STORY: The quintessential Mumbaiyya music of a few Banjo players, led by Taraat (Riteish Deshmukh) catches the fancy of a budding American singer Chris (Nargis Fakhri). She travels to Mumbai all the way from New York to hunt for Taraat and his quirky coterie, hoping to take their music international. But given their social and financial background, can the men live up to Chris’ expectations?
REVIEW : Director Ravi Jadhav, who has some outstanding Marathi films to his name (like Natarang), captures the pulse of Mumbai and the city’s buzzing chawl culture in Banjo with simplicity and a dash of humour. His characters exude the quintessential middle-class values, which are bound to resonate with many. The underprivileged are not conditioned to dream big, so even their wishes are realistic. One of the characters innocently asks a waiter at a posh club, if he could take some champagne home for his father. Though commercial in approach, Jadhav keeps things unpretentious and thus relatable.
While the story is pretty formulaic (a bunch of street musicians making it big by winning against all odds), the execution and supporting performances are heartfelt. The music could have been better though. Addition of unnecessary drama and random events in the second half slows down the pace considerably, also making the film a tad cliched. The gorgeous Nargis overdoes the American accent but grows on you eventually.
And last but not the least, it’s time we play the dhol, tasha, tutari, lejhim and banjo for apla Riteish. Sporting a stylish man bun, it’s refreshing to see him break away from the usual multistarrers and play a slice-of-life, lead character in a Hindi film. A small-time extortionist cum musician, Taraat is all heart. Riteish essays this brash yet vulnerable character effortlessly, proving that he can hold a film on his own if given the right opportunity. The film’s cinematography is splendid as well.
If you are familiar with Mumbai’s working-class neighbourhoods, where the hearts of the poor are bigger than the pay packages of those residing in the mushrooming high-rises, you’ll be able to notice the beauty of Banjo. It also makes you respect the street musicians a little more.