by The ThirdMan, Upper Stall : ...Many moments in the film, treated in an aptly simplistic manner, do touch a chord with you, even more so if you were a teen yourself in a middle class family in the period the film depicts - a time of Phantom sweet cigarettes, Amar Chitra Katha and Indrajal comics... full review

Thumbs up, by Kunal Guha, yahoo! India : ...The film delves into the many innocent fears, pleasant realisations and silly delights that tickled us as children. ... full review

Thumbs up, by SpiceZee Bureau, Zee News : ...The film has implemented no entertaining formula and goes by the flow that in a way recreates a real life situation in the simplest possible way.... full review

So-So, Daily Bhaskar : ...Depiction of 80s and that of a small steel city like Jamshedpur, has been done to perfection with every minute detail taken care of... full review

So-So, by Sonia Chopra, Sify Movies : ...Curiously, the film never shows the teens indulge in any concerns other than love and friendship. They don’t have study, school, teacher, hobby issues. In that sense, the film’s view is terribly restricted. ... full review

Thumbs down, by Komal Nahta, koimoi : ...Watch it for its sensitive tale.... full review

Thumbs down, by Mansha Rastogi, Now Running.com : ...small film with a big heart but loses itself for amateurish efforts... full review

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

Plot Summary

14-yr-old Vedant falls in love, faces down his arch rival Ratan for the affections of Jenny, gets into trouble and unexpectedly finds a whole new relationship with his brother, Vidur.

What Worked

  • The settings and clothing – very believable
  • Dialogue, interspersed with commentary – smooth transition, worked well to characterize and provide situation/period context

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

  • The timing of the release. This movie might have done considerably better if it had been a vacation release.

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Children’s fights and two where adults get involved & result in a few scratches. Nothing gory.
  • Language: No swear words or cussing
  • Nudity & Sexual content: A fleeting glimpse of the cover of Debonair magazine but with no explanation or views of the inside content
  • Concept: Nostalgia of adolescence set in 1980s small town India
  • General Look and Feel: Fresh, clean, light-handed on the serious stuff without being superficial

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

Lead Actors:
Character Artists:
Music Director:

Bubble Gum - Cast, crew, links

Official Sites:
Supporting Cast:
Background Score:
Action Choreography:
Music Director:
Costume Designer:
Art Direction:
Running time:
120 minutes

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