Bawaal Movie Review: Bollywood does not seem to understand what it means to be an 'independent' woman. Since Bawaal is directed by a male and written by four males, I suppose you can forgive some mansplaining from me. Let's take Janhvi Kapoor's character in the film, Nisha. So let's take Janhvi Kapoor's character in Bawaal. In her intro scene, Nisha is told to be a very independent and outgoing girl who only couldn't get a boy because she was suffering from epilepsy. And therefore, this 'independent' girl decided to agree for an arranged alliance with the most selfish idiot in town and even stops going for work to appease her husband. Bawaal: Varun Dhawan–Natasha Dalal, Janhvi Kapoor, Nora Fatehi, Mrunal Thakur, Tiger Shroff and More Attend the Star-Studded Screening.

If we have to draw parallels between Nisha and Kiara Advani's Katha in this year's SatyaPrem Ki Katha—another film where a girl agrees to an arranged marriage because of a "defect"—it is that, at least in SPKK, the female lead is emotionally blackmailed into marrying her less-eligible suitor. Here, it is simply a matter of desperation.

And who is the suitor? Meet Ajay (Varun Dhawan), a history teacher in a school in Lucknow, who is more interested in keeping up appearances than being a good educator, son, or husband. He loses interest in his bride when she starts having seizures and continues to mistreat her even nine months into the marriage. Instead of divorcing his worthless husband, Nisha holds out hope that he will change. 'Cos, you know, she is an 'independent' girl.

The path for that change begins when Ajay slaps a student of his class for asking a legit question on Adolf Hitler. The boy turns out to be the son of the local MLA (Mukesh Tiwari) who gets Ajay suspended pending an inquiry. To protect his image and his job, Ajay comes up with perhaps the bizarrest idea of to save his career.

A Still From Bawaal Trailer (Photo Credits: YouTube)

Ajay proposes to go to Europe and visit prominent places relevant to World War II history so that kids can learn despite his suspension. Instead of laughing at his face and hiring a substitute teacher, the management goes with his weird idea. Which makes me wonder, does the school only have one batch of students? Who is teaching history to lower or the upper grades? What would have happened to the students if Ajay didn't come up with such a lame plan?

Sadly, Ajay's foolish plan doesn't end there. He tricks his father (Manoj Pahwa) into sponsoring the trip by bringing Nisha along, claiming that this would improve their relationship. Whether they will actually work out their marriage and whether Ajay becomes a better person influenced by the places he visits is what the rest of the film is about, though it doesn't take a history graduate to figure out what happens next.

Watch the Trailer of Bawaal:

When your film is based on such a flimsy premise and has a male protagonist who doesn't demand your empathy, you expect the journey to make the experience better. The trailer already had me balking when Janhvi's character claims that a genocidal maniac is within everyone of us, and we are all fighting our own World War IIs on a daily basis. I had hoped that the director of Dangal and Chhichore would be sensitive enough not to compare a failing marriage to one of the worst tragedies of the last century—the Holocaust. Alas, Bawaal retains that ham-fisted equivalence of comparing the atrocities of Nazism to those of an idiotic man who doesn't value the love in his life. Bawaal Song ‘Dilon Ki Doriyan’: Varun Dhawan and Janhvi Kapoor’s Romantic New Song Will Make You Play This Track on Loop!

A Still From Bawaal Trailer (Photo Credits: YouTube)

If the director really needed to go for such historical parallels and use the incidents to shape Ajay into a better person, why the need to make the film into a dull tourism package of Europe—where even the Eiffel Tower loses its sheen in the muted palette—instead of having Ajay and Nisha visit historical sites of tragedy within India? Tragedies are tragedies, but wouldn't visiting Jallianwala Bagh have more emotional impact for the Indian audience? Also, even if the students need to be shown the tragic impact of Nazism and gas chambers, I'm pretty sure showing them documentaries on the subject would be more effective. Or, if you're planning to traumatise the kids anyway, maybe make them watch The Boy in the Striped Pajamas or Schindler's List.

A Still From Bawaal Trailer (Photo Credits: YouTube)

I am not saying that the idea of making Ajay a better person by visiting the sites of Nazi atrocities and learning about the horrors that happened to people there is a bad one. However, the way it is carried out is rather convenient and unconvincing. I would like to cite an example from another film to illustrate why this does not work for Bawaal.

Remember the opera scene in Dil Chahta Hai? Aamir Khan's Aakash is not immediately captivated by the stage performance and makes fun of the people around him who are watching the show. However, in the next shot, which shows some passage of time, we see him quite engrossed in the opera, which indicates that it had some impact on him at some point. SatyaPrem Ki Katha Movie Review: Kartik Aaryan and Kiara Advani's 'Marriage Story' is More Problematic Than Romantic.

A Still From Bawaal Trailer (Photo Credits: YouTube)

In Bawaal, Ajay is first emotionally affected when he visits the Omaha beach and Nisha forces him to wear the headphones that provide commentary on what happened there during World War II. As soon as the headphones reach his ears, the screen immediately changes from color to black and white, and Ajay is transfixed, even though the narrator is simply starting off with the day and date. This is what I meant by "unconvincing." It is also worth noting that the depiction of the D-Day battle felt like a cosplay recreation of the opening battle scene in Saving Private Ryan, but with even shakier camerawork.

A Still From Bawaal Trailer (Photo Credits: YouTube)

The love story would have provided some respite if it had worked well. There is a scene in the film where Ajay and Nisha go on a date in a pub where they list their likes and dislikes, and Ajay realises that they have nothing in common. Nisha asks him if they need to have anything in common for their relationship to work out. A good point, but there is still one thing that is essential: chemistry. It is severely lacking between the two, even when they fall in love, and that is very important when we have to spend the whole film with them. To top it all off, Bawaal needed to resort to some stereotypical Gujarati jokes to elicit humor through a group of passengers who keep crossing paths with the main couple during their tour.

Final Thoughts

Bawaal takes a very ludicrous premise and doesn't do much to turn it into anything substantial. The chemistry is lacking, the screenplay is contrived and convenient, and the sensitivity needed in tackling a historical tragedy takes a leap down from the Eiffel Tower. At least, the film does give an innovative idea to family court judges who handle divorce cases: send the couple on European tours and pray that the woman wears down fast to find her abusive spouse tolerable enough to live with him. 'Cos marriages are sacred and men deserves second, third and many more chances, right? Bawaal is streaming on Amazon Prime Video.


(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Jul 21, 2023 12:00 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website