There's nostalgia. Then there's nostalgia on crack. With Bbuddah Hoga Tera Baap, renowned Telugu director Puri Jagannath teams with AB Corp and Amitabh Bachchan to prove that Mr. Bachchan isn't, after all, old. Jagannath churns out an outlandish film - much more in style than in substance - as a tribute to the "angry young man" image of Bachchan from the 1970s. He sets out to prove that Bachchan's magic isn't gone, that he can still command complete attention onscreen and he can still kick some ass. The problem is, we all know that very well. The legendary actor hasn't gone anywhere and probably appears in more films a year than any of the young guns flooding the industry. Besides indulging Bachchan's hardcore fans to the hilt, the film offers very little in terms of novel entertainment or even a story.
Jagannath concocts the usual masala elements together - there's a bad guy with his goons (Prakash Raj in his stereotypical villain role) who has made it his mission to wipe out a righteous cop (Sonu Sood as an echo of Bachchan's youth). Meanwhile, the cop is trying to woo the pretty but mostly dull damsel (Sonal Chauhan) and alternates his aloof lovesick puppy act with casually torturing his prisoners.
Into this mix enters Vijju (Bachchan), an ex-gangster back from a long hiatus in Paris, where he runs a pub no less. He wears garish outfits, rides a Harley, and detests being called old. The character sketch isn't all that new - you might remember his rambunctious senior role as Sam in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. Except in that film he didn't thrash men half his age (or even younger) with his bare hands, something he does with style in Bbuddah... Bachchan is also given his own romantic angle in the story, however potholed and random. Hema Malini, playing his estranged wife is beautiful as always but seems to rely too much on her character from Baghban. Then there is Raveena Tandon, who makes a comeback of sorts in a guest appearance, and proves once again that she is the champion of hamming. As Kamini, she contorts her face in every which way with her schoolgirl obsession for Vijju and saps any sense of believability out of her character.
Jagannath's storytelling is choppy and, combined with the restless camera angles and schizophrenic editing, will probably invite polarized reactions from audiences. The film alternates its mood at a rapid pace, going from a heartfelt emotional scene immediately to a frantic chase scene to comic relief. But Jagannath succeeds with some witty dialogues and stylishly choreographed action sequences, of which there are plenty. Particularly memorable is when Vijju tells a charming story about a little bird almost freezing to death that is then saved by the warmth of a buffalo defecating on it. Bachchan's delivery is spot on and it serves as a funny segway into an equally clever action sequence.
All of Bachchan's moods are supplemented by the title track which follows him around throughout the film, almost to the point of nausea. The soundtrack of Bbuddah... is more effective within its context, but is mostly overshadowed by the title track.
If anything works in this film, it is undoubtedly Mr. Bachchan. The film is clearly crafted around his unwavering persona and he owns it like none other. The character of Vijju is a conglomeration of his popular roles from the likes of Deewar, Lawaaris, Don, Zanjeer and so on. There's even ample reference to that bygone era when, in an attempt to explain his past to the rookie crooks in a bar, Bachchan summons a bevy of beauties and breaks into rehashed versions of his most popular songs. It is clear at that moment that Bachchan the actor and Vijju the character are almost completely, and deliberately, interchangeable. At almost 70, he defiantly shows why he epitomizes the Hindi film industry like very few have.
Jagannath ends the film with a personal note about Bachchan's superstardom, reminiscing about the bygone days of a true hero in the movies. Bbuddah... is most clearly a personal indulgence for Jagannath, but the film goes overboard in most places. Barring Sonu Sood, the rest of the supporting cast falls on various degrees of overacting. The story is wafer-thin and the visual style of the film may push you over the edge. But Jagannath makes the film a Bachchan-fest all the way, and unashamedly so. If only he put a little more effort into giving the film some substance, it wouldn't be a disappointing venture.