Bala is a 2019 Indian Hindi-language social problem comedy film directed by Amar Kaushik and produced by Dinesh Vijan. Ayushmann Khurrana stars as Bala, 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. Bhumi Pednekar, Yami Gautam, Javed Jaffrey, Saurabh Shukla, and Seema Pahwa feature in supporting roles.
The film opens in Kanpur in 2005, where 14-year-old students tease a balding teacher. Balmukund “Bala” Shukla, a popular kid, leads the teasing. Bala borrows notes from the studious and dark-complexioned Latika and passes them off as his own to the fair-skinned Shruti to impress her. When Latika calls him out, 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: his father’s balding genes have killed the son’s prospects. His father 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 meets a pretty, fair-skinned model, Pari, 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 dejected. He later receives a court notice: Pari wants the marriage annulled. 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.
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. If he is not comfortable with himself, then he cannot 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 anyway but Latika turns him down gently; she actually likes Rohan. Bala is disappointed, but is able to resume his friendship with Latika.
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 Mausi
Varun Shashi Rao as Mahesh
Deepika Chikhalia as Susheela Mishra— Pari’s mother
Sunita Rajwar as Manju Shukla— Bala’s mother
Umesh Shukla as Bhuvan— Bala’s maternal grandfather
Abhishek Banerjee as Ajju
Charu Agrawal as Shruti
Dheerendra Kumar Gautam as Vihan Shukla— Bala’s younger brother
Sonam Bajwa as herself in the song “Naah Goriye”
Harrdy Sandhu as himself in the son