Babu Bihari (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is a gun for hire, and he does his killing work with relish, which immediately makes him despicable and unworthy of the ‘hero’ status Kushan Nandy accords to him in the film Babumoshai Bandookbaaz.
Set in a completely lawless Uttar Pradesh, where cops act as go-betweens to connect clients with a hitman for a commission, nobody cares how many people die in ego clashes between rival politicians. When Babu wants to woo a pretty cobbler Phulwa (Bidita Bag), he kills two men, “for free” as he tells his employer. (Does anyone in UP and Bihar ever get arrested for murder?)
He is pretty much the killing champ till his copycat Banke Bihari (Jatin Goswami) turns up to both aid and challenge him. Apart from a cop who brings him work, Banke is the only friend Babu has, and he lets his guard down, which proves fatal. Babu is not one to let a bullet stop him — he laughs at pain, and believes he is invincible, but even he has no shield against betrayal and deceit.
Nandy and his writer Ghalib Asad Bhopali, have tried to ape the amoral universe of Quentin Tarantino and his Indian disciple Anurag Kashyap; nobody is clean, honest or trustworthy. Living in a place where they have no power except as sexual beings, even the women are manipulative and treacherous.
At the top of the heap is Sumitra (Divya Dutta), married to an old man, and seeking political power through any means. She is Babu’s frequent client, but when she thinks he has double-crossed her, she is vicious.
Her rival Dubey (Anil George) is equally nasty and also kinky. Then there’s another corrupt cop (Bhagwan Tiwari), whose household is overrun by sons, and he forces his wife to keep having kids because he wants a daughter.
If Nandy’s idea was to show that there are places like this in India where evil abounds and there is no hope at all, then he succeeds up to a point, but then why would viewers want to watch such an ugly film? These days controversy, sex and profanity do not make for box-office magnets.
Nawazuddin Siddiqui is a fine actor, but he’s like spice in a dish — too much and it’s ruined. The other actors are competent and look like they belong to that grungy world; casting directors are getting better at their task.