Shyam Benegal is back with a satire! It is about various government initiatives meant to improve the living standards of the down trodden. But, ironically, these very initiatives become an instrument of making money for those who manage the system. The film’s title itself is a pun and, after a long, long time, a Hindi film justifies its title.
The film’s tone and intent are set the moment Armaan Ali (Boman Irani) arrives in his village, Chikkatpalli, taking a month off from his job as a chauffer. When he alights from the cycle rickshaw, he sees, the rickshaw puller being denied a glass of water by his own daughter, Muskaan Ali (Minissha Lamba). He realises that in the village, water is scarce and theft of water from someone else’s well is a way of life. Armaan Ali’s twin, Rehman Ali (Boman Irani again) and sister-in-law, Salma Ali (Ila Arun) are water thieves and on the run.
A simpleton that he is, Armaan Ali decides to dig a well of his own when he learns that the government doles out money for the purpose for those living below poverty line. His noble intentions land him in a cesspool of the rigmarole of getting approvals from various departments, promising a 10 per cent here and 15 per cent there! Soon, Armaan Ali is left with a file in his hand certifying a constructed well with water sweeter than any other well in the region; photo proof attached! But the reality is where there should have been a well; there are only the chalk marks of a plan for the well.
The film has other tracks too. Besides the wayward ways of Rehman Ali and Salma Ali, there is Muskaan Ali and her beau Arif Ali (Sammir Dattani). There is also a neighbour with five daughters and a sub divisional engineer obsessed with sex and his plans to add to his wife’s anatomical endowments. Besides these, there is an inspector whose father-in-law bought him the posting with Rs 3 lakh, all beautifully woven in the story.
Shyam Benegal’s direction is deft, a master at work. Music is well utilised. Background score is effective. Dialogue is cheeky with Hyderabadi flavour. Photography is good. Screenplay is taut despite length.
Performance wise, Boman Irani comes up with a good subdued portrayal of Armaan Ali juxtaposed with a brash and uncouth villager as Rehman Ali. Minissha Lamba excels as a simple but street smart girl with Sammir Dattani providing a perfect foil. Ila Arun, Rajit Kapoor, Ravi Kishen, Sonali Kulkarni, Yashpal Sharma, etc justify their roles ably.
Well Done Abba may be a slow starter but should improve on word of mouth, especially at metro multiplexes.