March 26, 2010 (Calcutta Tube): Well Done Abba is a 2010 Bollywood Hindi film directed by Shyam Benegal starring Boman Irani, Minissha Lamba, Sammir Dattani and others. Well Done Abba is a witty political satire.
- Rating: 3 out of 5*
- Starring: Boman Irani, Minissha Lamba, Sammir Dattani, Ila Arun, Sonali Kulkarni, Ravi Kishen, Rajit Kapur, Ravi Jhankal and Yashpal Sharma
- Screenplay By: Ashok Mishra
- Directed By: Shyam Benegal
- Produced By: Reliance BIG Pictures
Well Done Abba is the story of Armaan Ali, a driver working for a Senior Executive in Mumbai, who goes on leave. He wants to find a match for his teenage daughter, who stays with his brother Rehman Ali and his wife Salma. When Armaan returns to work after 3 months his young employer wants to sack him.
But Armaan Ali has a story to tell. The story he tells is a humorous and often hilarious account of the events and happenings that delayed him from returning after a month. He avails a government scheme to dig a well in his agricultural patch. Things spiral out of control so much so that the Government is about to collapse! The question remains, how true is this compelling story!
Film Review by Critics
Shyam Benegal’s political satire, Well Done Abba narrates the tale of Armaan Ali (Boman) who works as a driver with a big businessman in Mumbai. After he arrives back from his leave, his boss decides to sack him since he came back after 3 months instead of the allotted 1 month leave. It is then when Armaan narrates the story behind his 3 months absence. Armaan narrates – He had gone back to his hometown Chikatpalli in Andhra Pradesh to hunt a groom for his daughter Muskaan (Minissha) who stays with his twin brother Rehman Ali (Boman again) and his wife Salma (Ila Arun). It is then when he finds out the state government has started a special scheme under which those living under the poverty line will be given a sufficient amount to build a well on their land. But when he decides to avail of this scheme, he has to face corruption at every drop of the hat. Eventually, he ends up with literally no money in hand to dig the actual well. Reason, every single person involved in this scheme ends up looting his share of pie from the amount the government had sanctioned. But his fiery daughter decides to turn the table back on all the corrupt officials’ heads. Arif (Sameer Dattani), the motor mechanic who is silently in love with her also joins her mission. The trio’s plan works and things spiral so much out of control that the Government gets on the verge of a collapse!
Benegal’s Well Done Abba is a sweet gem that works despite no big names. A very witty film that’s very well written (by Ashok Mishra) packing in many things together that are relevant to today’s society. The satirical humour may not exactly be of the laugh out loud variety but it manages to keep you smiling throughout the film. It ends up making just the right statement on the many development projects that the government initiates but which frequently get hijacked by systemic corruption. Only issue many may have is with the pacing of the film. The initial few reels are extremely slow paced but with the introduction of each new character, the film picks up pace. However, one feels, too much screen time is given to the forever horny couple played by Ravi Kissen and Sonali Kulkarni and their track gets repetitive. Music by Shantanu Moitra works in the context of the film.
But the film works big time because of the casting. Benegal has a keen eye for roping in just the right actors for his characters and he succeeds yet again. Boman in a Hyderabadi accent is simply superb. He is very good in the emotional moments with Minissha. He is hilarious in his twin brother’s role who is a thief. Minissha Lamba finally gets that role which she can be very proud of in her career. She fits the role to the T. Sameer Dattani is very natural and likeable. Ravi Kissen brings in the laughs as the engineer who is forever in the mood of making love to his wife. Sonali Kulkarni is wasted though. Amongst the rest cast are Shyam Benegal regulars such as Rajit Kapoor, Ravi Jhankal, Yashpal Sharma and company who excel in their parts. If one remembers the TV serial Farmaan, its pretty lead actress Deepika Deshpande makes a comeback with a cameo in this one playing Rajit Kapoor’s bickering wife.
Well Done Abba is not your usual comic fare. This Shyam Benegal gives a strong message without compromising on its entertainment quotient. Do watch this one.
