Saturday, March 9, 2013


Release date:
March 8, 2013
Tigmanshu Dhulia


Jimmy Sheirgill, Mahie Gill, Irrfan, Soha Ali Khan, Rajeev Gupta, Raj Babbar, Deepraj Rana, Pravesh Rana

At one point in Saheb Biwi aur Gangster Returns, a slimy politician tries desperately to switch off his laptop on which a porn film is loudly playing. Gasps and moans emanate from the screen as he struggles to turn off the film even as a journalist enters his office. Don’t look, the neta tells the bemused visitor... If ever there was a single scene that could encapsulate a writer-director’s skill, it is this. Rajeev Gupta as the politico is brilliant, so is Irrfan as the visitor. Nothing about this scene is over-stated which is what makes it even funnier than it might have been in exaggerated form. And in the deftness with which he delivers this understated hilarity, Tigmanshu Dhulia – SBAG Returns’ director and co-writer – proves yet again why he is one of the best talents of contemporary Bollywood.

And so Dhulia is back with Saheb (Jimmy Sheirgill), Biwi (Mahie Gill) and a new Gangster (Irrfan as Indrajeet Singh) in this delightful sequel to the engaging Saheb Biwi aur Gangster of 2011. SBAG Returns begins where the first film left off: Aditya Pratap Singh a.k.a. Saheb is the violence-prone, arrogant though cash-strapped scion of an erstwhile royal family in small-town India, turning to electoral politics in an effort to hold on to the power his ancestors once wielded. Following the developments of the first film, he is now confined to a wheelchair, struggling to cope with his disability and the awareness that his wife Madhavi Devi is not the pliable partner-in-crime or doormat he would have liked her to be. Madhavi is still an alcoholic, still emotionally unstable and still bitter about her husband’s wandering eye. That eye wanders in this film towards a rival raja’s daughter Ranjana (Soha Ali Khan) who happens to be the one true love of Indrajeet. Ranjana becomes a pawn in a power game between these rajas of yore whose political and personal battles get inextricably intertwined through the film.

Dhulia and editor Rahul Shrivastava sustain an absorbing pace almost throughout SBAG Returns, making this a highly entertaining watch. If Randeep Hooda was the pick of an excellent cast in Part 1, then here the honours go to Irrfan who makes evil attractive and manages to lend charm even to his awkward love making. About that love making though, it must be said that Soha seems to have considerable reservations about exposure and sexual explicitness, which becomes painfully evident in the bedroom encounter between Ranjana and Indrajeet. One of the pluses of SBAG1 was the gay abandon with which Mahie and Randeep threw themselves into their very wild sexcapades; neither the actors nor the camera were pussyfooting around the matter, thus giving us some of the most extensive and most tastefully torrid sex scenes ever seen in a Bollywood film. In SBAG Returns though, it’s Soha’s hesitation, not her character’s sexual reticence that we seem to see on screen in a very brief scene.

Jimmy and Rajeev Gupta deliver wonderful performances that make you yearn for more meaty roles for both actors in more films. Mahie too ably carries forward the chameleon-like transformations of Madhavi Devi from SBAG. If there is a weak link in this chain it’s the characterisation of Ranjana by the writers (story: Dhulia and Kamal Pandey; screenplay and dialogues: Dhulia) and Soha’s inadequate performance of this character. When she changes her goals so dramatically mid-stream, her motivations for doing so needed to go beyond the hell-hath-no-fury-like-a-woman-scorned cliché to be convincing. (It was a challenge writing that sentence without spoilers; if it sounds obtuse now, do re-read it after you see the film.) Elsewhere there is some detailing that should have been taken care of. The very Anglicised Ranjana’s casualwear may have been acceptable to her father (Raj Babbar) but seems out of place in the home of her outrageously conservative, patriarchal beau. And in a song featuring Anjana Sukhani, in a scene featuring a miserable Ranjana, the editor throws in a long shot of a brightly smiling Ranjana dancing with her co-stars between shots of her morose face in the same group. Since Ranjana is crucial to the proceedings, none of this can be ignored ... so it’s a good thing that the film’s gripping momentum and crisp dialogues are designed to lull us into a forgiving mood.

Rakesh Ranjan’s sound design in SBAG Returns deserves a special mention. If you enter the hall knowing well that there’s a possibility of guns going off all around, yet find yourself (like I was) getting startled at every single bullet fired, you know the audiographer is doing everything right. Equally worth mentioning is the effective use of Sandeep Chowta’s background score to build up the tension in the film; the songs, on the other hand, are not up to the mark.

The decaying havelis, the remnants of grandeur in the formal costumes, the choice of locations all contribute to building up the ominous atmosphere of desperation in the lives of these former rajas. The many allusions to our current political scenario are just as enjoyable: like the state that’s on the verge of being split, not in the interests of the people but of the politicos who want that division; like the politician who wants his wife to be a mere front for him; like the Machiavellian moves before a crucial vote in a state assembly; the presence of a Raja Bhaiyya in the story; and of course, the porn-watching politician.

It’s such a joy to be able to say this in a Bollywood that rarely makes good sequels … Saheb Biwi aur Gangster was a fun political thriller; SBAG Returns is even better.

Rating (out of five): ***1/2

CBFC Rating (India):
Running time:
145 minutes

Photograph courtesy:,_Me_Aur_Main    

1 comment:

  1. am just from the movie. nice movie!..entertaining and good humour indeed. worth to spend time on it. a light hearted movie. the movie seems small budget and objectives achieved by the producers.