Bhavai review: Even Pratik Gandhi's ernest performance cannot put this lost film back on track
When the Bhavai trailer arrived a few weeks ago, the internet was abuzz seeing Pratik Gandhi essay the role of Ravan in a Ramleela based film where his character questions the actor playing Ram why his character is considered evil for standing up for his sister Surpnakha. While a daring attempt on the part of the makers, the previous title and the particular dialogue both had to bid the film goodbye before release owing to backlash.
Well, the point of bringing it up at the very onset of this review is that if you are headed to watch Bhavai this weekend with that bold impression in mind you might be sorely disappointed. Even under two hours of screen time, Bhavai feels like a test of patience. The story follows a young man Raja Ram Joshi (ironic much?) in a small town in Gujarat who wants to act and finds a place in a local Ramleela as Ravan. In a village rooted in religion, this doesn’t sit well with his father who is a priest and he is ousted from home. Matters further complicate as he falls in love with Rani (Aindrita Ray) who plays Sita in the local skit.
Bhavai is directed by Hardik Gajjar and marks the Hindi film debut of the Scam 1992 star expectations from whom are sky-high. While the actor signed the film prior to the web series which catapulted him to stardom and it would have easily passed under the radar today if not for him. Sadly we cannot say that that would not have been helpful for all parties concerned.
The problem with Bhavai begins where it is a little too in your face working relentlessly to spoon-feed you the plot and spell out matters as they unfold. What in an early pitch seemed to be questioning religious fanaticism, turned out to be a film that simply seems to have given up on its own cause trying extra hard not to be displeasing.
For a film that seems to love spelling things out, ironically not a single voice is raised in question in the climax where this fanaticism peaks and the makers simply take a bow with credits rolling hoping that their silence says what they haven’t been able to and sadly the only thing it translates as is confusing. We can simply be bystanders much like the town folks in the tragic ending of the film, seeing Bhavai crash and fall.
With dialogues doing all the talking, there is literally no wiggle room for the actors to earn their money’s worth in Bhavai but they are not the ones to be blamed for it. The film has a credible cast with actors like Rajendra Gupta, Flora Saini, Rajesh Sharma but Pratik Gandhi seems to be the assigned member of this team to pull the weight. Despite delivering on what he is given to work with the actor’s efforts are in vain as nothing can save a film downing in its own ‘dharma sankat’.
Bhavai evidently started out with its heart in the right place but lost its way. Now whether that’s due to the backlash or simply for the lack of conviction is something the makers would know the answer to.