Ravi Jadhav, the director of ‘Banjo’, is a highly respected name in the Marathi film industry. Though the Riteish Deshmukh – Nargis Fakhri starrer musical drama marks his debut in Hindi films, he has made as many as six Marathi films, most of which have won numerous awards apart from garnering an enormous amount of love from the audience. In a career spanning more than thirteen years, ‘Banjo’ is Riteish Deshmukh’s third (or fourth, if you take ‘Jaane Kahaan Se Aayi Hai’ into account) film after ‘Tujhe Meri Kasam’ and ‘Tere Naal Love Ho Gaya’ as a solo hero. Though the actor has mostly dabbled with comic roles, films like ‘Tujhe Meri Kasam’, ‘Bardaasht’, ‘Ek Villain’ and ‘Lai Bhaari’ have proved that he can do justice to a wide variety of roles. More than anything, the credentials of the lad actor and the director has got one interested in the film.
Taraat (Riteish Deshmukh) is the lead vocalist and plays banjo in a local band that performs in festivals. While his band members Grease (Dharmesh Yellande), Paper (Aditya Kumar) and Vaja (Ram Menon) have low paying but respectable jobs, Taraat extorts money on the behest of Patil, a local politician. Chris (Nargis Fakhri), a DJ/musician based in New York gets hold of a recording of Taraat’s band’s performance and feels that the band has the potential to make it big on an international platform. She arrives in India with the determination to trace the members on the band and collaborate with them on a couple of songs.
When the trailer released, it revealed almost all the important plot points in the film. After watching the film, this is now confirmed to a great extent. There were a few important characters and subplots that the trailer did not let you into but those sequences are not imaginative enough to excite you as a viewer. The character of Patil, the politician, could have turned out to be interesting and might have paved way for an interesting subplot. But, like most of the film, it turns out to be predictable. Taraat and his band members are shown to be going through several hardships but the narrative is so prosaic that you fail to empathize for them or even cheer for them when they taste success. The film borrows ideas from several films which deals with an underdog or a bunch of them who battle several odds to make it big and is devoid of any novel idea that would help it stand out.
Though the film resorts to several clichés and never gets tired of throwing familiar tropes that one expects to stumble upon in films of this genre, it maintains a consistent pace and gives us some nice moments to chew on. Unfortunately, those sparkling moments that make sporadic appearances are not enough to keep your interest alive in the film. By the time the film reaches its foreseeable climax, you have already stopped caring for it. A film which centres around a band ought to have music that stays with you. Vishal-Shekhar put together a good soundtrack but not the kind that you would remember for a long time. Ravi Jadhav’s direction is fine but the film, owing to the screenplay, comes across as a pale shadow of films dealing with a similar theme.
Riteish Deshmukh’s performance is easily one of the strengths of the film. The actor is a delight to watch and proves that he, as a solo hero, can carry a film on his shoulders. Nargis Fakhri does not show an ounce of improvement in her acting skills and is as expressionless as she was in her earlier films. All the three actors comprising the band suit the parts very well and pull off effective performances. Luke Kenny is good as Chris’s Mumbai based friend.
‘Banjo’ is far from being any of the several glorious films Ravi Jadhav has made in Marathi. There is no doubt about him being a competent director. Had he come up with a more innovative subject, things would have been different. If you must, watch the film for Riteish Deshmukh who, regardless of the fate of the film, should be given more opportunities to do films as a solo lead.