A society obsessed with perfection, verses celebrating milky skin tones, weaving yarns over the luscious lock of hair and, of course, the ode to the perfect body and shape – have been found in mythical tales, folk lore, pop culture, reflected in media and advertising. A society so obsessed with being perfect taking recourse too, from quick fixes and extreme measures heralding image anxieties. Shaming people and their flaws, a chasmish, a motti, kaali, ganja, talk insulting, but have often been passed of as being said in pure jest, very often dripping with vindictiveness.
So, meet Bal Mukund Sharma (Ayushmann Khurrana) from Kanpur, his prized possession – his crowning glory, as he mimics Shah Rukh Khan, loves being the center of attention, he loves throwing barbs at his dark-skinned classmate Latika (Bhumi Pednekar).
As the years go by, unfolds the sad irony of Bala’s life. What was once his crowning glory, is now the bans of his existence. His hair-raising or should we say the lack of hair, as he loses strands by the minute, Bala’s receding hairline at 25 years is no laughing matter.
His two friends, one a hair-dresser and the other Bachchan Bhaiya (Javed Jaffery), guide him through a series of quick fixes – eggs, oils, uncomfortable asanas to even cow dung being massaged on his head.
Bala, who is a salesperson for a fairness cream is besotted with Pari Mishra (Yami Gautam) the face for the brand and a TIK TOK sensation, but sadly for him, he loses his chance with women because of hair, the lack of them.
As his efforts to grow his hair fail, his father (Saurabh Shukla) presents him with a wig, and with a brand new crop on his plate, Bala’s confidence soars, and maybe he now stands a chance of winning over a woman with his winsome charms.
Bala meets Pari at the brand shoot, and wins her over with his impersonations of Bollywood stars, as a medley of 90’s hits play out with Pari obsessively recording each of their moments on TIK TOK, since social media validation is directly proportional to self worth.
Meanwhile, Latika – a bold, erudite lawyer, is at loggerheads with Bala for whitewashing her face on an Instagram profile set up by her aunt for matrimonial purposes. She carries a chip on her shoulder given her complexion, but she is self accepting of her so called ‘flaw’.
As Bala and Pari get married, the elephant in the room has not be addressed. While Bala weighs the pros and cons, Latika may just get her revenge on him. After all, if he cannot accept himself for who he is, how does he expect the rest to.
Ayushmann Khurrana proves that he is indeed the man with the Midas touch and gives a go for gold performance, yet again. His comic timing is impeccable, he is also an ace mimic.
Though the ‘black-facing’ was an issue with me, Bhumi Pendekar as Latika is brilliant, she is bold and hard-nosed, driving home the point that a person’s brilliance has nothing to do with their physical features. Yami Gautam as the small town TIK TOK sensation, who is frivolous, does her bit in the narrative. Director Amar Kaushik does a brilliant job with a seamless narrative, generously spread with humour as each actor from the leads to the supporting cast – be it Bala’s failed Ranji Trophy player father, Saurabh Shukla, whose bald genes are blamed endlessly, or Seema Bhargava as Latika’s mustachioed aunt, or Javed Jaffery as the ‘Kanpur ka Bachchan’ blend in naturally and play their parts with perfection.
Bala is an important film, yes it’s unsettling, but it’s a bold effort without being preachy. It makes you laugh as it drives home a pertinent point, that self-worth and image are what you make them to be.
Rating: 4 out 5