Riteish Deshmukh, Nargis Fakhri, Dharmesh Yalande, Luke Kenny, Aditya Kumar, Leslie
Krishika Lulla
Ravi Jadhav
Kapil Sawant, Nikhil Mehrotra, Ravi Jadhav
Musical Action Drama

Featuring the versatile actor Riteish Deshmukh, exploring the popular Mumbai-style street music, a rich girl-poor boy romance, chasing dreams against all odds, action punches … 

Well, director Ravi Jadhav, who has a list of impressive Marathi films to his credit, had all his ingredients in place for his big Bollywood debut; however, despite all of this, his final product – Banjo doesn’t engage as it should have and there is not much to admire about the film either.

Except for, of course, Riteish Deshmukh, who in his brand new rugged avatar plays the much-in-demand banjo player — Tarraat, and yeah, his entry shot is whistle-worthy.  Well, Tarraat and his ‘band-of-boys’ — Paper (Aditya Kumar), Grease (Dharmesh), and Vaaja (Leslie) are the best banjo players in the city but the narratives take so long to establish each of them in a very cliché style that they just bring out a yawn and that too at the beginning of the film. 

Coming back to the plot, so the thumping beats of these stars of the Mumbai streets have even reached the ears of the New York-based musician — Chris (Nargis Fakhri), courtesy her sound engineer Mumbai-based amigo — Mike (Luke Kenny). Next thing we know, Chris is on a plane to Mumbai as she wants to record two songs with these roadside musicians and submit it for a competition.

Cool plan, but she doesn’t know where to find them. However, the passionate music junkie is determined to hunt them down. Her quest to find them takes her to a slum survey inspector, who is willing to help her only if she does a survey from him. Must say, the writers have tried really hard to make this NRI’s entry into the Mumbai slums and thereby finding her coveted banjo group as logical and smooth as possible. But sometimes illogical becomes preferable than such shoddily structured and forced sequences, which just further stand out like a sore thumb in a loose script.     

As the movie moves forward taking us into the bylanes of Mumbai where poverty and dreams thrive together hand in hand, we are introduced to a bunch more characters who play an important part in introducing conflict in the screenplay. There is a rival banjo troupe, a builder, and a corporator for whom Tarraat works as an extortionist. As predictable as it can get, the band splits, just before a big performance, after Tarrat gets arrested by the police in an attempt-to-murder case. Well, we don’t need to tell you how the film finally culminates. 

While the narratives do get tiresome, the film does have few moments that bring a smile. Like the sequence when a love-struck Riteish decides to ditch his rugged look, wears formals and struts in style to meet Chris; Riteish with his easy on-screen charm has nailed the scene. Then the film also very subtly, without going over-the-top has touched upon all the popular festivals like Ganpati, Navratri and Diwali.  And then there is the dream-sequence, which is unlike any other typical Bollywood dream sequences. Yes, this one too re-creates the alp style dreamy moments but not at some exotic location, rather in the heart of slums.  Some dialogues bring out genuine laughter but the rest seem too ancient and preachy. 

Performances somehow keep you glued to the screen. Riteish nails his rockstar, rowdy, love-struck act. Nargis too is easy on the eye and delivers a decent performance. Luke Kenny as Mike is pretty good. So is Dharmesh as Grease, however, you do wish that his dancing talent could have been utilized somewhere in the film. No point casting a dancer in the film and not give him a dance number, right? The rest of the supporting cast too is decent.    

The problem with the film is its slow-paced narratives, which don’t take you to any extreme highs or lows. One definitely expected a lot more from Ravi Jadhav. A director of his calibre, with a subject like this, could have taken the film to another level. But alas what we have here is a few interesting glimpses of Mumbai and decent performances that keep the movie afloat and make it for an average film.


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