Kahaani ruined it for Bollywood actress Vidya Balan. Now, don’t get me wrong here. The suspense thriller — featuring the actress as a heavily pregnant woman in search of her missing husband — kept us hooked to the end and propelled us to set the bar high. So, if you are going to measure Balan’s latest drama Bobby Jasoos, in which she plays an amateur 30-year-old detective, by that yardstick, the chances are that she’s going to fall short, and by a considerable margin.

She plays Bilkis Ahmad, a Muslim girl in a patriarchal household in the Hyderabad town of Mogulpura, who dreams of becoming the top sleuth in her neighbourhood. She may remind you of a desi Nancy Drew — dressed in a salwar kameez, canvas shoes and a knapsack. She isn’t armed with a degree in investigation but banks on her quick wit, intelligence and her burning desire to succeed when it comes to solving cases.

Enter the sinister-looking Anees Khan (Kiran Kumar) who throws money in her face to hunt down a couple of young women. In her rush to be taken seriously as a sleuth, she forgets to question her client’s motives. The money keeps getting better and her final case involves searching for a young man with a missing toe. She’s instructed sternly by Khan not to ask questions and just find the answers. As a viewer, I wish the movie had ended there since it was entertaining to watch an endearing Bobby in action. Unfortunately, no such luck.

After the interval, the film sinks south as Bobby forgets to keep her end of the bargain and begins snooping around her rich client’s business. Balan has enough vivacity to keep us gripped, but she’s no miracle worker and can’t elevate a limp story to superlative standards.

The surprise package is Ali Fazal who plays Tasawur, an ambitious broadcast journalist who hires Bobby occasionally to thwart marriage proposals brought forward by his orthodox parents.

His struggle, whether to conform or to push against traditions, is sensitively portrayed. But he isn’t alone in his identity crisis. The movie, which begins on a promising but languid note as a thriller set in a vibrant metropolis such as Hyderabad, morphs into a reluctant love story. Bobby gets side-tracked and the climax scenes, which should ideally be a crackling clincher to the mystery, come across as an afterthought. The suspense to the drama was so lame that we felt bad for the feisty Bobby and Balan: both deserved a riveting, gripping ending.

Out now

Film: Bobby Jasoos

Director: Samar Shaikh

Cast: Vidya Balan, Ali Fazal and Kiran Kumar

Stars: 2.5 out of 5