Manoj Tiwari’s Global Baba is both superbly timed and timeless. It’s about a criminal who seeks refuge from the law by donning saffron robes and setting up a cult that soon amasses enough influence to bring the local government to heel.
The transformation of Chillum Pehelwan (Abhimanyu Singh) into Global Baba (the name is inspired by a hair-cutting saloon) with the help of another history-sheeter posing as a holy man (Pankaj Tripathi) is instant and seamless. In short order, Global Baba occupies a chunk of forest land on which he sets up his ashram and dispenses nonsensical advice to the easily hypnotised masses. None of the devotees blinks at Baba’s lurid sartorial sense (he wears silken nighties and a flowing wig) or his trappings of wealth. The movie is low on psychology, and misses the opportunity to explain why the faithful might actually appreciate, rather than be repulsed by, their religious leader’s love for lucre and political power.
Global Baba soon becomes a threat to Home Minister Gullu Yadav (Akhilendra Mishra). Police chief Jacob (Ravi Kishan) takes more time than necessary to realise that the heavy-lidded guru of banality is the same thug he had apprehended a months before. Once Jacob and the minister are on to Baba’s game, they try to play their own, which involves gullible journalist Bhavna (Sandeepa Dhar), on whom whom Tripathi’s Damru dotes. Sanjay Mishra’s Bhola Pandit is among the few sane characters who sees through Global Baba’s chicanery.
Global Baba, who seems to have been inspired by the likes of Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Singh and Baba Ramdev, is a fine character, but Abhimanyu Singh doesn’t manage to convey the intensity of his charisma. Singh enigmatically smiles ever so often, but it isn't always easy to believe that he is a magnet for the masses. Pankaj Tripathi, as Global Baba’s enforcer, and Ravi Kishan, as the dutiful police officer, have the better parts, but far too much attention is given to Bhavna’s sad-sack story. Akhilendra Mishra's performance are the politician is pure pantomime.
The clarity with which director Manoj Tiwari approaches his subject isn’t always reflected in the overly busy plotting and the choppy narrative. Yet, the filmmaker makes his points adequately. People are willing to be herded like sheep. Politicians use trickster godmen for electoral gains. And all it takes to be a successful holy man is a wardrobe full of saffron and a talent for manipulation. Blind faith and cynicism take care of the rest.