There she is— sitting on a ledge towering over all Mughalpura, a small town in Hyderabad, watching the throbbing sea of activity below. This is Bilkis a.k.a. Bobby (Vidya), and she’s dreaming of becoming a super-successful private detective in her hometown.
As a character Bobby is utterly lovable. You see her roaming the streets in sneakers, a dusty backpack with a packet of Parle-G tucked in right next to the torch, and colourful, even if mismatched, clothes.
She replies with a “I know how to open a car door”, when a man dares being chivalrous, and doesn’t shy from aggressively asking for her fee from reluctant clients (including friends). There are moments of self-doubt too; like when she can’t crack a case and wonders if it’s because she hasn’t done a proper course in sleuthing. But such doubts are soon brushed off as she hits upon yet another ingenious idea to crack the case.
While doing small-time detective work for the neighbourhood folks, she lands a really big gig. The unsmiling client in the fancy car is Anees Khan (Kiran Kumar), who offers Bobby a lot of money for the assignment. It’s all very mysterious and suspect, but the money’s too good to refuse.
Then on we begin the fun part— seeing Bobby in various outrageous disguises, such that (in a really amusing scene) even her own family can’t recognize her. So in one scene she’s a beggar, in the other a bangle-seller, and then a palm-reader. Defying age, gender, and religion, her disguises are a hoot!
Romance seeps in very, very unexpectedly in her life, and that’s super-fun to watch too.
The film traces a single big case to its conclusion. The case and the revelation are not terribly thrilling, but have their exciting moments.
The joy is in the journey from Bobby landing the case to her solving it. We see her grow, from a one-desk office to a bigger space, right opposite an established detective agency. We see her struggling with the dynamics of a conventional family system that overtly and covertly is uncomfortable by her independent streak. And she does have that in abundance.
It’s not just the financial freedom and her career-oriented stance, it’s just who she is as a person. Utterly fearless, almost in a naïve manner, she will go knocking on the door of the local ruffian, demanding an explanation. By the way, he’s also one of her clients. So you see... no fear.
Her troubled relationship with her father (Rajendra Gupta, superb) is another interesting aspect of the film. (Why his chauvinism is brushed away as being “worried” is worth arguing about. )
Director Samar Shaikh adds in some beautiful moments through which we glimpse what Bobby’s all about. Like the time she takes her family shopping to a fancy mall with her first big earning, and helps her frightened mother up the escalator; or that beautiful moment in the mosque where she prays with such optimistic faith; and that final meltdown with her father.
And what to say of Vidya Balan? An artist unmatched, she understands the character down to its very soul and gives such a convincing performance, it’s hard to believe Bobby Jasoos doesn’t exist in real time. You could watch the film again just to admire the performance.
As her equally romantically challenged paramour, Ali Fazal (you’ll remember him from Fukrey) is very good. Their chemistry grows stronger as the romance progresses, which is superb.
Other solid performances by Rajendra Gupta (as her ‘Despicable Me’ father), Supriya Pathak as her supportive mother and Tanvi Azmi as the aunt uplift the film further.
The only grouse with the film is that the case could have had more heft; after all it’s the only case the film really concentrates on. Still the writer-director team of Sanyukta Chawla Shaikh and Samar Shaikh do very well indeed. While the writing gives us some memorable scenes and heartfelt dialogue, the direction folds in Hyderabadi nuance within the performances and the story.
It’s a delectable biryani (you’ll understand the reference better if you watch the film) masterfully prepared, and full of subtle flavours and heart. Don’t miss!
Rating: Three and a half stars