It’s an interesting and clever premise that ‘Bala’, directed by Amar Kaushik of ‘Stree’ fame chooses to deal with the issue of baldness by making a commentary on the addiction towards social media for societal validation. Equally smart is that the story is set in India’s small-towns where the youth is vapidly obsessed with making use of good quality time on social media apps to feel closer to what is considered mainstream. This is great-storytelling peppered with even greater dialogues by Niren Bhatt, who recently wrote for ‘Made in China’.
With a voice-over by Vijay Raaz as Hair (yes, you read that right), ‘Bala’ is the story of Kanpur-lad Balmukund Shukla aka Bala (Ayushmann Khurrana), a petty, self-loathing 20-something who suffers from premature balding. Once upon a time, Bala was a proud school kid who wooed the girls in his class with his healthy mane, much to the resentment of his dusky classmate Latika (Bhumi Pednekar), whom he looks down upon for her complexion. Latika eventually grows up to be a firebrand lawyer. As Nature would have it, pride takes a fall with Bala’s receding hairline. He gets demoted from his marketing profile to a salesman of fairness products. His stint with stand-up comedy hardly elicits laughs. His girlfriend from school dumps him. In his words, hair loss is leading to identity loss. To help him, the wise men in his life including father (Saurabh Shukla), barber friend (Abhishek Banerjee) and mentor (Jaaved Jafferi) seek remedies as bizarre as deploying a taupe to applying buffalo poop. Even hair transplant seems impossible since Bala has diabetes. A chance work assignment brings him closer to TikTok sensation, fair maiden Pari Mishra (Yami Gautam). In order to woo her, Bala sports a wig. Romance blooms and the two are looking for a serious commitment. Bala wants Pari to know the truth, while being fully aware of the outcome. What follows next?
‘Bala’ wins majorly on the strengths of its clever dialogues. Even when the proceedings are serious, you’re bound to constantly chuckle. Writers Pavel Bhattacharjee and Niren Bhatt weave a novel concept with an able screenplay by Ravi Muppa. The film is laden with clever moments too that it is hard to pick a favourite. Though I will mention the scene where Pari’s superficiality is reasoned but not judged. Another honorable mention would be Latika’s quest for true and unconditional love. Even a TikTok sequence paying ode to the popular songs from the 90s and a crucial conversation quoting Amitabh Bachchan’s dialogues are pure gold. Hemanti Sarkar and Anuj Rakesh Dhawan have lent commendable support with regards to editing and cinematography. Director Kaushik spearheads the film brilliantly, proving that his debut ‘Stree’ was not a fluke.
‘Bala’ is further lifted by the shining performances of its ensemble. After six back-to-back hits, Ayushmann goes seven with the film. Not a note out of place, Ayushmann makes Bala endearing despite being despicable in equal measure. Yami adds respectability to her superficial and self-obsessed act, highlighting the relatable obsession of social media apps. But, its Bhumi who wins you over as Latika. Though its hard to ignore the inconsistent dark tones, Bhumi is acidic with her tongue but sensitive too. Let me mention that towards the second half, ‘Bala’ becomes more about her story. She is that good. The rest of the supporting cast including the lovely Seema Pahwa as Latika’s moustache heavy aunt bring the house down with plenty laughs.
Less on hair, but abundant in entertainment, ‘Bala’ is worth spending two and a half hours with your family and friends.