Notes on Bobby Jasoos (2014)

Posted on July 6, 2014

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********Spoilers Ahead*********

Bobby Jasoos is not a film about a case that Bobby solves. It is a film about Bobby Jasoos herself. Yes, there is a case that Bobby spends most of the film investigating but it is merely a vehicle to show us what kind of girl Bobby is and the challenges that she has to overcome in pursuing her profession.

The film begs the question why Bobby, real name Bilquis Ahmed, wants to become a detective. It is a highly unusual choice of profession given her background. The film doesn’t provide us much by way of an explanation. We are required to accept that Bobby is simply a very unusual girl. I wonder, though, if her neighbourhood has something to do with it. Mughalpura is the sort of place where people have been living for generations and in such close proximity that it is not possible to not know your neighbour’s secrets and perhaps, Bobby sensed an opportunity here.

In keeping with that, Bobby works small domestic cases and waits for her big break. Of course, no one takes her very seriously, until in the time-honoured tradition, a mysterious, rich client gives her a proper case. The teeming Mughalpura now becomes a challenge. Bobby has to find two girls in this locality and the only information she has on them is their name, age and their birthmark. It’s a bit like finding the proverbial needle in a haystack but Bobby is up for the challenge. Her hunt for the first girl is all madness and no method – she adopts various disguises (a nod to Sherlock Holmes) but she is indefatigable and eventually manages to track down the girl. For the second girl, the hunt is somewhat more organised, although it does require her to adopt another of her outrageous disguise. I suppose  she is slowly refining her methods. She is handsomely rewarded by her client and is given more work. While her professional life is starting to look good, her personal life begins to get complicated and the two, toward the end, intertwine.

I like how the film shows her personal life crisscrossing with her professional life, both at the thematic and structural level. For example, we see Bobby talk to a madrasa teacher who gives her important information (which we don’t hear) but before we can wonder what this information might be, a personal crisis is introduced and we are immediately plunged into that. And later again, when the time comes for us to wonder how the personal crisis will be resolved, we return to the case. The film neatly balances and seamlessly transitions between the investigation and Bobby’s impending marriage, without one overwhelming the other or fighting for narrative space.

The denouement of the case (a nod to Amar Akbar Anthony) is somewhat disappointing, even though it does tie all the loose ends. I understand that the film didn’t want the mystery to be complex or dark but it didn’t have to be so simple either. Another problem is we don’t truly feel Bobby deserves all the credit for solving the case. Sure, she did a lot of leg work and gathered a lot of information but most of it was arrived at through pure dumb luck. More importantly, she comes to the wrong conclusion about the case. Her own strained relationship with her father colours how she interprets the evidence. When the true details of the case are revealed, Bobby gains an important lesson that helps her reach out to her father and mend their relationship.

The object of Bobby’s romantic interest is Tasawur (Ali Fazal, good). Tasawur is an interesting character. He is a local celebrity, outwardly confident but privately living under the thumb of his authoritarian father, who demands that he get married. He initially finds Bobby to be rather unusual and reluctantly agrees to help her with her case. But as he gets to know her better, he finds himself admiring her drive and ambition. In a charming and well-written scene, he begins by asking his father to break off his wedding with Bobby but when his father gladly agrees and disparages Bobby because she is a professional woman, he ends up defending her and her choice of career and for the first time in his life, stands up to his father.

I have never cared much for Vidya Balan but I quite liked her in this film. Although she overdid things a bit in a few scenes and her Hyderabadi accent kept slipping, her energy did not. It perfectly complimented the easy pace of the film. Her numerous disguises are a bit of harmless goofy fun, you are invited to both laugh with Bobby and at her. Vidya is more than ably supported by the rest of the cast, particularly Ali Fazal, who manages to steal a few scenes from her.

Overall, the film is charming and breezy, with plenty of local flavor and characters. Unlike most detective stories, the film doesn’t reveal the world and the people in it as dark and corrupted. The happy ending to Bobby and Tasawur’s love story is not explicitly spelled out, leaving room for a possible sequel. We saw Bobby improve as a detective, but she still has a long way to go so maybe a sequel with a new, more demanding case may just be the thing.

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Posted in: Reviews