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WELL DONE ABBA - Movie Review : Not everyone's cup of tea but indeed a tasty one. (Review By Bobby Sing)
27 Mar, 2010 | Movie Reviews / 2010 Releases

More than a decade ago when a film-maker friend of mine, introduced me to the cinema of Shyam Benegal, I got immensely influenced by his body of work and his films certainly enhanced my understanding of the medium in a definite way. And now after so many years of repeatedly watching all his cinematic masterpieces, I would like to suggest all young movie lovers, a particular way to watch Shyam Benegal films by dividing them into two different eras, which would be Pre-‘Hari Bhari’ (Before 2000) and Post ‘Hari-Bhari’ (Since 2000) eras. (Hari Bhari is one of his brilliant movies released in the year 2000.)

Where the Pre-‘Hari Bhari’ era is in itself an extensive topic to write about, it’s the Post-‘Hari Bhari’ era which is related to our subject here as the current “Well Done Abba” now proves to be an important part of this new discovered film-making style of the master, post 2000.
Shyam Benegal has always been associated with simple, realistic and emotional movies having a specific message to give to the society. In his early movies he used to give a more sensible and ethnic feel to his themes, categorizing them into the art-movies wave of the Hindi Cinema in the 80s. But recently he is onto discovering a new path of film-making style which at one end is again simple and down to earth like his earlier gems but on the other it now also has sharp remarks and taunts to make on the prevailing social system in a more comic manner quite similar to the works of Sharad Joshi, the famous writer from Hindi Literature.   
“Well Done Abba”, the latest offering from Shyam Benegal is strictly made on the similar lines of his previous “Welcome to Sajjanpur”, but tries to tackle too many important issues in only one project. With a feeble basic story line, the movie tries to convey almost all the major problems faced by the rural areas still fighting for their existence in an otherwise developed country. It majorly talks about a less educated village person who wishes to have his own well in front of his house as per the New Government Policy of that region. The viewer is made familiar with all the protocol problems he has to face while interacting with the government officials for getting the job done. Along with that the director tries to showcase several sensitive issues such as human labour, illiteracy, girl education in villages, selling of young girls to Sheikhs, status of women in Indian rural politics, corruption in Public Distribution System and many more in a single movie which at times seems to be over lengthy and un-required at places. 
The long duration of the movie, its slow pace and the consistent Hyderabadi lingo used throughout the movie are the other few things which go against the movie and reduce its chances to win over the common man entering the theater purely for his entertainment.
But for lovers of off-beat subjects and fans of Shyam Benegal kind of cinema, “Well Done Abba” is another soft gem from the master film-maker with an important message for the society. Interestingly, the movie starts very slowly and keeps on growing on the viewers mind at its own pace. You need to have patience to sit through its first half as it’s only towards the intermission and post interval that you get more engrossed into the subject and start enjoying it with a more realistic feel. However there are certain sequences which go over the top like writing a report against a lost well, a police officer with no major case to work on, an over sexual government official and a marriage song coming just before the movie ends. Some of these sequences should have been easily edited out in order to give a more crispier product to the viewers, because ideally a project based on rural settings with a social message should only be around 2 hours of duration to leave an impact.
Apart from these few hic-ups, “Well Done Abba” has some great performance worth watching. The best act comes from Boman Irani, as Abba who is simply superb in his very subtle portrayal of the character. Never in the movie, he reacts in anger to the tough situations faced in the government offices. On the contrary his innocent responses towards the corrupt officials happen to be the main highlight of the movie. For instance, just look out Boman’s reaction in the climax, when he comes to know that the boy he has chosen for his girl is an orphan without any religion. Moreover, Boman performs a double role in the movie of two real brothers with great conviction. It’s really commendable for a person to achieve such heights in a profession which he opted for only after the age of 40. Unarguably it’s one of the finest performance of Boman till date.
Minnisha Lamba is another surprise package of the movie. She completely transforms herself into her onscreen character and excels. Out of the rest, Samir Dattani, Ravi Kishen and Rajendra Gupta have performed excellently. But I really felt that the Ravi Kishen plot of the movie should have been treated more gracefully on the screen. Shantanu Moitra’s musical score is fine but strangely there is very minimum use of Indian instruments in the songs set in the rural areas, particularly the marriage song towards the end.
Adapted from three different sources, “Narsaiyyan Ki Bavdi’ by Jeelani Bano, “Phulwa Ka Pul” by Sanjeev and “Still Waters” by Jayant Kriplani, “Well Done Abba” has surely got the much acclaimed Benegal kind of treatment all over. It also reminds you of the famous T.V. serial “Office Office” in which Pankaj Kapoor played a similar kind of character quite close to that of “Abba”. Regarding the star-cast of the movie, I was really surprised by the minuscule roles given to the two favourite actors of the director in the industry. Using almost the same team of actors since his “Suraj Ka Satwan Ghoda”, this time the director gives very less importance to both Ila Arun and Rajit Kapoor who have been part of the director’s every major product since the 90s. Along with them, another talented actress, Sonali Kulkarni is also simply wasted in a silly kind of role of a newly married lady.
In the end, I would surely like to add that “Well Done Abba” is apparently not everyone’s cup of tea. But you may start liking the taste, if you keep sipping the tea with patience. And for all of the readers who haven’t seen the other world famous gems of the master film-maker…… This is not one of Benegal’s finest works, as he is on the path of trying new styles of story-telling with the changing times. So don’t form any opinion about him by just watching some of his recent works.
Shyam Benegal has got loads of text book material on film-making stuffed in his rich movies repertoire of the past. Hence start exploring NOW!     

Rating : 3 / 5


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27 Mar 2010 / Comment ( 2 )
Naresh

"I would surely like to add that "Well Done Abba" is apparently not everyone's cup of tea. But you may start liking the taste, if you keep sipping the tea with patience."

Nice writing bobby.. :)

Bobby Sing

Thanks Naresh for your appreciation!

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