Nikhil Mahajan’s debut film Pune 52 was way ahead of its time, and demanded audience participation. The storytelling was mature, and the rich narrative added a complexly dark dimension around the film. With Baji however, the director has brought about a superhero blockbuster which rightfully belongs to the 80s era, and has little narrative novelty whatsoever. Interesting twists – none. The superhero card has been played right. This is an almost untouched genre in Marathi cinema, so for a first this film seems like a decent attempt, but there are so many clichéd moments storming the screen that it’s impossible to avoid the deja vu feels.
Baji is, more than a name, a title first appointed by the king hundreds of years ago, which is carried from generation to generation by a person entitled to save the village and its men. The last masked-vigilante was seen many years past and stands forgotten, remembered only by a girl Gauri (Amruta Khanvilkar). Chidu (Shreyas Talpade), a good-natured storekeeper is madly in love with Gauri and wishes to marry her. In a parallel tale, it is revealed that their village may be set up above buried treasure, and Martand (Jitendra Joshi) wishes to claim this treasure for himself. In order to keep the treasure away from evil, the legend Baji shall have to return.
Shreyas Talpade has good screen presence, and so does Amruta. Their chemistry works out very well. Jitendra Joshi brings lives out the bad guy extremely well. The child actor who played the foul-mouthing Ganya in Elizabeth Ekadashi has got a good role in this film too.
Where Baji fails out is it attempts to do a Zorro in a very Drona-like storyline, and finally ends up like Thanedaar. The fantasy segment of the film was decently treated, but it loses out to poor presentation. Dialogues are not noteworthy, even though a few do evoke guilty laughs – like “Aala Baji, phaatli maajhi.” At nearly three hours, the film is too stretched already, and the songs only drag it further. They could have been easily skipped. Also music has been insensibly used. There’s a fight scene on a mountain and in-between a romantic track starts to play, which was unintentionally hilarious and very out-of-place.
There are quite a many easter-eggs laid by the director in the film. In the beginning scene itself we see a man reading a paper called ‘Dainik’, which is also the title of Nikhil’s upcoming film with Rajkumar Rao. Looking forward to this film for the director-actor duo.