Bawaal Hindi Movie

Feature Film | 2023 | Drama
There is engaging marital drama in Bawaal. The performances are good and the filmmaking is nice in parts. But the insensitive treatment of its material makes it hard to embrace.
Jul 22, 2023 By Sreejith Mullappilly

Where To Watch:
   Amazon Prime

Director Nitesh Tiwari's 'Bawaal' is a movie about transformations. Varun Dhawan plays Ajay, someone who cares only about his image. He agrees to a marriage with Janhvi Kapoor's Nisha only because she is beautiful, smart, and has a first-class family. Nisha tells him that she has epilepsy, but it does not matter to Ajju Bhaiyya as he knows that she fits into his life facade as an image-building wife. But their relationship becomes strained when Ajay starts to feel insecure about having a wife whom he himself describes as a 'defective piece'. In actuality, it is Ajay who has defects.

Tiwari then goes on to show how Ajay transforms into a more sensitive man. The route he uses to show us the transformation of his protagonist is at once interesting and frustrating. The two characters of the film tiptoe through the various locations of World War II, including Paris, Normandy, and Auschwitz. Once, a friend told me that you come out with a different sense of how the world works each time you go out and explore it. By putting its protagonists in WW II locations across Europe, Tiwari is only trying to show how a journey transforms travelers and how the past serves as a guiding light for the present and future.

There are interesting ideas in Bawaal, for sure, but the film also treats its WW II backdrop insensitively. For instance, in one scene, a character says that every relationship goes through its own version of Auschwitz. Really? I mean, it can be frustrating to be stuck in a marriage, but it never compares to the horrors of the Holocaust. A more generous viewer may put this down to a case of oversight or lazy writing, but it is a whole lot worse than it sounds. History and travel are cannon fodder for message-heavy entertainment, but better filmmakers use these to tell moving tales of transformation. Films like Lage Raho Munna Bhai and Swades are better examples of how history and a journey transform people.

Now, its insensitive handling of history is the least of the film's problems. In terms of its sensibilities, Bawaal is regressive. The movie has a male protagonist saying all sorts of insensitive things to his wife and putting her through so much trauma. But she chooses to persist with the man because, apparently, every relationship requires a bit of time to heal itself, and everyone deserves some more time to transform themselves. Fair enough, but why is it that a woman in cinema must undergo all the trauma and bide her time to see if things change while the man gets to quietly tread the transformational path?

Even an AI tool may produce a better script than the Bawaal screenplay, but the movie is no write-off. If you are willing to overlook its insensitivity and political incorrectness, there is some engaging marital drama in Bawaal. The performances for the central characters are good. Varun Dhawan goes from comedy to serious mode effortlessly and emotes the hefty themes of the movie quite well. Even in a near-one-note role, Janhvi Kapoor does a good job of portraying the trials and tribulations of a woman with a dangerous health condition and a marriage problem. Some of the filmmaking is also nice, like the moment where Janhvi Kapoor admires the beauty of Parisian architecture through a car's window.

Sreejith Mullappilly