The 2005 movie Bunty Aur Babli ended with the suggestion that its lovable confidence tricksters had returned to the game after enduring unbearable domesticity. Actors Rani Mukerji and Abhishek Bachchan took one last slow-mo walk towards the camera and promised they were back to swindling the gullible.
At least one of them has kept the promise. Bachchan isn’t around to reprise his role in Bunty Aur Babli 2 (he has been replaced by Saif Ali Khan). But Mukerji has returned with a vengeance. Dressed in clothes that resemble the plumage of an exotic bird from the Amazon rainforest and furiously vamping it up, Mukerji is the most enthusiastic member of a reboot that struggles to justify its existence.
This time, it’s about the “OG” cons versus the ‘’2.0” ones, director Varun V Sharma’s schematic and occasionally funny screenplay keeps telling us. Rakesh (Khan) and Vimmi (Mukerji) are reminded of their more flamboyant past as Bunty and Babli when a series of frauds are committed in their names. Police officer Jatayu (Pankaj Tripathi) recruits Rakesh and Vimmi to trap the copycats.
The younger pair, Kunal (Siddhant Chaturvedi) and Sonia (Sharvari), are far more sanctimonious than their predecessors. Unemployed and unable to raise the capital for the business they want to launch, Kunal and Sonia raid their closet of disguises and accents to extract serious cash from their marks.
Vimmi is especially furious. Our brand name is under threat, she fulminates. Sounding exactly like a movie producer who wants to cash in on imagined value, Vimmi goads Rakesh into saving their reputation.
Vimmi – and Rani Mukerji – seems to the only one invested in this production. Combining slapstick comedy with oomph (and backed by a most enviable collection of eyeshades), Mukerji provides continuity with the previous movie as well as reminds the rest of the cast that she can still steal scenes whenever she wants.
Siddhant Chaturvedi and Sharvari are game for the latest game, but don’t have much to give beyond millennial cool. At least Sharvari makes a bigger impact than her co-star. Saif Ali Khan hams dutifully, Pankaj Tripathi is twinkly-eyed as always, and thus the 138-minute movie rolls on towards its inevitable next con: the franchise.