There she isó 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 sheís 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 ďI know how to open a car doorĒ, when a man dares being chivalrous, and doesnít shy from aggressively asking for her fee from reluctant clients (including friends). There are moments of self-doubt too; like when she canít crack a case and wonders if itís because she hasnít 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. Itís all very mysterious and suspect, but the moneyís too good to refuse.
Then on we begin the fun partó seeing Bobby in various outrageous disguises, such that (in a really amusing scene) even her own family canít recognize her. So in one scene sheís 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 thatís 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.
Itís not just the financial freedom and her career-oriented stance, itís just who she is as a person. Utterly fearless, almost in a naÔve manner, she will go knocking on the door of the local ruffian, demanding an explanation. By the way, heís 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 ďworriedĒ is worth arguing about. )
Director Samar Shaikh adds in some beautiful moments through which we glimpse what Bobbyís 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, itís hard to believe Bobby Jasoos doesnít exist in real time. You could watch the film again just to admire the performance.
As her equally romantically challenged paramour, Ali Fazal (youíll 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 ĎDespicable Meí 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 itís 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.
Itís a delectable biryani (youíll understand the reference better if you watch the film) masterfully prepared, and full of subtle flavours and heart. Donít miss!
Rating: Three and a half stars