Munna Bhai MBBS (2003)

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Here’s another favorite! I remember waiting for this to come out on DVD. I’d read how well it was doing in Indian theaters, I loved the story concept, and it paired Sanjay Dutt with his father Sunil Dutt, who hadn’t acted in sixteen years. I got it as soon as it was available, and I was not disappointed. In fact, I was bowled over.

This is the first Hindi film I ever saw where I actually laughed out loud and was laughing with it (I’d seen Disco Dancer and laughed too, but at it). Keep in mind that it was 2003 and I’d been watching Hindi films for less than a year; the ubiquitous Comic Side Plot still mystified me and I often felt that culturally I must be missing something that prevented me from understanding the humor. I was beginning to despair.

But this—this was a laugh-out-loud cross cultural fiesta with a squishy dil™!

I don’t know how many people saw this initially outside of India, but after the success of the follow-up film Lage Raho Munna Bhai those who hadn’t should have rushed to see it right away. I actually like MBBS better, although I loved LRMB too. But as the first Hindi film to make me feel like I was “in” on the joke, it has a special place in my heart.

Murli Prasad Sharma (Sanjay Dutt) is a don in Bombay with a gang of loyal—and even lovable—goondas. His right hand man is Circuit (Arshad Warsi), a gold chain-festooned thug who is fiercely protective of Munna (as Murli is called).

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Munna and his gang refer to themselves as “social workers” who “recover” money for people to whom it is owed. Munna has his own code of honor, much of it imbibed from his strictly honorable father (Sunil Dutt). He holds his father in awe, and to avoid disappointing him has told him that he, Munna, is a doctor. When his parents visit on their yearly vacation, Munna and his men transform their location into a hospital and themselves into doctors, orderlies and patients.

This year, though, Munna’s dad runs into an old family friend named Dr. Asthana (Boman Irani), whose daughter Chinki (Gracy Singh) was a childhood playmate of Munna’s. She has become a doctor herself and when Munna’s parents try to fix his marriage with her, the truth comes out via Asthana’s housemaid.

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Crushed, his parents go back to their village. Munna vows to make his father proud, and to avenge himself on Asthana, by becoming a doctor and getting married to Chinki. He manages to cheat his way into the best medical college in India (where Asthana is dean, and where Chinki works as a doctor too).

Within days, Munna’s cheerful good nature and “take no prisoners” methods have turned the medical establishment upside down. When he points out the inhumanity of making a dying boy’s mother fill out a form before he is treated, Asthana throws him out of class. When one professor jokingly tells him to get his own body for dissection, Munna calls up Circuit and gets one: a Japanese tourist who is not quite dead.

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He cheers up a love-lorn suicidal boy by singing a wonderful song (“Apun Jaise Tapori”) about the fickle and fleeting nature of love—”You’ll get over it!” being the message. I love all the songs, and their exuberant picturizations fit perfectly into the film.

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Asthana’s daughter—whom Munna hasn’t seen since she was a “fatso with oiled pigtails”—is known in the hospital by her real name Suman; Munna confides in her without realizing that she is Chinki.

There’s a catatonic patient at the hospital named Anand Banerjee (I thought this might be a tribute to Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s classic film whose main characters were named Anand and Dr. Banerjee, but it turns out that I was overthinking it, and it’s just a coincidence).

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Munna doesn’t buy the theory that Anand (Yatin Karyekar) is insensate, and begins taking him outdoors to enjoy the sun, gets his hair cut and beard shaved, and jokes with him. When Anand begins to respond faintly to Munna, nobody believes it. But Munna continues to spread sunshine and his mother’s “Magic Hugs” throughout the hospital.

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Alas though, his antics—which have by now endeared him to almost everyone else including Chinki—have only further enraged Asthana, who is determined to rid himself of Munna once and for all.

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In this battle of wits, who will win? Can Munna make his father proud, and win Chinki’s love too? Will he get his revenge on Asthana?

If you are one of the two people who hasn’t seen this film, you really should. It points out how medicine has become a business these days instead of the healing art it should be, but it’s not preachy. Like Lage Raho, it gets the message across with great big dollops of humor. Sanjay Dutt and Arshad Warsi complement each other perfectly as Munna and Circuit, and the rest of the cast is fantastic. It’s wonderful to see Dutt Sahab in his last role as well; I’m awfully glad he made this film. It’s a fitting end to his long and illustrious career, especially since he shared the screen with his son in one of his best roles ever.

