It’s the sort of superficiality where Nargis Fakhri sprints about New York City in headphones and in a Def Leppard tee to assert her identity as a music-obsessed DJ and Riteish Deshmukh sports a grungy look to realise Bollywood’s definition of street.
Occupying this tired space are also a bunch of oddballs called Grease, Paper and Vajya (Dharmesh Yelande, Aditya Kumar and Ram Menon) and their loony dreams, introduced to the viewer in Vijay Raaz’s sprightly voice-over, lending the scenes wit and whimsy.
If only Banjo was more about them if not specifically.
Dedicated to street musicians, Ravi Jadhav’s first Hindi film is an underdog fairy tale about four slum-dwelling small-timers of great talent and zero fortune in anticipation of a breakthrough.
Banjo makes a winsome start but takes an awfully tedious route to achieve its happily ever after.
A brand of music synonymous with Mumbai’s celebratory spirit around Ganesh Chaturthi and Navratri, it makes sense to set Banjo around the festive period. Besides creating visuals of endless dazzle, it also provides fodder for local rivalry, highlighted in a simmering Mahesh Shetty (his theme bears disturbing resemblance to one of the pieces of Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar score), which aggravates after Fakhri’s arrival on the scene.
Impressed by the unique sound of banjo orchestra, she travels to Mumbai in pursuit of a talented troupe to collaborate on a music festival. To accomplish this objective, she turns a photographer accumulating poverty porn for a leering bloke’s slum redevelopment schemes.
As ridiculous as the ploy is, it cannot beat the film’s vile obsession to project Fakhri as a dense, fashion Barbie prone to salacious gaze and sexual innuendoes. And her vapid expressions at all times do not help one bit.
Even a cringe-inducing attempt to cash in on her American accent to generate laughs, in a sequence where she abuses the afore-mentioned dealer in roadside gaalis, is more robotic than rib tickling. She’s amusing in a ‘yeah, right’ sort of way when inspiring Deshmukh and his banjo band with posters of Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin or likening them to the Fab Four.
Banjo frontman Riteish Deshmukh, whom Fakhri addresses as Tarot, doesn’t exactly pass with flying colours either. He seems too burned out to convey the raw, roguish charm of a man on the fence over transgression and better prospects.
His character craves respectability for a snubbed art form and drowns his bitterness in country liquor and admissions to an elderly bandmaster (late Janardhan Parab) who stays mum but Deshmukh’s endeavour to endear us to his hopes or sympathise with his failures is strictly average.
Between musicians who double up as goons and a encroachment arc that goes nowhere, Jadhav derails from a slum to stardom tale to tangle itself in needless complication, conflict and melodrama through murder attempts, fall from grace, awakened conscience and a supremely unconvincing rift.
By the time Banjo serves its dark horse comeback to a pounding Vishal-Shekhar spectacle laced in unabashed Maharashtrian pride, indifference has seeped in.