Another Rohit Shetty version of the 1979 Indian classic “Gol maal,” “Bol Bachchan” carries off its rapidly thinning, virtually villain-free plot thanks to its fast-paced presentation of a storyline that hinges on a succession of double identities and escalating fabrications. Pitting two Bollywood icons, Abhishek Bachchan and Ajay Devgn, as lying employee and lied-to boss, the pic is a well-stocked farce with idiots aplenty; though it will curry little critical favor (it opened worldwide July 6), it should reap big box office rewards.
“Bol Bachchan” reprises a surprising number of “Gol maal’s” principal plot points, minus the original’s impeccable comic timing. Pic nevertheless keeps its plates spinning and hoops in the air with commendable aplomb, though few elements prove particularly funny in and of themselves.
Abbas Ali (Bachchan), having lost his late father’s house and all his own money due to the singular incompetence of his attorney, is persuaded to leave Delhi for the feudal village of Ranakpur, where his honorary uncle, Shastri (Asrani), offers him lodging and a job with the local benefactor/strongman Prithviraj (Devgn), who hates liars, and has been known to kill those he hates.
Upon his arrival, Ali rescues a drowning boy. When Prithviraj asks the rescuer’s name, Shastri’s actor son Ravi (Krishna Abhishek) quickly “invents” a non-Muslim handle, Abhishek Bachchan, the name of the actor who plays the role; one of the pic’s myriad labored in-jokes then has Ravi and Ali rattling off a list of Bachchan’s actual screen credits. So begins the first tier in the tower of lies.
When Prithviraj spies Ali at a Muslim prayer meeting, the ever-inventive Ravi conjures up an illegitimate Muslim identical twin — unlike “Bachchan,” he sports no mustache and is gay. As the fabrications mount, they engender further falsehoods. Thus the excuse of a sick mother produces three aspirants to the role in rapid succession, desperately explained away as a mother (Archana Puran Singh), a nanny and a maid-mother. But even the designated mother must soon impersonate twin sisters in the unnatural course of events.
Meanwhile, romance blossoms between Prithviraj and Sania (a dead ringer for his deceased sweetheart) and between Ali and Prithviraj’s sister Radhika (Prachi Desai), neither relationship sparking much oncamera chemistry nor launching any catchy tunes. Indeed, except for a marvelously over-the-top opening number, few musical interludes possess pizazz.
Devgn performs magnificently as a dumbed-down, gullible version of his usual heroic self, a muscle-bound Dudley Do-Right disposing of an entire cast of opposing henchmen. His outright slaughter of the English language (“a brother in need is a sister indeed”) is matched only by his dedication to motherhood, piety and, of course, honesty. Bachchan underwhelms as the straight lead, but his pouty, lisping, sashaying, dancing alter ego, registering less as gay parody than as feverish role-playing, affords the pic’s funniest, least trying gags.
Tech credits are highly accomplished if sometimes unimaginative. Loosely translated, the pic’s title means “tower of lies.”