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About a week after I first saw this, I had a business meeting with the owner of a company in India that we were outsourcing my job to (true story!). When he discovered that I liked Hindi movies, he told me that a friend of his had just made his first film, and that it was a hit in India. He didn’t think I’d know about it, but of course I did: it was this film, and his friend was Rajkumar Hirani, the director, writer and editor. He put me in touch with Raju, who turned out to be a lovely, down-to-earth and very funny man. Raju was (is) amazed (and by amazed, I mean he makes fun of me) by my obsession for Hindi films, and it is he who convinced me to write this blog. So you can thank him (or not) for it!

It’s also his birthday today, so: Janam din mubarek ho, Raju!

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40 Comments to “Munna Bhai MBBS (2003)”

  1. Well I only saw this film because I heard you said it was your favorite in that TV show (reading your blog I have come to trust your sense of humour). And I can’t thank you enough for it. Seriously.

    I purchased LRMB right after and am very happy with it too (but I like MBBS a bit better)

    Happy birthday Mr.Hirani!

  2. Eliza, we might be the only two people on earth who like MBBS better (although, as we’ve both said, LRMB is also divine). I’m glad you liked it :-)

  3. I’m afraid I’m in the LRMB camp, but I still love MBBS. Circuit and Munna have one of Hindi film’s great bromances… And you’ve inspired me to dig out my copy of MBBS this weekend!

    On another note, I know what you mean about being “in” on jokes. I think the first for me was “Hera Pheri” – the 2000 one – where Bollywood humor and my sense of humor finally clicked.

    And on a final note, when I met Abhishek Kapoor – director of “Rock On” – last week, he couldn’t get over how much I knew about Hindi films and kept asking me how I knew the trivia that I knew! LOL!

  4. Hey Greta that’s a great birthday gift. You always said you liked MUNNABHAI MBBS but never wrote about it. I was not so sure. Thank god for birthdays :-) Thank you. Lots of love.

  5. Filmi Girl: I’m glad we don’t have to choose between them :-) I don’t think I’ve seen Hera Pheri, will have to check it out!

    Raju: I’m glad you like it :-) Thank you for making such great films, can’t wait for the new one! and happy happy birthday once more!

  6. Yup, one of the best hindi comedies ever… (On that note, get your hands on “Andaz Apna Apna” if you haven’t till now) The whole sequence of converting the washermen into doctors and patients (and the subsequent fun) is just too much. So is Circuit.

    BTW, I think the third movie has Munna and Circuit in US of A. Waiting for it.

  7. Oh yeah – great movie! Raju Hirani really did his research well, and all the medical college scenes rang so true (brother is a doc in India). I t hink it was remade in almost all the possible languages – the Tamil version stars Kamal Hassan and Sneha – was pretty blah, IMO, compared to the original.

    My only quibble with the movie is the “item number” song – felt it was out of place, but eh, I’m old fashioned that way – don’t really see a need item numbers as being in place anywhere!

    M

  8. Amey: I saw Andaz Apna Apna early on, and don’t remember finding it funny. I might now though, need to revisit it.

    M: A lot of people seem to have that quibble, although it didn’t bother me. Jimmy Shergill is so cute and looks so bewildered throughout it!

  9. I’m also part of the LRMB gang, but I love MBBS too! And the latest gossip in the local rag seems to be that Sanjay Dutt’s planning a sequel to LRMB, with Vidya Balan etc (an actual sequel). Let’s see…

  10. I love this movie! It’s easily one of the best comedies of the decade. I wouldn’t pick one from MBBS and LRMB — as others have noted, they’re both fantastic! Dutt and Warsi are excellent, and so are Gracy Singh and Vidya Balan. The trailer to the third, which was released early last year, promises more fun.

    Mr. Hirani: A very happy birthday to you, sir! And thank you for your contributions to Hindi cinema. I’m really, really looking forward to 3 Idiots! :)

    Cheers!

  11. dustedoff: Hmmm…somehow I don’t buy the Sanju sequel thing. Most of that gossip is just made up on the spot :-)

    theBollywoodFan: Yes, it’s nice we don’t have to choose. But I do have such a soft spot for this one, was so relieved to finally be sharing the jokes! Me too re: 3 Idiots!

  12. Am in the LRMB camp too! I loved the irony of Gandhigiri being espoused by a gangster!! This one was fun too, and I enjoyed the first half. The second half got be a bit too mushy for my taste and it was really hard to stomach Gracy Singh as Sanjay Dutt’s childhood playmate – they looked more like Sanjay had dangled her on his knee!!! But I loved Arshad Warsi in both these movies (and most others he’s done) and certainly look forward to the sequel (shouldnt a third movie be a threequel or triquel?) for that and the fun factor associated with the series.

