Samar Shaikh’s debut feature Bobby Jasoos could have easily been a non-starter—its underdog theme is blindingly earnest, its plot is simplistic, and its lead, Vidya Balan, has played the doughty miss who scales social and familial hurdles to conquer her own private Mount Everest, quite a few times already.

This Mount Everest, however, happens to be located in Hyderabad’s Old City, where Shaikh and writer Sanyuktha Chawla Shaikh find enough warmth, cheer and sweetness to spin out the perfectly watchable yarn of how Bilkis aka Bobby achieves her dream of becoming a private detective. Bilkis Ahmed (Balan) is rooted firmly in the soil of the place, and her goal is modest enough—to be the brightest flower in her garden patch. Local knowledge comes handy when, following a series of clumsy sleuthing adventures, she lands a well-paying assignment from Anees Khan (Kiran Kumar, channelling his Lotia Pathan character in Tezaab) to find a missing woman in the Old City.

One thing leads to the next, and before she knows it, Bobby and her friends are in business, leading to further assignments from the mysterious Khan. However, there’s more to Bobby than investigative work—and this is where the movie scores. She is also embroiled in a complicated wedding planning matrix involving her supportive mother (Supriya Pathak) and aunt (Tanvi Azmi), her deeply disapproving father (Rajendra Gupta) and Tasawwur (Ali Fazal).

Will the fiercely non-domesticated and unglamorous Bobby and Tasawwur, a dishy crime show host whose sophistication belies his ancient-sounding name, ever meet? The mystery is as easily solved as the central one, of Khan’s interest in finding a series of missing persons, but the nicely delineated characters and Shaikh’s firm and uncompromising belief in his heroine’s quest paper over the occasionally awkward plot developments.

All the actors are in fine form, with Shaikh creating enough room for the supporting cast to back Bobby’s attempts to not just be a detective but live life on her own terms. Fazal keeps step with Bobby’s harum-scarum investigations, and has a lovely scene in which he realizes that the woman and the neighbourhood he wants to flee might actually be the key to happiness.

The return-to-roots message is lightly conveyed in a movie that is bereft of weightiness. Shaikh is having too much fun to get on to a soapbox, and he doesn’t let the big emotional scenes breathe enough, but he does subtly score a victory on behalf of the so-called Muslim social—centred on Muslim characters, exploring ideas, values and issues facing the community, and set in an identifiably cultural and geographical milieu. The Muslim social is now an endangered species, with Muslim characters appearing in Hindi films mostly as deracinated urban creatures with neutral names such as Kabir and Zoya, or wild-eyed and destructive gangsters and terrorists.

Bobby Jasoos goes back to the ghetto and finds it to be a normal place, with just about enough sunshine to let a person like Bobby flourish, and just enough darkness to remind us of serious issues, such as the lack of career prospects and the insistence on matrimony above all else. The 121-minute movie harnesses the classic tropes of melodrama—coincidences, conflicts, the perfect resolution—to deliver a feel-good fairy tale of a remarkably mobile heroine who gets up and leaves whenever she feels like. The movie should have come with a “Don’t try this at home but feel free to dream" disclaimer.

Bobby Jasoos released in theatres on Friday.

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