Nida Ameen
"Deepa Mehta’s Beeba Boys will make for an interesting addition to your DVD library."

It is essentially an Indo-Canadian venture yet there was a lot of hype surrounding Beeba Boys in Pakistan last year: it starred Pakistani actor Ali Kazmi and the fact that he was part of a Deepa Mehta venture. However, the hype died down just as quickly as it grew and the film disappeared from news timelines without much of a trace. Reason being it never made it to Pakistani theatres. Now, about six months down the line, the film’s ‘master’ print is lying on local DVD racks and there is little reason for you to not give it a chance for a Saturday night movie viewing.

Based around the lives of a bunch of ruthless Sikh mobsters in Vancouver, Beeba Boys sees Mehta take a departure from realistic, groundbreaking storytelling that saw her challenge patriarchal oppression and bigotry in the Elements trilogy (Fire, Earth and Water) and dip her toes into relatively commercial cinema, along the lines of her 2002 venture Bollywood/Hollywood. That said the director retains her quintessential intensity in the depiction of scenarios and a gritty background sketch to support the plot in this offbeat, gangster saga.

Starring Randeep Hooda as the eerily calm, self-satisfied and semi psychotic Jeet Johar, who leads a pack of equally brash, boisterous and unforgiving new generation gangsters (he wants to take over the organized crime business from old-timer Robbie Grewal, played by Gulshan Grover), the film is a crime tale of gang wars, murders, betrayal, torn relationships and restlessness. It has all the ingredients of a gripping, cannibalized, Tarantino  crime thriller yet it fails in parts to engage the audience.

Around the time of the film’s release in Canada, Mehta got caught in a whirlwind of controversy as the Canadian police accused her for over glamourizing gangster lifestyle and feeding into South Asian stereotypes that the community has worked hard in shedding off. And that is exactly where the flaw resides in Mehta’s portrayal of the Beeba Boys. Well-dressed and bling-loving style mavens, the characters come across as almost indistinguishable in the façade that is created despite having certain unique elements to their persona. There is too much unnecessary focus on swagger than on the depth and weight of the premise and while there is enough violence to match the gore of a typical gangster blowout, it feels almost non-visceral and airbrushed.

Nonetheless, Mehta deserves credit for trying out an unexplored genre and meet set standards if not surpass them. While she fails to bring anything new to the table, the film proves to be an interesting watch for the crime-loving movie crowd. Additional points for the realistic depiction of culture specificities and ethnic sociology but it could have stood out even more had the director let go of culturally-motivated, hackeneyed jokes.

On the performance front, Hooda does complete justice in juggling the roles of a fierce, gun-slinging scion and a loving single father. In contrast, Ali Memon as Nep leaves little to no impact with his deadpan face and remote dialogue delivery. Our very own Ali Kazmi has little to do on screen but once again shows great potential with his subtle yet creepy villainous streak that we became fans of in Jackson Heights. It’s a pity that his acting talent wasn’t explored further.

In short, Beeba Boys is no fresh take on a gangster thriller and emits a fair share of storytelling flaws, especially when it comes to tying it up with emotional drama since back stories that could add to the depth of characters are left with loose ends and little to no explanation. But that said there are enough twists in the plot for you to add it to your crime capers’ list.

Courtesy: Instep (The News International)

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