-Abhijit Mhamunkar/ Sampurn wire
Review 2 a sparkling gem from Shyam Benegal
Film: ‘Well Done Abba’; Starring: Boman Irani, Minissha Lamba, Sammir Dattani; Directed by: Shyam Benegal; Rating: ***
Drawn from the innermost recesses of its extraordinarily versatile, profound and prolific creator’s mind, somewhat like the water that emerges from Boman Irani’s well at the end of this delicately-drawn satire on babu-giri and red tapism, ‘Well Done Abba’ is a little sparkling gem of a film.
Its humour, warmth and tenderness are not as easily obtainable as in Benegal’s last comedy ‘Welcome To Sajjanpur’ which was far more readily and immediately engaging.
‘Well Done Abba’ takes longer to settle and sink into our satiated sensibilities. Long parts of the film describing the Hyderabadi protagonist Armaan Ali (Boman Irani)’s close encounters with babu-giri and the bewildering maze of the bureaucracy (somewhat like Pankaj Kapoor in the serial ‘Office Office’) are done with a sense of insouciant indulgence that takes the bite away from the cruelty of watching a man run from one musty office to another trying to get a well dug into his parched backyard.
Everyone wants a bribe. No one wants to do what’s right. A world waiting for water to emerge from Mother Earth was recently created in Shyam Benegal’s nephew Dev Benegal’s ‘Road Movie’.
Unlike Dev’s film Shyam Benegal’s parable on a soul waiting to be nurtured never remains as dry as the landscape it describes.
Thirsty, famished Hyderabad is no strange hinterland to the ultra-perceptive Benegal. One of his first feature films ‘Ankur’ (still considered by many to be his finest) was set in rural Hyderabad. It was real grim and relentlessly dark in showing subjugation and injustice. Now Shyam has mellowed. His vision is far more forgiving of our bureaucratic trespasses. He even chuckles over sex through the characters of Ravi Kissen and Sonali Kulkarni who are forever at it.
Cinematographer Rajen Kothari goes through the cluttered lanes of old Hyderabad with jaunty steps. No one is looking for despair here. It’s a life lived at the edges with a zest to seize the day.
The flawed and aberrant characters in ‘Well Done Abba’, ranging from the embittered police inspector (brilliantly played by the Benegal regular Rajit Kapoor), to the self-serving but not evil politician (Rajendra Gupta) are characters who move dexterously away from the realm of the grotesque and caricature to becoming signs and representatives of our times.
Standing non-judgementally over the delicate satire, Shyam Benegal seems to say… this is the way we are, what to do?
Benegal’s characters are not hopeless losers. The director with some skilfully subtle sensitive and sharp writing from screenwriter Ashok Mishra lifts his people from the clammy clutches of corruption and dejection. These are people who exude the sweaty aroma of lived-in people eking out a dignified life from the morass of anarchy.
Benegal’s narration is steady, tender and in no hurry to make its point. The pace is even and delightfully devoid of anxieties, but sometimes far too crowded with inner explanations. The canvas is crammed with semi-pivotal characters in the bureaucracy. We are subjected to vignettes from the bureaucrats’ home life which seem to unnecessary prolong the film’s inevitable progress towards a triumphant finale.
Boman Irani in both his avatars as the Armaan Ali and his seedy twin Rehman Ali renders rollicking wrinkles and creases to the film’s over-smooth edges. He’s delightful as the bewildered working-class soul, the over-protective father and the near-nirvanic soul at the end who realizes the struggle to have justice is actually a journey towards god.
Minissha Lamba as Boman’s spirited daughter gets into the skin of her character with a career-defining determination and emerges with a character who is feisty, modern and, yes, Muslim. Sammir Dattani as the sweet-tempered do-gooder who supports the father and daughter shows a discernible growth as an actor. This film is actually the beginning of a new phase for Dattani. All three characters hold their Hyderabadi accents in place without slipping out of character for even a minute.
Watch out for all the usual Benegal actors like Lalit Tiwari, Ila Arun, Yashpal Sharma and Ravi Jhankal to newer entrants into this super-prolific director’s hall of films like Ravi Kissen (playing an over-sexed Bihari engineer)… they all know what we’ve known for years. The world of Shyam Benegal is filled with an anguished realization of moral and political corruption. But by god, Benegal knows how to juice our social milieu in his cinema without seeming exploitative or melodramatic.
Well done Mr Benegal!