Bala is a 2019 Hindi-language social problem comedy film directed by Amar Kaushik, written by Niren Bhatt, co-written by Ravi Muppa, and produced by Dinesh Vijan, based on an original story by Bengali film director Pavel Bhattacharjee about the life of Rohit Sood. Ayushmann Khurrana stars as the titular character, Balmukund Shukla, a young man living in Kanpur who is suffering from male pattern baldness, and the story is about his lack of confidence and societal pressure that comes with premature balding. Another theme in the film is colourism. Bhumi Pednekar, Yami Gautam, Javed Jaffrey, Saurabh Shukla, and Seema Pahwa feature in supporting roles.
Principal photography began on 6 May 2019 in Kanpur and the film was also shot in Mumbai and Lucknow.The soundtrack was composed by Sachin–Jigar; the film released in preview shows on 7 November 2019 and Indian theatres on the following day.Made on a budget of ₹250 million (US$3.5 million),Bala received generally positive reviews from critics, and it grossed ₹1.71 billion (US$24 million) worldwide. Later, it earned 3 nominations at the 65th Filmfare Awards – Best Actor for Khurrana, Best Supporting Actress for Pahwa, and Best Dialogue for Bhatt.
The film opens in Kanpur in 2005, where 14-year-old students tease a bald teacher. Balmukund “Bala” Shukla, a popular kid who carries much pride for his hairstyle, leads the teasing of the teacher. Bala borrows notes from the studious and dark-complexioned Latika Trivedi who was good in studies and passes them off as his own to the fair-skinned Shruti to impress her by pasting a new sticker bearing his name above Latika’s notebook. When Latika calls him out and open up the sticker in front of Shruti, Bala berates her for being dark-skinned. The narrator describes how society values beauty and fair skin over other accomplishments, especially in marriage.
14 years later, Bala is a balding man in his late twenties who struggles with his premature baldness. He is a fairness cream salesman by day and nightclub comic by night. One day, Bala angrily lashes out at his bald father Hari, who is a ghar jamai, that the father’s balding genes have killed the son’s prospects. Hari presents him with a wig and explains that baldness is external and need not have anything to do with one’s accomplishments. Bala dons the wig and resumes his work with new vigor. He finally meets his crush, a pretty, fair-skinned model, Pari Mishra, and courts her. They decide to marry. Some days before the wedding, Bala is stricken by conscience and sends her a text disclosing his baldness. Unbeknownst to him, the text accidentally goes to someone else and Pari does not see it. Bala assumes she has accepted his baldness and they marry.
Latika has her share of troubles. Many boys and families come to see her but reject her because of her dark skin. Among these prospective suitors is Rohan, an Australia-settled NRI who is attracted to Latika but the meeting blows over when his mother mentions Latika’s complexion and Latika storms out. Rohan asks to meet her and they reconcile until he mentions he was initially attracted to her due to her Instagram profile. Latika reveals that she is not on Instagram, and it is revealed that Bala had created a fake profile with airbrushed pictures of her at her aunt’s behest.
Fuming, Latika storms into Bala’s home the day after his wedding and shouts at him. She says she is not ashamed of her skin and warns him not to interfere in her life anymore. Pari hears this, discovers Bala’s baldness, and walks out on him. Bala is rejected. Bala visits her to talk it over. Pari reveals that she was blessed with good looks but not much else. She knew she was a below-average student and thus could not enter any other profession besides modeling. Her looks are all she has: they are the source of the attention she’s received all her life and the source of her livelihood. He later receives a court notice: Pari wants the marriage annulled.
Latika apologizes to Bala, as her outburst broke his marriage. Bala engages her as his lawyer and the court case begins. Latika cross-examines Pari, who accepts she married Bala because of his wits and charm. She also accepts that Bala did not mislead or defraud her but points out that Bala was not forthcoming about his baldness, claiming that if he isn’t comfortable with himself, he can’t sustain anyone else. Pari’s lawyer moves that Pari has a right to want to annul the marriage regardless. Bala interrupts the proceedings and agrees that Pari does have that right and the judge orders such. When Latika questions him later, Bala explains that the law cannot compel anyone to love another, and a half-hearted marriage will not work anyway.
Later, during one of his fair-cream sales events, Bala realizes that beauty is merely skin-deep. He publicly sheds his wig to show that self-love is important irrespective of appearance. He also realizes that he has fallen in love with Latika and runs to propose to her but sees that Rohan and his family have come to finalize the wedding. He proposes to Latika, but is disheartened when she rejects his proposal, though they are able to resume their friendship.
The film ends with Bala, now at peace with his baldness, doing a new comedy routine about skin-deep beauty and the meaning of life.
Ayushmann Khurrana as Balmukund “Bala” Shukla
Bhumi Pednekar as Latika Trivedi
Yami Gautam as Pari Mishra
Javed Jaffrey as Bachchan Dubey
Saurabh Shukla as Hari Shukla— Bala’s father
Seema Pahwa as Aanra Bajpai also known as Indira Mausi – Latika’s aunt
Varun Shashi Rao as Rohan Joshi– Latika’s love interest
Deepika Chikhalia as Susheela Mishra— Pari’s mother
Sunita Rajwar as Manju Bajpai Shukla— Bala’s mother
Umesh Shukla as Bhuvan Bajpai— Bala’s maternal grandfather
Abhishek Banerjee as Ajay “Ajju” Saini
Charu Agrawal as Shruti Kanojia
Dheerendra Kumar Gautam as Vihaan Shukla— Bala’s younger brother
Sonam Bajwa in the song “Naah Goriye”
Harrdy Sandhu in the song “Naah Goriye”
Aparshakti Khurana in a cameo appearance as Jayesh Singh— Shruti’s boyfriend
Sachin Choudhary as young Bala
Sumit Arora as Vivek Saxena— Bala’s boss
Ziya Ahmed as Abhiraj Mishra— Pari’s father
Ranjan Raj as Sumit Singh
Saniya Touqeer as young Latika
Rajat Singh as young Ajju
Sunehri Shah as young Shruti
Sushil Dubey as school teacher Anand Biswas
Mushtaq Khan as Nikhil Raina
Mukteshwar as Madhav Saini– Ajju’s father
Anand Mishra as Mukesh Mehta— Bala’s friend
Prabhat Kumar as Ruppan Walia
Aatmaja Pandey as Vikas Tripathi— Latika’s client
Sawan Nigam as Nand Kishore Arora
Swastika Chakraborty as Keerti Joshi– Rohan’s mother