Cast: Shan Ghosh, Balram, Bhaskar
Director: Shabani Hassanwalia, Samreen Farouqui
Rating: Three stars
If Salman Khan decided to secede from India and form his own country with an Army and a Cabinet, legions would queue up in Bandra dangling a firoza-studded bracelet from their wrists.
Each with Salman-esque biceps, haircut, jackets, they’d walk like Salman, talk like Salman, even dance and romance like Salman.
This may sound like an apocalyptic nightmare to you, or a sci-fi misadventure gone the horror way, but these burly brahmcharis — a happy mix of Muslims, Hindus, Christians and others — would make the RSS cadres shudder.
As comical and eerie this fantasy is, it is born out of a sad reality — of what goes on inside the heads of young men, nurtured and scarred in our seemingly happy homes. These are boys who feel unloved, who don’t fit, and are seeking an identity, a hero, a family. And theirs is a scarily large number. How many? That can be gauged from the number of Twitter users who have chosen to display Salman Khan’s mug over their own.
He touches them, gives them what their families and friends don’t. And they have chosen Salman Khan as their patriarch. That’s who they want to be like.
Directors Shabani Hassanwalia and Samreen Farouqui go to meet three such Salman Khan fans in Nagpur and Chhindwara — Shan Ghosh, 32; Balram, 25; Bhaskar, 19.
Being Bhaijaan is their story.
Living in sleepy Nagpur, about 750 kilometres from Mumbai, these three boys are residents of a city of half-made houses. Their commitment to this town, their life is perforce. When they are themselves, their life disappoints them, they disappoint themselves. So they hook into Salman.
Their connect is with both, Salman’s real and reel life which are anyway not very distinct. But they’ve mashed it up into one wholesome whole, to create a cut-out of machismo. They’ve internalised the tit-bits he throws here and there, and turned Salman-speak into life vision goggles. Like him they are orthodox, conventional outsiders, and see life like he does, in black and white. They’ve build for themselves a life of grand entries and solitary, symbolic exits. In between they groom themselves to look like him.
They find it empowering, life in this state of schizophrenia.
Shan is sculpting himself into Salman. He’s into body building, shaves his chest, wears earrings, jeans, and dances. He knows how to get those chiselled abs — when to cut salt, how much water to drink. He’s very happy that people call him Junior Salman. And that when he posts his photos on a Facebook page — Nagpur’s Hot As Hell People — he gets 136 likes.
Spindly, sweet Bhaskar, from a family of wrestlers, doesn’t look like Salman, but wants to be like him. Till he gets there he needs to keep the illusion alive. Perpetual. The dream can’t break. So he ensures that Salman is omnipresent. In his ringtone, in the doorbell that spouts a different dialogue each time it’s pressed, on his phone (Jai Salman group), and salutation — Jai Salman.
Balram, the son of a baker, is a fan. Salman’s and Shan’s. He’s happy to worship, and do as he’s told.
He’s grappling with sex and girls, especially since Salman announced on Koffee with Karan that he is a virgin. For Balram, Salman is Vishnu ka avatar, and the world rests on his virginal powers. This balance must not just be maintained, but supplemented. So Balram has decided that he will not marry, and is trying his own sexual experiments. On a brahmacharya diet, with no pyaaz, no hot milk, he draws sustenance from other buff bachelors — Narendra Modi, Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Shan won’t mind a girlfriend, but it’ll have to be someone who has never had a boyfriend and is like his mother. We never meet his mother, and don’t catch them together.
Though these boys are responsible, sensible, with family, homes, history, their souls are vagabond.
Shan’s younger brother, an engineer, is getting married. But Shan’s only involvement in the wedding in Chhindwara is his performance as Salman Khan toPandey Ji from Dabangg, in front of a troupe dressed in police uniform. When he goes out to give invites, he’s inviting people to watch him perform. He’s working hard. Among other things, he’s sleeping only for five hours to get the droopiness of his eyes just right.
The day Salman announces his marriage, many hearts will be broken.
As Being Bhaijaan steps into the world of Salman Khan clones, we are hoping for answers to what draws them to this daddy’s obedient son, this lone ranger whose shirts splits in response to any challenge. But that’s not what that film is interested in. The film doesn’t explore the depths, origins of their feelings. It’s there to capture, record and relay this phenomena.
Spending time in this fringe, meeting these outcasts does, of course, throw up some answers. Like him, they want to be unruffled by both, love and loathing. Like him, they want to love themselves. They can’t, so they love him instead.
When they are themselves, the world doesn’t see them. But as Junior Salman, or “the world’s biggest Salman fan”, people take notice, even if scoffingly. People, family members tell them, “Why copy? Be yourself.”
They don’t hear that. They are in life’s loud greenroom, waiting for the curtain to rise.
Being Bhaijaan was a film waiting to happen. It’s a brilliant idea, and a laudable effort. It’s clever, cute and tickled by its own brilliant idea. It’s a benign, Big City view of these boys. The film is innocently reactive, funnily distracted by things it sees on the way. This leads to several moments of strange delight. But we don’t see much of their world, because we are mostly in close-up.
The directors’ mixed feelings towards their subjects — city’s cool disdain mixed with an almost cultivated, politically-correct interest — is often apparent, but their instinct is not to judge. Instead, it’s to protect.
The directors chose to edit out the boys’ answer to the one question you and I need — what they feel about the road accident — before deciding whether we like or don’t like these boys. It’s an intriguing choice.
I like that the film had the confidence to force us to decide without the answer we desperately seek. Because these boys don’t.