Banjo movie review: Kris (Nargis Fakhri), a musician based in New York hears a song from a local banjo band in Mumbai sent by her friend, Mikey (Luke Kenny). Wanting to use them to record two singles and participate in some music festival, she arrives in Mumbai to find the band. Sent to the slums of Dharavi by her friend’s uncle for an assignment, she meets Taraat (Riteish Deshmukh) and his friends, Grease (Dharmesh Yelande), Paper (Aditya Kumar) and Vajaya (Ram Menon). At first she doesn’t know that Taraat and his friends are the band members she is looking for. Once she finds out their musical talents, she convinces them to record those songs while also playing at an esteemed club. However, with a jealous rival, land mafia and a lecherous studio manager involved, their musical journey is full of bumps and cracks like the narrative of the film.
Banjo succeeds to some extent to show the true spirit of Mumbai and the local band players you see at Ganpati pandals. Director Ravi Jadhav, has to be appreciated for taking the film to the slums of Mumbai and the busy lanes in front of CST. Like Taraat says in the movie, they don’t get enough to drink because the water goes to the rich. The same applies to films as well. Banjo has a milieu that connects with the common man of Mumbai, which the director could have utilised better. But more on that later. Banjo actually comes to life when the film focuses on Taraat and his friends and when they perform together. Vishal-Shekhar has also given some terrific tunes to the film. The picturization and composition of the Ganpati songs in the start and the finale as well as Rada song scores high marks. A couple of scenes are intelligently written, like the one where a local corporator explains to a builder why a vacant ground is important to the people living in the slums through a tennis ball. However, such scenes are far and few. Coming to the performances, almost everyone is great. Riteish gives a confident performance, but he is often upstaged by his comrades whenever the camera focuses on them. Dharmesh, Aditya and Ram Menon are terrific in their supporting roles. Mahesh Shetty who plays their rival banjo leader, is fantastic too. I also wonder why a talented Luke Kenny doesn’t get much to do these days.
The film was an ode to Mumbai and band players, it has succeeded to some extent. But as a film with a music at its core, Banjo is a very confused film. It doesn’t know what exactly to focus on – Kris’ travails in Mumbai, Taraat’s infatuation with her or the actual journey of the band. Unfortunately, lazy writing, snooze-worthy editing and average performances make these scenes very boring. And to those you add the subplots of land-grabbing, attempted murder and forced tension among the band members, and you are left twiddling your fingers waiting for the film to end. The film takes an entire first half for Kris to even recognise the band members. It also doesn’t help matters that Banjo has shades of Rock On and ABCD, and the presence of Luke Kenny and Dharmesh respectively only keeps reminding of the same clichés that both the films had, which Banjo loved to follow. Even most of the comedy scenes struggle to make us smile.
While Riteish as a performer is adept as always, the idea to make him massy falls flat, especially those scenes that insist on making him look tough. Nargis Fakhri is decent, until she speaks Hindi, cry or basically has to emote.
If you are a Mumbaikar then this is a one time watch for you.