Baboo Band Baaja: simple, compelling underdog story

By Nandita Dutta • Published on April 14, 2012

Director: Rajesh Pinjani, Actors: Mitali Jagtap Varadkar, Milind Shinde, Vivek Chabukswar

[S]omebody in the village has died and Baboo accompanies his father who is a local band-wallah to the funeral–the opening sequence of Baboo Band Baaja. It is established that Baboo’s father earns his living by playing on the occasions of births and deaths in the village. The same day, Baboo on his way back home from school loses his school bag, and thus begins a journey of penury and desperation. The school teacher won’t allow Baboo to sit in school without a uniform, school bag and books. Baboo Band Baaja unfolds as a tale of individual dreams and desperations: the kid’s innocent wish to go to school, his mother’s indomitable will to get him educated and his stubborn father’s mundane desire to absorb him in his band party.

Quite simple, isn’t it? Therein lies the beauty of regional cinema. It draws attention to such basic things in life that an urban viewer inevitably takes for granted. It gives a glimpse of the life of 70% of the Indian population, where dreams aren’t always grand but the route extremely harsh. Baboo’s mother Shirmi sells utensils in exchange for old clothes. She is ecstatic when a woman gives her a khaki pant in return for a large container, an oversized one which will pass off as school uniform for her son. She takes up motley jobs to be able to buy books for him.

Baboo, at one point tired of trying all the tricks, resorts to theft to be able to buy textbooks. Baboo’s father Jaggu, on the other hand, is distraught to hear that Baboo lost his rattles that he had kept in his schoolbag. ‘It doesn’t matter to you that he lost his school-bag. But you are mad at him because he lost the rattles,’ Shirmi reprimands Jaggu. Jaggu lives a frustrating life of a small-time band-wallah who is reeling under the burden of an ancestral profession which he wants to pass on to his son. He has a dream too—to have his own band party named after his son ‘Baboo Band Baaja’. Education can’t benefit anyone in the village, he believes.

As the film advances, one realizes that there are some themes that never fail to work. An adorable kid who wants to go to school pitted against poverty and harsh circumstances makes for a compelling character. The biggest resistance towards achieving what he wants comes from his own father. One waits to see if he will eventually win over the odds and fulfill his dreams, and that of his mother.

The resolution of the characters’ problems in Baboo Band Baaja is rather simplistic, but the journey of the characters makes the film worthwhile. For a first time director, Rajesh Pinjani has pulled off a simple story with notable conviction and light heartedness without veering towards sentimentality, save the superfluous tragedy in the end.

The film belongs to Mitali Jagtap Varadkar (Shirmi) and Vivek Chabukswar (Baboo) who won national awards for Baboo Band Baaja.  Varadkar has delivered a stellar performance as Baboo’s mother while the kid Vivek as Baboo seems perfectly cut out for the role. Milind Shinde as Baboo’s father deserves a special mention too. Brilliant and natural performances by these three actors make it look like a slice of life film.

The film deserves to be watched because of the performances and the simple underdog story that hooks the viewer till the end.

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