“Saheb, Biwi Aur Gangster 3.”… Very rich people behave very badly in this underwhelming, but not unwatchable, sequel

Posted on July 29, 2018


Spoilers ahead…

It’s not surprising that Bollywood hasn’t figured out what to do with Mahie Gill. Unlike an Alia Bhatt or a Deepika Padukone, she’s no child-woman and she doesn’t invite your sympathy. Her loopy, big-eyed grin says she’s capable of taking care of herself, thank you very much, which is why she has to wait for something like Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster trilogy to let us know what she’s got. She plays Madhvi, who has married into a Rajasthani royal family, and is one of the great nutcase-heroines of Hindi cinema — she’s more of a vamp, really, like the femme fatales from classic noir. Only, she doesn’t need a “criminal” reason — like laying hands on insurance money — to toy with men (Randeep Hooda in Part 1; Irrfan Khan in Part 2; Sanjay Dutt in Part 3, plus a polo player she picks up at a party and later sends home blue-balled). Her husband’s (Aditya, played by Jimmy Sheirgill) neglect has reduced her to a schemer. A woman of her appetites and ambition needs something to do with her time, and you just can’t see Madhvi hosting tea parties or worse, taking up embroidery.

Still, the neglect gnaws at her. When Aditya returns home from prison (which is where Madhvi wants him, and keeps conspiring to keep him), she asks, “Kya hum achche the ya Ranjana?” Was I better, or was Ranjana? The latter, if you remember from Part 2, is now the “Chhoti Bahu” of the household. What a deliriously twisted reimagination of Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam these films have become! (The tag line could be: Very rich people behaving very badly!) Madhvi, who was the Chhoti Bahu equivalent of Part 1 (she was called Chhoti Rani), has graduated. She’s not only the senior spouse, she’s also moved on from MLA to MP, handling royal duties in the absence of Aditya, and when he returns and takes over her job, she chafes (smiling sweetly, though). Soon, while he’s raising the issue of privy purses to hog media attention and announce that he’s back, she’s back to plotting. I laughed when Madhvi says the child she’s carrying is Aditya’s. Really? Okay, maybe it’s true. Who knows?

The first film of this most unlikely of film franchises — the closest I can think of in this noir-ish space is the Sin City duology — showed us a side of royals we don’t think about. In the internet era, the palaces have become luxury hotels and mujra dancers — even the ones like Suhani (played by Chitrangada Singh in a posh and ill-fitting accent), whose families have been patronised by royal families for generations — refuse to obey summons from the royal court. “I will only dance for your elder brother,” Suhani tells Vijay (Deepak Tijori), who has come to fetch her. We don’t know, yet, that she’s talking about the Sanjay Dutt character (named Uday), though we have seen him earlier on, playing Russian roulette, a detail conveniently left out of Sanju. The writing takes its time filling in these connections, these relationships. I enjoyed the slow-fuse dramatics.

But there are too many loopholes. The Guru Dutt/Bhoothnath equivalent — the faithful servant — has a daughter who promises great deeds (she has an IT degree, and knows her way around spying equipment), but she’s lost in the thicket of plotting. The Uday-Suhani love scenes are a drag. (We’re even subjected to a nineties’ style duet, with Sameer-esque lyrics like “Yeh pyaar na ho khatam.”) Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster 3 is a bit of an underwhelmer, but not unwatchable — and the reason goes back to what the Randeep Hooda character said in Part 1: “Is haveli ke sab log pagal hain.” Everyone’s bonkers — even the filmmaker. He takes Madan Mohan’s timeless ode to yearning, Lag jaa gale, and transforms it into a fun little moment shared by Madhvi and Ranjana. Both of them yearn for Aditya’s love, but for now, they’re content to twirl around like debutantes at a ball. I walked away wondering if this trilogy wouldn’t be better off compacted as a 10-episode Season 1 on Netflix. That would take the pressure off from having to be standalone movies. Plus, there’s a knockout of a cliff-hanger.

Copyright ©2018 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi