Deepa Mehta’s Beeba Boys opens with a reference to real Sikh gangster warfare in Toronto but floats like a dystopian cloud aeons away from reality.
If the idea of a veteran art-house director breaking walls with a Tarantino-style gangland drama seems exciting, its realization is disappointingly forced, truncated and glossily over the top.
Jeet Johar (a wooden faced Randeep Hooda) heads a gang of glamorous Sikh criminals, dressed in shiny, bright suits and boots.
He is seen mostly driving around the city with his henchmen mouthing poorly timed one-liners and lame jokes.
Manny (Waris Ahluwalia) is the gang’s bearded, turbaned driver who entertains his boss with stale Sikh jokes. Jeet wastes no time shooting down rivals on his turf and their white women too.
This snappily-dressed fowl-mouthed bunch in pastels call themselves the Beeba Boys (“Good Boys”).
Like the true Indian boy, Jeet still lives with his parents in a suburban home and is a devoted father to his school-going son.
Following a blood-splattered shoot off scene, the don returns home to have his mother (Balinder Johal) serve him food. The latter knows about the guns and crime but chooses to be silent.
The alcoholic father (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) rants in his room hurling expletives. When Jeet puts up his newfound Polish girlfriend Katya in his penthouse apartment she pouts, “You still live with your mother?”
Following a police raid on his smuggling activity, Jeet serves a short term in jail. His main adversary, Grewal (Gulshan Grover) sends a gangman to befriend Jeet. Nep (Ali Momen) defends Jeet in a jail brawl and earns membership to the Beeba boyhood.
The convoluted plot and jagged script is punctuated with deafening Bhangra/disco beats; a string of cuss words replace dialogue.
The Beeba boys are eliminated one by one in a string of violent episodes.
After a gun attack on his home, Jeet decides to send off his son to his ex-wife in India.
Meanwhile desperate Katya has taken to drugs and is eventually shot in the face.
In the last avenger’s sequence, Jeet Johar faces off with Grewal.
Mehta is at her best in exposing the contradiction between Jeet’s violent world and his family values.
The local Gurdwara, the weddings, the community gatherings are touched by her empathetic hand. In a signature Mehta scene, Jeet’s father talks of his early days in Canada when he froze in a cold factory, picking cranberries.
Yet this scene has no organic place in the disjointed scheme of things.
Lavish interiors, car chases and special effects cannot compensate for the lack of real connect with the principal players.
In fact the in-jokes may have some meaning to community audiences (add to the number of Punjabi Bollywood films) in Canada and elsewhere.
A mainstream audience will be clueless about reacting to this gangster drama and over-the-top Punjabi brashness.
The hood is Punjabi chauvinist, the don’s rejection of his moll is harshly misogynist and no one really cares when the boys go down like nine pins.
A big budget glossy production with helicopter shots and expansive views over Vancouver (camera by Karin Hussain), ‘Beeba Boys’ sits like a soulless Tarantino parody in cloud Sikhland.
Poor performances and unsure pacing are sure killers for this genre of cinema.
I am a great fan of Mehta’s cinema.
Was this really the director’s cut?
Sangeeta Datta is a London-based singer, writer, filmmaker and cultural commentator.