  13. It’s more of a trilogy, since they aren’t sequential in plot or anything. Yes the Gandhi meets Munna scenario was fabulous :-) My dad loved LRMB (he’s a bit of a disillusioned pacifist and was so delighted with Gandhigiri). I think Arshad was better in the second one—he seemed to really hit his stride as Circuit (although he did not suck in MBBS either!).

  14. Ooh, I’m one of the two people! I started it and haven’t finished yet. I *love* Sanjay so I can’t understand why I haven’t put the film back in the player!

  15. Happy Birthday Mr Hirani! Many many happy returns of the day.

    Hope you continue to make good movies like Munna Bhai series.

    Memsaab, thanks once again for a good post on Munnabhai and also sharing the news of Mr Hirani’s birthday.

    As you rightly say, one shouldn’t have to choose between the two movies. Both are unique and enjoyable on their own. Arshad Wasi had a better role in the 2nd one. He was also very good in “Kabul Express” Have u seen this movie?

  16. While personally in the LRMB camp, I do know quite a few people who prefer MBBS. I still think MBBS is a good movie, but there are some moments which had me cringe somewhat, especially in the second half, and I didn’t get that in LRMB. Well, the world would be very boring if we all felt the same about everything.

  17. Both movies, has their own story. Only the Leads are same. One side there’s Gandhigiri. On the other, in this flick, its ‘Jaadu ki jhappi’ that moved everyone.

    The two scenes i remember, where Sanju hugs the hospital cleaner uncle, and the other he hugs his mother, both brings tears to my eyes [though i m a man, i easily go into tears while watching hindi movies].

    Yes, one thing, change your header picture. Its great, but takes similarly great time to load. Its heavy in size. Compress it or change it. Please don’t mind. But still there are places where Lightning speed is a dream, and your fans are lying there too.

  18. ajnabi: I can’t understand it either :-) even the kids will love it!

    Anonymous: I haven’t seen Kabul Express, although I want to.

    Gebruss: That’s what I always say (re: boring if we all liked the same things)…

    Darshit: Good for you for crying easily, I think it’s healthy :-) And I will try to compress the new header—thanks for letting me know you are struggling with it. I’m glad you’re hanging in there with me.
    Edited to add: I have recompressed it, let me know if it’s not better!

  19. LRMB was good but the story where he likes to redeem himself in the eyes of his father and give him his honour back really appealed to me much more. In addition I liked how Munna easily stands against misused authority.

    I also liked the gentle mocking tone of the film. I like it when certain themes and types of people are good naturedly mocked but not demeaned not matter how bad (in every sense of the word) they are. I like compassionate comedy and Munna gave it to me in spades :)

    I guess I’m in the minority as far as the second half is concerned since I loved it. Melodrama is a delicate thing and can easily turn wrong, but here it was handled beautifully.

    Spoilers:

    How poor JS was begging Munna not to let him die and we all know that it is not possible, just broke my heart. I even shed tears when the old man started to drink his juice…

  20. Ha! We are kindred spirits, Eliza. I love melodrama, it’s one of my favorite things about Hindi movies (unless it involves endless amounts of self-sacrificing and self-pity, then I just want to scream). I love how emotional Hindi films are! And in MBBS (and LRMB) the emotion is tempered nicely with humor, and as you said it’s always very compassionate.

  21. Will have to give this one a try it seems; i seem to be belong to the 2 people on the planet who Didn’t like LRMB very much. Saw it after it came so highly recommended by so many people, but I just did not find it 1) funny 2) sold gandhigiri so short; am unable to express myself better but I had A LOT of quibs watching it.
    The only person I liked in that was Boman Irani.

    However, as everyone else seems to like it, I guess the fault is with the viewer, and to uphold the rule that you can’t please everyone :)

    (Now ducks under her computer to avoid all the bricks coming her way…)

  22. Or maybe you were in a bad mood? :-) No bricks to be thrown though, I hate plenty of films that everyone else loved!

  23. Memsaab: I’m definitely in the MBBS camp, just love the chemistry between Munna and Circuit. There’s about 30 minutes in the middle of this movie, between the M bole to and tapori songs, that I pop in the player any time I am having a bad day, and it always cheers me up. When I first started renting Hindi films at my local grocery store, the owner did not want to rent me this film because, she told me, as I wasn’t Indian, I wouldn’t understand it. I’ve always been puzzled by this, because the humor seems quite universal to me–plus it’s one of my favorites! Thanks for this post.

