Cast: Shilpa Shukla, Shadab Kamal, Rajesh Sharma, Dibyendu Bhattacharya
Direction: Ajay Bahl
Rating: 4 Star Rating: Recommended4 Star Rating: Recommended 4 Star Rating: Recommended
There is sex. There is sleaze. Then there is that state of confusion in between where most Bollywood films trying to peddle the S-trick dangle. BA Pass is far from sleaze and manages to avoid any confusion. As the reels roll, you witness a rare Bollywood flick that gives the subject a noir edge, though you wish the film was less tedious with its scenes of sex.
Debutant director-producer-cinematographer Ajay Bahl’s film is based on Mohan Sikka’s short story The Railway Aunty that featured in the 2009 anthology Delhi Noir. Sex played a deeply important part to push forward the plot of Sikka’s original tale.
A story of less than 7,000 words, however, is not enough to run the full length of a feature film. So Ritesh Shah’s screenplay incorporates a few improvisations beyond what Sikka wrote. These work for the film in parts and stretch the narrative on occasions.
This is the story of Mukesh (Shadab Kamal), an orphan who stays with his aunt in Paharganj and is about to finish college. The sultry neighbourhood aunty Sarika (Shilpa Shukla) sets out to seduce him and Mukesh falls for her charm. Too late, he realises she has trapped him into a sordid life he cannot escape.
BA Pass is essentially a coming-of-age saga using sex as a tool to carry the plot forward.
Debutant director Bahl does a fair job in tracing Mukesh’s moral corruption and his eventual doom. Bahl is bang-on while imagining Sarika too, as a middle class housewife with a dual life. But these, you could argue, were readymade advantages he drew from Sikka’s material.
The tough deal for Bahl – as it mostly is for any filmmaker adapting a written work for the screen – was to depict the psychological subtext of The Railway Aunty. The sexual undertone about Mukesh often unfolds through his thought process in Sikka’s story. Bahl avoids the aspect, and mostly rests his taut film on action defining the protagonist’s plight.
BA Pass is essentially a coming-of-age saga using sex as a tool to carry the plot forward. There have been plenty of unforgettable films within that genre in world cinema – Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien and Louis Malle’s Murmur Of The Heart come to mind. For Bollywood, this is a first attempt of sorts, which makes BA Pass an unusual film.
If Bahl throws challenging roles at his lead cast, the actors reciprocate admirably. Shilpa Shukla, still struggling in Bollywood despite Khamosh Pani and Chak De! India, is brilliant as the scheming seductress. She brims with screen presence. Newcomer Shadab Kamal understands his complex role well. Shilpa and Shadab share a bristling chemistry as dominant and sex slave. It gives the film a strange USP.
It’s not quite popcorn & cola stuff but if you are forever hungering for cinema of a different taste, check this one out.