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B.A. Pass 2 Movie Review: Repeat The Year

Directed by Shadab Khan, the film plays like a broken record, with jaded storytelling and no sense of length

Rahul DesaiRahul Desai

September 15, 2017 | 10:09 AM

FC Rating

★★★★★
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Director: Shadab Khan

Cast: Kritika Sachdeva, Sasho Satiiysh Saarathy, Sanghmitra Hitaishi, Saurabh Dubey

Neha Singh (newbie Kritika Sachdeva), a B.A. graduate from a fairly privileged background in Bhopal (we see her parents and elder sister in the posh living room quite often), convinces her reluctant father (Saurabh Dubey) to send her to Mumbai. He mocks her English Literature roots. It is of no use in the real world, he says, not misguidedly. She doesn’t know what she wants to do. She arrives in the city without the mandatory VT Station-behind-immigrant shot, because she probably is rich enough to fly in. She has enough “pocket money” to live in a swanky flat on rent.

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Her so-sweet-almost-shady broker (Sasho Satiiysh Saarathy; showed potential in the Manjunath Shanmugam biopic) convinces her to become an actress. She has the looks, he insists. “I don’t have any other skills; might as well try,” she giggles. Interesting commentary on the star culture, I think. Clearly, the director has been around the circuit and back. For once, we aren’t seeing a “struggler” in a conventional sense. Films about films usually revolve around ambitious people going right or wrong. 

If only this intensely tacky film did justice to her journey, instead of turning it into yet another B-grade Madhur Bhandarkar B movie. If Heroine and Fashion had an illegitimate low-budget baby in the shady bylanes of Versova, B.A. Pass 2 is the name. 

But Neha isn’t passionate, poor or desperate to survive. We’re seeing an aimless, sheltered and accidental product, who is too flaky to do anything else. And much of this film tells us that she is a terrible actress, too – in an industry that thrives on mediocrity and plasticity, no less. It does perversely help that Sachdeva is quite a terrible actress herself. So then we have a good-looking girl who isn’t good enough at anything in life. All she knows is that she doesn’t want to get married. Perhaps this is her destiny though – her father realizes early on. And as regressive as this might sound to her, she realizes this much too late. She was brought up to enable a man, not survive as a woman. Neha, in short, is a rare cinematic character. She is worth thinking about, because there are so many like her out there.

If only this intensely tacky film did justice to her journey, instead of turning it into yet another B-grade Madhur Bhandarkar B movie. If Heroine and Fashion had an illegitimate low-budget baby in the shady bylanes of Versova, B.A. Pass 2 is the name. 

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Much of what you read above is my pondering about a personality that doesn’t deserve so much introspection. She isn’t written this way, but I’ve seen enough films to want her to be less of a cliché. I had a lot of time to think about what could have been during this 135-minute film. There isn’t an ounce of complexity otherwise; cigarettes and alcohol are still used as character-assassination tools, sex with a lower-caste man is the nadir of existence, sugar daddies are philandering cheaters, the line is blurred between “good-hearted” casting agents and glorified pimps, and sex is all about aesthetically locked fingers, closed eyes and the naked female back. 

This “sequel” is in no way related – in theme, tone or craft – to Ajay Behl’s bold predecessor, B.A. Pass. The producers are the same. This is merely designed as a cautionary tale we’ve seen far too often in films of so many different scales, intentions and genres. 

Neha gets rejected by everything and everyone, and she spirals out of hand in early-Kangana-career fashion. To be fair, if even an Indian television show thinks you’re not a competent actor, you have every right to drug yourself into oblivion. That’s literally the lowest rung of artistic rejection. There is no louder sign than this for you to go home and support your family.

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Eventually, even the film she occupies turns psychotic, and goes off on a ridiculous tangent that ends in a village. Ironically, the grainy setting – amidst the murky Oshiwara MHADA streets and hole-in-the-wall audition studios and coffee shops – is the only unintentionally authentic aspect. Because this is, for all means and purposes, a shady film about Mumbai’s shady-film culture. Everything plays on like a broken record. The storytelling is jaded. There is no sense of length. There is too much of Neha in all her screechy moods – who is by far the weakest link of her own biopic. 

Except for a perceptive Sanghmitra Hitaishi, who plays a veteran street-smart “talent” supplier, none of the film’s participants seem to understand that it is necessary to act well even to act badly. Which is a pity, because the makers seem to be very familiar with this environment. I’m not sure how to react to sleazy infomercials and post-midnight Viagra ads in a film that isn’t self-aware to notice that it is exactly what its protagonist is trying to escape. Next time, perhaps the producers should try a B.Sc. or B.E. – these are the courses that truly drive disillusioned Indian students to Bollywood with a definitive sense of purpose.

Watch the trailer of B.A. Pass 2 here: