Director Nila Madhab Panda (I Am Kalam) and screenwriter Sanjay Chouhan (Paan Singh Tomar) opt to punch below their weight in Babloo Happy Hai and, for the most part, find themselves out of their depth.
It is a well-intentioned, if somewhat arduous, attempt to strike a balance between frothy romance and cause-oriented filmmaking, but the experiment isn’t compelling enough. Yet, as far as Bollywood youth flicks go, Babloo Happy Hai certainly isn’t your average kettle of fish.
The story of three libidinous Delhi boys – they are the poor man’s ZNMD trio – does deliver some stray moments of insight. One of the guys is days away from getting hitched and, with his friends, plans a bachelor getaway to Ladakh. The girl he is marrying intervenes and forces the threesome to drive to Manali instead to attend a cousin’s wedding.
As is the norm with road trip movies, the destination is not as important as the voyage itself. It isn’t just fun and frolic. It is fraught with sharp, risky turns. The journey teaches the affluent lads – and the girls in their lives – a thing or two about desire, friendship, disease and tenacity.
But is the audience any wiser at the end of the ride? Not really. Babloo Happy Hai addresses the themes of safe sex and personal choice in the guise of a young-at-heart love story embedded in a slew of sub-plots.
But those of us that fled in utter horror from Yaariyan a few weeks back will have to take no such evasive action here. Even if Babloo Happy Hai does not send you into raptures, it definitely will not give you a headache.
Boys with raging hormones will be boys with raging hormones and sex is firmly on their minds. Mercifully, however, their obsessions do not spill out in the open in the form of brainless antics. The boys drink a lot, have one-night stands, and fret and fantasize about what is really good for them.
The film has all the trappings of a mass entertainer. However, given Panda’s filmmaking moorings, it veers into rather dark narrative terrain in the second half.
It is visually unusual because most of the story unfolds in a hill town enveloped in fog and sleet. The snow-covered Himachal locations, viewed through DoP Subhransu Das’ lens, create an evocative setting.
Babloo Happy Hai would have been an infinitely happier experience had the acting been less erratic. However, two of the cast members stand out. Amol Parashar plays a gay boy with restraint and without resorting to the routine tropes. Erica Fernandes brings natural poise to the character of a free-spirited girl who leads her life on her own terms.