  24. Yes, I have this one and LRMB on my starter list of films. I don’t know anyone (besides bawa, ha ha) who hasn’t enjoyed watching them, even my friend Sarita—who tends to squirm if I force her to watch a Hindi movie, muttering “these are my people” over and over again.

    I really really love the songs too. They are so upbeat, I just want to be in there dancing too :-)

  25. Oh man, I cannot believe you’ve been in touch with Mr Hirani himself! Spectacular. :D

    I confess I was always a bit more fond of Lage Raho but any kind of Munnabhai is wonderful, really.

  26. The more Munnabhai the better, in my opinion. I think he’s working on the third one in whatever spare time he has from working on 3 Idiots…

  27. Great review, Memsaab. I’m actually in the MBBS camp too, even though I love Vidya Balan.

    This reminded me of a comment on a blog left by a Randroid, err, budding Objectivist, who was critical of this movie and “jaduu ki jhappi” as being unrealistic and not backed by facts. Some people just don’t get it. *rolling my eyes*

  28. Oh shame! I feel sorry for anyone who’s never gotten a jadoo ki jhappi!

  29. Oh yeah. Andaz Apna Apna is a classic. Now that you have known hindi movies for some time, check it out once more.

    As for Sanjay Dutt, I think he can now do comic and serious “Bhai” roles in his sleep.

  30. Hi,
    As everyone here, I also loved munnabhai series a lot and waiting for more to come.
    But did any one know that it was actually Shahrukh who was going to play the role of Munnabhai and he also has contributed to the script.

    Rajkumar Hirani also gives him the due credit by mentioning this in the film’s end rolls.

    Its true.

    Bobby Sing

  31. That is true! Thanks for the reminder :-)

    ps I’m still awfully glad that SRK didn’t end up playing Munna. Sanju is just so perfect for it…

  32. Hindi ki top 50 film ko count kiya jaye to yah film usame add ki jayegi, meri ab tak ki dekhi sabase behatarin filmo me se ek, lajawaab.
    yah film Munna Bhai ( Sanjay) ki bajay Circuit ( Arshad) ki jyada lagi. agar Circuit ko is pilm se nikal diya jaye to kuchh nahi bachega.
    is series ki dusari film Lage raho.. ekdam samany lagi. MBBS jitana maja nahi aaya.
    @ राजकुमार हीराणी सर
    अगर आप ये लाईनें पढ़ रहे हैं तो देरी से ही सही पर मेरी भी बधाई स्वीकार करें। जन्मदिन के लिए और बढ़िया साफ सुथरी फिल्मों के लिए भी।…… लगे रहो का कॉन्सेप्ट अच्छा होते हुए भी उतना प्रभावित नहीं कर पाई। अब तीसरी फिल्म का बेसब्री से इन्तजार है।
    मेरे हिसाब से आप हिन्दी के बीस सबसे बढ़िया निर्देशकों में शुमार होते हैं… गुरु गुड़ रहे गये और चेले शक्कर हो गये। :)
    sagarnahar et gmail.com

  33. I have not watched it, but I have watched “Lage Raho Munna Bhai” that that is a wonderful movie with an original story idea.

  34. sagar: I have no idea what you said there, but I’m really glad you keep visiting here :-) And anyway, Mr. H will read it and understand!

    Atul: You must watch it. If you like LRMB, you will like MBBS equally.

  35. well. is the rajkumar hirani is the real one?from..the…FTII….

  36. Tapan, yes the very same Rajkumar Hirani :-) Studied editing at FTII, which he says helps him a lot as a director.

  37. this was a nice refreshing comedy and a nice movie

    Sanju excelled in emotions but it was the comedy that for once was a highlight
    usually he tended to play second fiddle in comic films or try too hard
    here he was pure natural, thanks to raju hirani

    even arshad got a new lease of life with this film
    he had reached downhill but suddenly shot up

  38. Sanju is a really natural and good actor when he wants to be :) And I cannot imagine anybody else in this role, he lives it and breathes it…

  39. one of my most favourite movies…this film is an absolute delight to watch and i just love sanjay dutt in this…the dialogues which are really great in this movie have been written by abbas tyrewalla…

    do u know that originally shahrukh khan was supposed to do munnabhai’s role ? i shudder to even think about that !!! makarand deshpande was a prospective for circuit’s role…he would have done a fine job too…but this movie was a blessing for arshad warsi who was going nowhere before this…

  40. i liked LRMB better, but i still love MBBS. i wish munnabhai part-3 releases.

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