R. Balki’s Paa: Possibly the Strangest Bollywood Blockbuster Yet


If Francis Ford Coppola’s gentle dramedy Jack and last year’s oddball melodrama The Curious Case of Benjamin Button were two circles in a Venn diagram, the premature-aging film hiding in the overlap would be director R. Balki’s Paa—possibly the strangest Bollywood blockbuster yet. The opening credits are simultaneously read to the camera as they’re displayed, cheekily “introducing” 67-year-old screen legend Amitabh Bachchan as Auro, a precocious 13-year-old who suffers from progeria. Unrecognizable under prosthetics that accentuate the symptoms of this rare disease (a bulbous forehead, alopecia, malformed teeth), Bachchan’s stunt performance is especially hard to take seriously as Auro’s tragic life and appearance are undercut with crowd-pleasing laughs and carefree songs. The story isn’t so much about illness as it is familial estrangement: Raised by a single mom (Vidya Balan) after her college beau suggested an abortion, neither Auro nor his pop—a Member of Parliament whom he befriends after winning an artistic prize in a televised school event—knows that they’re related. One more factoid will leave behind all but the B’wood diehards and stoned fans of gonzo cinema: Auro’s dad is played by Abhishek Bachchan, Amitabh’s real-life son. WTF?

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