Bawaal Is A Tone-Deaf Attempt On Sustaining Troubled Marriage

In Bawaal, the underlying themes of World War II follow through insensitive statements that are not only deeply problematic but also display narcissism and disrespect the stories of numerous victims

Nikita Gupta
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Bawaal is streaming on Amazon Prime Video. File Image.

The story of Bawaal revolves around the character of Ajay (Varun Dhawan), popularly known as Ajju across the city, whose sole purpose in life is to work and maintain the fake image he has created over the years.

Following in the same pursuit, he stumbles upon Nisha (Janhvi Kapoor) through an arranged marriage setup. Unfortunately for him, Nisha suffers from epilepsy. Despite her telling him the truth beforehand, Ajju loses his cool when he finds her having seizures on the day of marriage. The scene instils a fear in Ajju's mind that it will stain his long and hard-built image.

The film picks ten months after the wedding when Ajju's incontrollable anger leads to him slapping a politician's son during one of his history lessons. This begins a chain of events. To save himself from MLA's wrath and avoid any serious enquiry but moreover to maintain his image, Ajju presents as if all he's concerned about our students and therefore decides to take a Europe tour visiting sites from World War II and live streaming the lessons from the same locations. The only catch: he is forced to take Nisha with him as his parents wouldn't finance the trip otherwise. What follows is the breakdown of fake ego, acceptance of each other and realisation of love.

Dhawan effortlessly embodies Ajju's character, employing charm to establish a love-hate dynamic due to specific traits. His seamless transition from cockiness to humour to disaster feels entirely authentic, devoid of any artificiality. 

In several interviews for the promotion of the film, Nitesh Tiwari talked about how his father was a history teacher and always wanted to travel across Europe. Films or any form of art come out better and more beautiful when it comes from a personal space.

Attempting to contextualise the horror and envision  World War II is utterly futile. The comparison that follows through insensitive statements is an exercise that is not only deeply problematic, but it also displays narcissism and disrespects the stories of numerous victims, whose experiences should never be subject to scrutiny. Bawaal could be considered one of the most tone-deaf films in recent Hindi cinema history. 

Holocaust And Romance: Cringe-Max


In this movie, a distorted perception of romance and self-worth blinds the narrative to such an extent that one of the most significant human tragedies is used as a metaphor to sustain it. Scenes like the visit to Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam, after which Ajju is inspired to pose a question to Nisha: What would she do if she had only one day to live? What follows is them dressing up for a date and getting drinks while dancing to a ridiculous song.

Bawaal's most insensitive moments culminate during the couple's visit to Auschwitz, where the characters envision themselves trapped inside the gas chambers. This distressingly abhorrent portrayal uses the Holocaust merely as a narrative tool for the characters to confront their fears and salvage their troubled marriage. The historical gravity dissipates when they reunite, as the film transitions from black and white to colour, creating a disconcerting effect.

Bawaal, hindered by an unstable script and lacklustre execution, tries to be an escapist film, but it falls short due to its bordering on deception. Instead of addressing the present-day miseries and fears, it attempts to divert the audience's focus to the atrocities of the Nazis in Europe over eight decades ago.

Views expressed by the author are their own.

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Bawaal Varun Dhawan Jhanvi Kapoor