Bobby Jasoos: The case of the missing ending

Bobby Jasoos is a comic caper undone by its underwhelming climax

Vidya Balan has been the toast of Bollywood for a few years now as the only woman who can carry a blockbuster film on her shoulders. She ends up doing just that with Bobby Jasoos, a promising family entertainer by debutant director Samar Shaikh that starts off with a bang but fizzles out by the time the credits roll in. Maybe the problem lay with me; I fell for the jasoos in the title and ended up drawing unwarranted comparisons with Balan’s nail-biting suspense thriller, Kahaani.

In this romantic-dramedy, Balan plays Bilkis Ahmad urf Bobby Jasoos, a 30-year-old amateur detective who dreams of becoming the top sleuth in Mughal Puri, a patriarchal neighbourhood of Hyderabad. Balan, the perfectionist that she is, seems to have got Hyderabad’s peculiar Hindu-Urdu accent down pat. “Inhi chhotti chhotti galiyon main teri kismat chamkengi Bobby, Bilkis Ahmed issi Mughal Puri main Bobby Jasoos banke dikhayegi.”

Our feisty Nancy Drew might not have a big office or a degree in investigation, but she does have her team of underlings — a jolly internet café owner, a lanky waiter and a schoolboy. The film’s opening sequences see her mastering a chase sequence in Hyderabad’s myriad bustling lanes and raising hell in her traditional Muslim household over her obsession with playing detective. With television serial CID’s epic hero, ACP Pradyuman, as her inspiration, our salwar kameez and dupatta-clad heroine, trusty canvas shoes, backpack and all, proceeds to don various disguises in an attempt to solve her uninspiring fare of cases, ranging from petty romantic intrigues to mothers spying on their smoking sons.

She hits the jackpot when Anees Khan (Kiran Kumar), a mysterious stranger in a big car, offers her a pot of gold to hunt down a couple of young girls. Super excited at her first ‘real case’, Bobby forgets the golden rule of investigation — do a background check and question her client’s motives. Bobby painstakingly pursues the case with barely a handful of clues, in the most outrageous of schemes possible. For instance, to find a 21-year-old girl named Niloffer who has a birthmark on her right hand, Bobby turns up all over town in the guise of a bangle seller, a beggar, a palm reader and so on.  She makes up for her inexperience with quick wit and indefatigable zeal. These make the film a treat to watch till the interval.

It’s after the break that the languid tone of the movie starts to turn sluggish. Bobby starts to snoop around her rich client’s business and the suspense grows. Then it ebbs as the scenes run parallel with a cutesy love story between her and Tasawur. A young and ambitious broadcast journalist, Tasawur is played by the dashing Ali Fazal, who also hires Bobby from time to time to foil marriage proposals orchestrated by his orthodox parents. Their struggles and dilemmas, to conform or to rally against family and tradition, are portrayed sensitively in the film.

Cinematographer Vishal Sinha has captured the noise of the restless metropolis well, without the romantic outlook of the tourist but to effectively aid the narrative. Music composer Shantanu Moitra has provided a simpatico background score, even if the song-dance sequences themselves are needless.

The climax should have ideally been a coup de grace, but ends up being a total cop out. Bobby, a richly sketched and strong female character, deserved her own captivating, riveting ending, much like herself.