Bawaal review: This concoction of World War II and relationship drama has its moments and flaws

Weak writing, morose tone of storytelling, and Janhvi Kapoor’s ineffective performance make things worse for the movie.

ByPrabhatha Rigobertha

Published:Aug 09, 2023

director Nitesh Tiwari bawaal
A downfall for Nitesh Tiwari!
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Bawaal (Hindi)

  • Cast: Varun Dhawan, Janhvi Kapoor, Mukesh Tiwari, Manoj Pahwa, and Anjuman Saxena
  • Director: Nitesh Tiwari
  • Producers: Sajid Nadiadwala and Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari
  • Music: Mithoon, Tanishk Bagchi, and Akashdeep Sengupta
  • Runtime: 2 hours 2 minutes
  • OTT platform: Amazon Prime

Nitesh Tiwari is a director who created a strong niche for himself with the likes of Dangal (2016) and Chhichhore (2019). Both films were not only box office hits but also got rave reviews. As a result, a lot was expected from Bawaal.

Unfortunately, his latest directorial doesn’t quite reach expectations in spite of a solid set-up.

Synopsis

The film begins in Lucknow with the heroic entry of the protagonist Ajay Dixit fondly called Ajju (Varun Dhawan). Looking at his swag and the adoration of the locals, viewers think that Ajju is doing a high-profile job.

But actually, he is a history teacher. However, it is quite a mystery how he got the job, given his ignorance of the subject and his lack of interest.

Ajay Dixit has a fake aura that he himself builds over a period of time. For him, image is everything.

bawaal still

A poster of ‘Bawaal’. (Twitter)

In reality, Ajju is just a man-child and also a big liar. He marries Nisha (Janhvi Kapoor) but keeps away from her.

Nisha was a strong independent woman before the rushed marriage. She is now patiently waiting for her husband to accept her even after nine months of marriage.

Ajju never accepts Nisha as a wife because of her epileptic fits.

The self-made image of Ajju comes crashing down when he slaps a student in the class for asking a question about World War II. The student turns out to be the son of an MLA (Mukesh Tiwari).

Expectedly, all hell breaks loose and Ajju is temporarily suspended.

He comes up with a plan of travelling to the various locations in Europe which were ravaged by World War II and teach the students about the tragedy live.

In order to convince his father (Manoj Pahwa), Ajju plans to take Nisha along and paints a picture of wanting to repair his relationship.

His parents fall for this and give him the required money. The rest of Bawaal is about how Ajju undergoes a transformation and learns some important life lessons.

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Positives

Nitesh Tiwari bawaal

A still from ‘Bawaal’. (Supplied)

Before getting into the negatives, Nitesh Tiwari needs to be appreciated for how he uses World War II as a narrative tool.

He uses the horrors to make some important points. For example, in a scene, there is a clear message about the futility of war.

Similarly, in another scene, Nisha talks about the greed of Hitler and explains how not being content with oneself leads to disastrous consequences. 

The scene depicting the gas chamber incident is also quite poignant.

Mitesh Mirchandani’s cinematography in the World War II portions is successful in bringing alive the horrors of those times.

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Performances

varun dhawan janhvi kapoor bawaal

Varun Dhawan and Janhvi Kapoor in ‘Bawaal’. (Twitter)

Of the two leads, Varun Dhawan is the clear winner. His character Ajju shares more than one similarity with Badri in Badrinath Ki Dulhania (2017).

In spite of the similarities, Varun does a terrific job of portraying the different shades. In fact, on many occasions, he seems to be acting on behalf of Janhvi Kapoor as well.

Janhvi Kapoor seems to have walked straight out of the sets of Mili (2022) and Good Luck Jerry (2022). It is puzzling how a supposedly strong woman would stay with a husband for nine months who insults her on every occasion.

Alia’s Vaidehi in Badrinath Ki Dulhania had far more spine, though she eventually ends up with Badri. But that was only after he changes, and becomes a better person.

Janhvi’s expressions hardly change. It looks as if she is forced to act.

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Flaws

A still from Bawaal

A still from ‘Bawaal’. (Twitter)

The biggest issue with Bawaal is the lack of a strong foundation for the love story between Nisha and Ajju.

The combination of weak writing coupled with Janhvi Kapoor’s ineffective performance makes things worse for the movie.

Bawaal also suffers from a morose tone of storytelling. There aren’t many light moments that make your heart flutter.

The lovey-dovey moments can be counted on the tip of the fingers.

The music composed by Mithoon and others isn’t bad but could have been much better, given the genre of the film. The need is for more soulful songs.

Final take

In a nutshell, Bawaal is a huge downfall for Nitesh Tiwari.

(Views expressed are personal.)