Review of Munna Bhai MBBS


At first glance, Munna Bhai appears to represent the worst of Bollywood- a crass movie about a gangster with a good heart.  If you came to this conclusion and did not see it, you are out of touch.  Go rent it today.  The rest of the review assumes that you have seen the movie (spoiler alert). 



Munna Bhai is one of the most engaging and nuanced characters to come out of Bollywood in recent memory.  He is Robin Hood.  He is a man with feelings.  He is an honorable gangster who refuses to do someone’s dirty work.  He is a macho daredevil who is beginning to find out the power of love.  He is a part of you and you are a part of him.  He is a desi who gets family values- he craves his father’s respect, his mother’s love and the love of his lady.  He is a low-class goonda who learns the meaning of respect.  He cares.  He is tough.  He is strong.  He is a bully.  He is a lover.  He understands friendship.



If you have seen Patch Adams, you will immediately notice the similarities.  Both Patch and Munna refuse to accept the dehumanization of medical care in the modern bureaucratic hospital.  The way they react to it differs, of course.  Munna turns on his gangsta spirit to convince the hospital staff to get more human.  Patch, being a doctor, is able to take matters into his own hands.  Both characters are disinterested in silly rules that come in the way of actually helping people and find ways of helping patients who might need urgent care but not have the resources to buy it. 



Circuit (Sirkeshwar) is one of the greatest sidekick characters in Indian cinema.  Perhaps, Sambha was the only other memorable sidekick in Bollywood history.  Generally speaking, sidekicks are one-dimensional buffoons who are kicked around and do not add to the story line.  Circuit, on the other hand, becomes part of the fabric of the story.  The movie would be less engaging had Circuit not been in it.  What makes this character work is that Munna takes Circuit seriously.  What Circuit says matters to Munna and influences him.  The classic drinking scenes are memorable and drive Munna’s decision-making. 



Munna Bhai also adds to the desi vocabulary.  Every time I watch the movie, I walk around saying things such as- “Too bhi naa mamu hi, yaar”, “Ay Laa.  Mera to vaat lag gaya”, ”Subah ho gayi, mamu“ and “Tension nahin lene ka”.  Some of you will say that these are standard Mumbayya things.  Having lived in Mumbai for five years, I can safely say that this is not the case.  These catchy lines draw from the Mumbayya vocabulary, but add to it by creating a distinctive flavor. 



In the end, Munna Bhai is about ijjat.  Munna had it all when he was a gangster- money, fame, cronies by the dozen.  What he lacked was ijjat.  The movie is about how this realization changes him for the better and how ultimately, he really gets it all.  



December 9, 2006

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