The weakest parts of Amar Kaushik’s new film ‘Bala‘ is when it tries to go extreme by embracing the fake to drive home a point – whether it is the much discussed odd dark skin paint on Bhumi Pednekar’s Latika; or the ultra repetitive mimicry acts by Ayushmann Khurrana’s Bala or Javed Jaffery’s Bachchan Bhaiyya – whether of Shahrukh Khan or Amitabh Bachchan or Dev Anand; or the ultra-smart facade or soon getting stale desperate tricks by Bala to salvage his balding hairline; or most of all the entire tik-tok act of Yami Gautam’s Pari and her plastic courtship with Bala built on an artificial and messy chemistry.
Like the message that the film wants to deliver about being comfortable and peaceful with how you are, the film thrives when it stays naturally rooted and resists any titillation to change in lure of protecting shallow vanity. Hence the best parts of the film come from Bala’s brilliantly cast and enacted family (wish there was more of them), the upright and clear headed Latika shining behind her dark paint (wanted to see so much more of her), her terrific Mausi in whom Seema Pahwa again becomes a show stealer in whatever little space she gets, the equally endearing friend played by Abhishek Banerjee, and Ayushmann Khurrana himself in moments when Bala is at his vulnerable weakest and has completely shed his vanity.
Bala can definitely be watched one time for the parts that work. But as a film it could have been so much more had it worked on its issues. A few years down the line, Bala will not be remembered with the same wow as some of his other films in Ayushmann Khurrana’s brilliant (with hopefully lot more to come) filmography. But it does take some confidence for an actor to pass back a subtle appreciation to a certain Muraad in the same year when the crowd absolutely loved the Gully Boy. It takes a degree of earnestness and endearing charm for an actor to pull off a lovely scene at the school or on the terrace with a childhood friend which could have easily gone cheesy otherwise with another actor or his lack of discipline. Wish there was more and more of that earthy comfort to Bala – Ayushmann would have given us as much as he would have been pushed. Amar Kaushik and team just did not push enough.