Converting a book into a film is a daunting task and director Ajay Bahl attempts just that with his film B.A. PASS. Based on a story ‘The Railway Aunty’ by Mohan Sikka from the book ‘Delhi Noir’, an anthology based mainly in and around Delhi, the film is the story of a young, small-town boy Mukesh [Shadab Kamal], who moves to Delhi to stay with his aunt and finish his college.
It is here that he is seduced by a mysterious married woman known to him as ‘Sarika Aunty’ [Shilpa Shukla]. Set amidst the neon-lit by lanes of Delhi’s Paharganj, the story unfolds an erotic drama between the two, forging a relationship based on lust, lies and deceit. As Mukesh gets entrenched into his surroundings, he discovers a city that thrives on corrupting even the most naive and innocent.
Despite the diverse stories being narrated on the Hindi screen, making a film that deals with the aspect of sex, prostitution or erotica can be and is an extremely sensitive topic. However, director Ajay Bahl excels with aesthetically shot love making scenes in B.A. PASS. Set in present-day Delhi, more specifically the Paharganj area, replete with the sights and sounds of the vicinity, B.A. PASS tells a gripping story of a young, financially challenged man who unknowingly gets forced into prostitution.
Staying true to the original story penned by Mohan Sikka, the tight screenplay [Ritesh Shah] leaves little room to wander, while the viewer is drawn into the world of Mukesh as he explores the pleasures of an older woman, feels the despair when tricked, lose the moral fibre of defining right from wrong.
Ajay Bahl does a stellar job of converting the story into a radiant gem, filled with the colours of a happy life to the harsh grim reality of a dying dream.
As for the performances, Shilpa Shukla leaves no stone unturned in playing the fornicating housewife. It’s a standout performance for sure. Shadab is supremely efficient, bestowing depth and emotion to the character he portrays. Dibyendu Bhattacharya, as the chess-playing grave keeper, plays his part perfectly.
On the whole, B.A. PASS is a stark and brutal saga of seduction and betrayal that explores the darkest recesses of the human conscious and morality. Though gripping, you need a strong stomach to absorb this gritty and thought-provoking fare!