Bheja Fry (2007)

This movie is owned by Vinay Pathak. He is just fantastic as Bharat Bhushan, a tax auditor with no social skills and a penchant for singing old film songs at the drop of a hat. But he is ably supported by Rajat Kapoor (whom I last saw as the creepy pedophile uncle in Monsoon Wedding) as Ranjeet Thadani, an arrogant, self-absorbed music studio executive.

Ranjeet is married to Sheetal (Sarika), a singer. He has a standing Friday night dinner date with some of his friends where they bring an “idiot” they’ve met to compete in a “talent” competition. The competition among the friends is really to see who has found the biggest loser of the week. Sheetal doesn’t approve of this mainstay in Ranjeet’s life but he refuses to give it up. Bharat is brought to Ranjeet’s attention by a car salesman friend who has been subjected to Bharat’s attentions on a bus trip from Pune (yes, Bharat is singing to him even though he is clearly trying to talk on the phone):

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Ranjeet calls Bharat and invites him to that Friday night’s dinner. Bharat is thrilled of course, thinking that the music executive is interested in hearing him sing. He carries a scrapbook everywhere with him, painstakingly wrapped in a very noisy plastic bag tied with string. The scrapbook, he says, contains “my story expressed through the words of music and songs.”

On Friday, Ranjeet is relaxing by a pool when he’s hit by a child’s ball and twists his back (also knocking his cell phone into the water). He makes his painful way home, where Sheetal calls Dr. Shepard (Tom Alter) to come and have a look at Ranjeet’s back. They fight once again about his Friday night dinners and she leaves in a huff. The doctor arrives and advises Ranjeet not to go out that night. When Bharat shows up, Ranjeet reluctantly tells Bharat that they need to reschedule for the next week. Bharat cheerfully agrees and Ranjeet invites him to sit and stay for a while. It is quickly apparent that Bharat might be the most oblivious and annoying person on the planet, and is a sure winner at the idiot’s dinner. Ranjeet decides that he can’t afford not to take Bharat to that night’s dinner. As Bharat helps him towards the door, he trips and they fall, which doesn’t do Ranjeet’s back any good at all:

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As Ranjeet lies there, the phone rings. It’s Sheetal, and when the answering machine picks up she says that she has decided to leave Ranjeet, and is not coming home, ever. Bharat is horrified and sympathetic; Ranjeet asks Bharat to phone Dr. Shepard. Bharat accidentally calls Suman Rao instead; she turns out to be Ranjeet’s mistress. Bharat tells her that Ranjeet’s wife has left him and that he’s hurt his back also, and invites her over not understanding that she isn’t the doctor. Ranjeet makes Bharat call her back to disinvite her, but Bharat only manages to reinforce her determination to come over. When Ranjeet then calls to tell her not to come, she taunts him about his wife’s desertion and says that she has probably gone back to Anant.

Ranjeet confides (against his better judgment) that he stole Sheetal away from Anant two years before. Now things really begin to go downhill. Bharat offers to call Anant on some pretext to find out if Sheetal is there. Of course, he botches it up with the end result that Anant realizes that Ranjeet is behind the call. The rest of the film deals with the fallout as misunderstanding piles upon misunderstanding, all orchestrated innocently by Bharat. Every effort to make up for the previous mistake results in a worse one.

Ranvir Shorey is funny (in a slightly over-the-top way) as Bharat’s colleague called to the house to provide a phone number they need; Milind Soman as Anant is gleefully unsympathetic to Ranjeet’s plight. Ranjeet knows that Bharat is a disaster, but his arrogance and controlling nature keep prodding him into letting Bharat “help” him. Bharat is a fool: a bumbling clueless idiot, but he has an integrity and sweetness along with moments of quiet dignity which keep you rooting for him even as you are laughing at him.

By the end all of Ranjeet’s deceptions and manipulations are out in the open and Sheetal is in the hospital (after a car accident) still refusing to speak to him.

Bharat intervenes one last time: will it be the charm?

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One last thing: my favorite scene in the film. Bharat helps a despairing Ranjeet to his bed and then sits by him and begins to sing the beautiful lullaby “Ram Kare Aisa Ho Jaaye” from the film Milan. You need to know the context of the original in order to understand how incongruous and inappropriate Bharat’s choice of song is. If you haven’t seen Milan, “Ram Kare” is sung by Sunil Dutt to Nutan as she sleeps, and is one of the most achingly sweet and loving moments in that film. Ranjeet’s face when he recognizes the tune is priceless:

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However, this hilarious scene left me wondering how many of Bharat’s other songs would have given me the same kind of laugh if only I recognized them (I know a lot of old Hindi film songs, but most of them here didn’t ring a bell). Happily, the door was left wide open for a sequel; by then perhaps my ongoing Hindi film education will let me in on all the jokes!

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8 Comments to “Bheja Fry (2007)”

  1. Just watched it – that was my favorite part too, and just for Rajat Kapoor’s expression!

  2. I howled with laughter. Had to rewind and watch it a few times before I could move on :-)

    • Hi Greta. I too loved Bheja Fry (though not the sequel). Sadly, the movie was ripped off almost scene for scene from a French film called Le Diner de Cons- the original was a superb movie, I promise you

  3. Indeed, this film is a don’t miss :) Glad you liked my review!

  4. have you seen mithya? vinay, ranvir and naseeruddin shah? rajat kapoor movie. poignantly brilliant.

    • No I haven’t—must look for it. I recently met Vinay, Ranvir and Rajat Kapoor in the lobby of a hotel and felt quite tongue-tied! I really admire their work and their passion for cinema and stage…

      :)

  5. this combo has also produced via darjeeling, and mixed doubles. i like mithya the best. via darjeeling is experimental. i am assuming you have seen khosla ka ghosla.

  6. Really an incredible stuff to watch it.

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