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'Bobby Jasoos' (Hindi; English subtitles)

07/05/2014 01:02 pm ET | Updated Sep 04, 2014

Bilkis Ahmed aka Bobby (Vidya Balan) wants to be a detective. But there are obstacles. First, her training. She has none, a point her boss from the agency where she wanted to work pounds home. Second, her gender. She's a woman. Her parents despair of her choice of profession and her lack of interest in marriage. When she makes stacks of money from a big case, her proud father won't accept her gifts.

Her contemporaries watch soap operas and dream of their weddings. She doesn't. She prefers to hone her craft. Coming from a conservative family, she's over the hill at thirty. She stands in stark contrast to her sister, Noor (Benaf Dadachandii), who is eager to get married. All this takes place against the swirling, colorful, and, to us in the West, exotic backdrop of the old part of Hyderabad, in the South Indian state of Telangana. "Bobby Jasoos" ("Jasoos" roughly translates to "detective"), directed by Samar Shaikh, charts Bobby's efforts to prove everyone wrong.

This could have been a serious film. A lower class woman shuns marriage to create a successful business. Parts of it are serious. A client, Anees Khan (Kiran Kumar), hires her to find two young women. Then Bobby suspects his motives when the girls go missing. It turns out that Khan's motives were Mother Teresa pure. Mostly though, the film's a riot. Bobby shows great ingenuity as she tracks her quarry. She dons many disguises; she even sets up fake TV auditions to find one of the girls. From a mile away we can see that she's going to fall in love with TV host Tasawur (Ali Fazal). He hires her to find a reason to discredit a marriage his father sets up (The 36th one is the charm). One would think, given Bobby's intuition and sleuthing skills, that she would see that Tasawur's the one. Of course she's the last to know.

Balan is formidable as the driven Bobby. She commands our sympathies because she's so earnest. Her character is driven, charismatic, and resourceful. When she's on a case, she's a force of nature. She might not be the most deductive detective in the world, but she certainly finds ingenious ways to solve each case. Her funny side and her serious side are driven by the same bubbly enthusiasm and faith in herself.

There are a few fault lines in the script. We'd understand Bobby better if we knew why she was so eager to be a detective in the first place. Her unique position, a female detective in a conservative society, is only alluded to at the beginning, when she fails to land a job at the all-men detective agency. Nonetheless, Shaikh nicely weaves all the story lines together. He balances the funny bits with the not-so-funny bits to set up a satisfying resolution that ties together the loose ends. It also proves that even a detective doesn't necessarily notice how love stares her squarely in the face for pretty much the entire film.

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