Bobby Jasoos: Challenging Stereotypes

Until  I saw the trailer just before watching this movie in the theater, I had never heard of this film before. Directed by Samar Shaikh, Bobby Jasoos centers around Bilkis Ahmed alias Bobby (Vidya Balan), a strong-willed independent go-getter who aspires to be a detective and solve major cases. The rest of the plot centers on the journey of her career as a detective and the types of situations and people she encounters while on-the-run solving cases.

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The oldest daughter of a respectable family in a small town near Hyderabad, Bobby confidently and comfortably flaunts the “Indian tourist in America” look throughout the film by wearing sneakers with salwar kameezes, accompanied by her backpack. Additionally, she pulls off amazing disguises and costumes to discreetly snoop around on and among friends, family, and acquaintances. Bobby is a hatke Muslim woman who gets inspired by watching episodes of CID and transcends traditional female gender roles in every way possible. It’s very empowering for Shaikh to portray a Muslim woman in such an emancipated and liberated way because it shows his attempt to break away from stereotypes about women’s roles in religion, particularly in Islam, which has been mislabeled as a female-oppressive faith. In stark contrast to Bobby’s emancipation is the conservative nature of Bobby’s father (Rajendra Gupta). In one particular scene, Bobby gives her father her first salary but he refuses to accept it, saying that a woman’s salary will never be used to provide for their household expenses as long as he, the male breadwinner, is still alive. However, this doesn’t put Bobby’s hopes or self-esteem down; she keeps trudging through all her difficulties, in both the private sphere at home as well as the public sphere at work as a detective.
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The infusion of Muslim culture in Hyderabad provides an interesting backdrop for this detective comedy flick, as does the distinctive Hyderabadi accent in which all the characters of the town speak to one another. It provides the perfect setting to develop the charming love story between Bobby and Tasawur (Ali Fazal), a TV journalist who is scared to stand up to his father. Although the romance is not the focus of the film, it is a nice break from the cognitive skills required for the jasoosi portions and appeals to both laypersons and intellectuals watching the film. Unlike the majority of Bollywood romantic comedies where the hero and heroine definitely end up together, the ending of the Bobby-Tasawur love story is left conspicuously vague, which is interesting because it further stresses the lack of emphasis placed on romance, highlighting its role as more of a natural and convenient affair rather than one pursued through consistent effort.
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Samar Shaikh does a good job of maintaining the mystery associated with Bobby’s clients throughout the film. The interweaving of intrigue and suspense with humor keeps the movie light and easy to watch. For a Hindi film, it is relatively short – only 2 hours – but this length is perfect in order to fully tease out and resolve any conflicts and intricacies in the story. In terms of direction, one great thing is that there are no item numbers or overly violent action scenes. It is a very clean movie and quite kid-friendly. Brinda’s choreography is very unique and complements Bobby’s personality well. It was also a pleasant surprise to see Dia Mirza as one of the producers for the film. Another shoutout must be given to Vidya’s costume designers and makeup artists for doing a fantastic job with her disguises and outfits in the film. Due credit must also be given to Shantanu Moitra for mesmerizing the audience with his beautiful songs and background score.
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Final Verdict: Bobby Jasoos is a film that anybody from young children, to young couples, to the young-at-heart can enjoy. As expected, Vidya Balan carries the show with her pre-attained hero status and the other actors in the film support her really well. In addition to the fun, entertainment, and nautanki in this jasoosi comedic drama, there is also a pinch of glamor and romance for those who want something more traditionally Bollywood.
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