The very first 20 minutes of 'Bala' will give even a cinema-illiterate person an idea of the last 20 minutes. The movie is just a comma of the comedy storytelling tradition that unreasonably metastasizes into a message vehicle.
Bal Mukund Shukla A.K.A Bala (Ayushmann) starts off as a boy who is proud of his flowing hair that is the cynosure of his amongst the girls. It is quite impressive to see hair playing a character.
Bala mocks a coloured girl Likita (Bhumi Pednekar) and his bald teacher which gives a sure indication that Karma will get even-stevens with Bala. Does Bala survive its wrath forms the rest of the movie.
We are introduced to the world of Bala and Kanpur or 'Kaanepur' as it is colloquially called, in a smooth manner. The 2-chaired saloons, kachori stalls, tangled lamp-post wires of Kanpur is well gelled with the newfound TikTok obsession and its wide reach.
TikTok product Pari Mishra (Yami Gautam) goes to the lengths of becoming an ad model. A good product placement that does little to the screenplay's progression. Yet Yami's modelling stint pre-Bollywood, comes of good use.
An opportunity to make this movie a hilariously beautiful triangle love story between Yami, Ayush and Bhumi is shockingly missed. The baldness angle was well enough to make this an engaging watch.
Yami-Ayushmann's chirpily love and Ayushmann-Bhumi's love-hate combos made the first half pretty good. Given the success this combos have basked in the past years, the 2nd half had to be at least to that mark set by them if not above it. Bhumi's dark skin make-up too gives an impression of 'make up' quite often. Her English while in court is different and unaccented compared to her otherwise Hindi like English.
Since 'Bala' has Bhumi-Ayush in it there has to be Seema Pahwa, who pulls off her role quite neatly. Then there is a naakawala Bhaiya in Jaaved Jaafrey to rescue Bala, whose presence and wordplays give a slight rib-tickle. The rest of the characters are irrelevant.
Unfortunately, 'Bala' 's positives are marred by the 2nd half's screenplay that meanders a lot from the crux, making the-have-to-be-interesting act 3 tedious. You get confused, whether Ayushmann wants Yami back or is open for Bhumi and why should Ayushmann fight a case to lose it so easily to Yami's one line rhetoric?
Why should Ayushmann be confident about his baldness, while cracking jokes about someone else's complexion and body types? Why should Bhumi assert that she isn't embarrassed about her skin complexion by just yelling she isn't, when it just resonates that she painstakingly rises above her inferiority complex?
The problem with comedy genre in Bollywood is, the makers fear they could be labelled as insensitive and irresponsible. Though films should not condone bullying and body-shaming, it shouldn't needlessly juxtaposition as well by forcing a message.
Erectile dysfunction came in the way of Ayush's marriage in Shubh Mangal Savdhaan (SMS) but the acceptance of this issue comes organically. But, the self-acceptance of Ayush in 'Bala' of his baldness is too contrived and unjustified given the way he beat himself for that.
Kanpur's pulse is decently mapped by Anuj Rakesh Dhawan's camera. Songs are forgettable, but it is also forgivable when you are thrown into a maze-like screenplay in the second half.
'Bala' is definitely not in the league of the earlier Yami-Bhumi-Ayush works but if you have an appetite to watch another comedy film that needlessly veers to message-telling, then it's definitely a one-time enterprise.