Issue 19 / Gritty Crime Drama Beeba Boys Debuts With A Bang At TIFF

Gritty Crime Drama Beeba Boys Debuts With A Bang At TIFF

Oct 12, 2015

Iconic Canadian helmer Deepa Mehta unleashes stylish, bloody gangster flick Beeba Boys.

Festival favourite Deepa Mehta returns to TIFF this year for the first time since launching Midnight's Children back in 2012. And it's fair to say that the flick she brought with her is a bit of a departure. Set to open wide this Friday following its TIFF debut back in September, Beeba Boys is a slick, ultra-violent crime thriller starring Randeep Hooda (Monsoon Wedding, D) as Jeet Johar, a suave, sexy, ruthless crime boss who, along with his ostentatiously self-styled posse, is charting a bloody ascent to the top of the Vancouver underworld — while also juggling his responsibilities as a devoted single father and dutiful son to his live-in mother. When a long-simmering conflict with a rival kingpin threatens to boil over, the bullets and the snappy one-liners start to fly.   

(L-R) Waris Ahluwalia as Manny, Ali Kazmi as Guri and Steve Dhillon as Harry enjoy some frosty treats.
Photo Credit: Mongrel Media


Of course, it’s not Mehta’s usual thing. But, as she told ANOKHI in a private sit-down at TIFF, she’s always been a fan of gangster flicks and clearly relished the idea of putting her stamp on the genre.

“The way I approached the film was, it had to be like a gunshot almost,” she explains. “You know, you pull the trigger and then before you know it, it’s over. That kind of energy.”

What’s more, she adds: “I haven’t seen any gangster films about brown people set in North America; that’s different. And they’re a really interesting-looking bunch.”

(L-R) Ali Kazmi, Waris Ahluwalia and Ali Momen walk the red carpet at TIFF.
Photo Credit: Getty for TIFF


That’s putting it mildly. Decked out in sleek, explosively coloured suits, Jeet’s gang of Beeba Boys, including motor-mouthed wheelman Manny (Waris Ahluwalia), the devastatingly chic Guri (Ali Kazmi), tough-guy Harry (Steve Dhillon) and somewhat shady new recruit Nep (Ali Momen) among others, are a sight to behold, trading barbs and bullets alike with kinetic, cartoonish glee.

Rounding out the ensemble are the beguiling young Katya (Sarah Allen) — a young juror amusingly swept off her feet by Jeet at his own trial (did we mention he was suave?) — and Gia Sandhu as the ruthless daughter of Jeet's main rival.

(L-R) Sarah Allen and Gia Sandhu pose at the film's premiere.
Photo Credit: Getty for TIFF


Naturally, casting the right actors, finding just that right mix of wisecrackers, tough guys and femme fatales was key. But according to Mehta, it all really hinged on her leading man — the “quintessential good man who is a bad man,” a “near-psychopath” who’s also a loving father and son.
“It’s like finding the most important piece of the jigsaw puzzle,” she explains. “And once I found Randeep, it’s like the other pieces just fell into place. Then you realize, 'OK, what are the kind of boys that this character would have?'”

Randeep Hooda
Photo Credit: Getty for TIFF


"Rehearsals and workshops are very important to me,” she adds, “and that’s what really helped bond these disparate men and actors into a cohesive brotherhood of the Beeba Boys.”

Of course, the Beeba Boys aren’t the only larger-than-life, strikingly coiffed gangsters to be found in this film. Halfway through, former Due South heartthrob Paul Gross arrives, grey hair tied atop his head in what Mehta describes as a “man-knot.” (“It was his [idea],” she assures me). It only amounts to a cameo, but, trust us, it is a juicy one.

Randeep Hooda as Jeet and Paul Gross as the mysterious Jamie.
Photo Credit: Mongrel Media
“[Paul is] a very good friend, and I think he’s a really interesting actor, so I asked him if he would do this,” she explains. “He was busy doing [fellow TIFF entry] Hyena Road at that point, and he said, ‘Let me try and juggle it.’ And he did.”

Even though, as mentioned, this foray into the crime thriller genre may seem like something of a departure for Mehta, the director herself doesn’t see it that way. While her stories may change, she says, her areas of interest as an artist really haven’t.

“I feel very strongly that this film thematically reflects all my concerns and what I’m intrigued by in all my films,” she says, “which is about identity, about assimilation, about immigration, about being visible in a society that relegates you to be invisible.”

Jeet Johar (Randeep Hooda) is a brutal gangster and a devoted father.
Photo Credit: Mongrel Media
Indeed, the film is an amalgamation of several true, perhaps underpublicized stories of Indo-Canadian crime figures; but beyond the bullets and banter, what clearly interests Mehta is the complex relationships that these men — who often still live in the same household as their parents  — have with their family. That is a big part of what separates Beeba Boys from your typical entry in the genre, and one could say, it's what marks Beeba Boys as a distinctly Deepa Mehta gangster flick.

“I think all gangster films — whether they’re Italian or Irish or the Triads — they’re the same, about a band of near-psychopaths who go through this journey, and they generally don’t end well. Mostly they end in body bags,” Mehta says. “That’s the genre. But it's the way it's rooted so deeply into a culture: that was the challenge — just to keep that honest.”

Beeba Boys will be playing in select cities starting Friday, October 16.

Matthew Currie


A long-standing entertainment journalist, Currie is a graduate of the Professional Writing program at Toronto’s York University. He has spent the past number of years working as a freelancer for ANOKHI and for diverse publications such as Sharp, TV Week, CAA’s Westworld and BC Business. Currie ...


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