‘Bawaal’ Ending Explained & Movie Summary: Does Nisha Divorce Ajay?

So, an uncouth Indian guy, who was disgusted by his wife due to her epileptic seizures, discovers empathy for her while roaming around in Europe, imagining the horrors of World War 2. Wait, What?! If I told you this storyline, you would ask me to backtrack a little and your curiosity would be completely legitimate, as I have not really convinced you of the emotional connection between the characters and the events. Bawaal, directed by Nitesh Tiwari, the maker of films like Aamir Khan’s Dangal and the multistarrer Chhichhore, seems like the output of a story generated by an AI software. How else can this film feel narratively so absurd and metaphorically this jarring? The plot thickens when you realize that five writers have worked on the film.

Bawaal‘s story revolves around Ajay Dixit, a macho guy living in Lucknow and working as a high school teacher. What matters to him the most is his social image, meaning he obsesses over how people perceive him, which is why he walks around with a carefully crafted persona that ensures others are unable to see behind the veneer of braggart-ness. He married gorgeous Nisha to boost his image in society, but the marriage is dwindling since he discovered that his wife has epilepsy. When his credibility as a great educator comes under threat after he slaps a local politician’s son in school, he plans to nip the consequences in the bud by going to Europe to teach kids about World War II and creating hype around his teaching style. During the trip, he gets an opportunity to transform and become a better person.


Plot Synopsis: What Happens in ‘Bawaal’?

The plot begins by showing us Ajay Dixit’s life. He is presented to us as a jack of all trades and a master of none. He has a good physique and is the darling of the school he teaches at. The students love him, and all the teachers except one keep singing Ajay’s praises. The legends about his conquests are heard everywhere. The aforementioned teacher, who hates him, suspects him of foul play, and he is the only one nearest to Ajay’s reality. How he got the job is a mystery. No explanation is given to us, and we will just have to assume he got the job through his father’s recommendation, who works in the bank and manages several high-profile accounts.

Ajay’s reality is that he is a braggart. His modus operandi is to hide his shortcomings by deceiving people through his appearance, which he constantly refers to as ‘image.’ According to him, this is a skill he has honed, and he is truly proud of it. He fears tarnishing the image he has created, which is why he hates his wife, Nisha. He married her, thinking he would add another feather to his ‘image’ cap, but she didn’t meet his sky-high expectations. Nisha is completely without fault here. She told him upfront about her epilepsy and the seizures she used to have as a child. Ajay didn’t really understand the gravity of the situation and married her without delay. Later, he witnessed Nisha’s one such epileptic episode firsthand and felt conned. Nisha had to bear the brunt of Ajay’s vile treatment after she moved into his house, sharing it with his parents. He didn’t take her out anywhere, due to his fear that her seizures would destroy his persona of being the aspirational guy in town, which in fact, was a measure to overcompensate for his low self-esteem.


How Does Ajay’s ‘Image’ Come Under Threat?

With regrets about the marriage and just his fake persona to be proud of, there is a deep sorrow in his heart. He doesn’t blame himself for how his life is turning out; rather, he chooses to blame the world around him. After quarreling with Nisha, he takes his anger out on a student in class who challenges his knowledge about World War 2. The trouble was that the student was no ordinary kid. He was the child of a local politician who had made up his mind to get Ajay removed from the faculty after the incident. 

Ajay had always depended on the power of his image and his tactics to overcome obstacles in his life. This was the biggest one of his life, as far as he was concerned. To overcome the possible ousting from the teaching staff, he knew he had to create such a spectacle that people forgot about the ‘minor’ incident of slapping the politician’s child.


How do Ajay and Nisha end up in Europe?

Ajay’s friend Bipin, who was more of a minion, was always by his side. One day, Ajay remembers the cricket match he once played where his team failed miserably in all departments, yet when he asks Bipin, he remembers only the heroics that won his team the match. This reassured him that ‘image’ was what counted. Though he had failed miserably in the match, people remembered him as the hero because of what he did before the match. He created hype around his personality by fixing the ground and repairing the floodlights. He was convinced that people would forget about the result and evaluate someone’s competence through their ‘image.’ After such silly anecdotal evidence, he concocts another silly plan: to travel to Europe at his own expense and teach his students via video call about World War 2. He thought this move would restore his image in front of the principal and other teachers and nullify all the measures the local politician was about to take against him. Nobody had ever done such a noble deed for the children, and that too at his own expense. He had actually planned to travel to Europe but the “out of his own expense” part was a lie, though. His plan was to emotionally blackmail his father into giving him the much-needed money for the trip to Europe and then skim through the chapters in the history book via live streaming.

How his father gathered a million rupees for the trip on the drop of a hat while working at the bank is a mystery, but his father doesn’t deny giving Ajay the money. Ajay promised to take Nisha on the trip, and his father was delighted that he was finally making efforts to work on the relationship. He gave Ajay the money because he was unaware that his promise was a lie. Ajay didn’t have plans to take Nisha with him, as he was afraid of spoiling his image. What if Nisha had a seizure outdoors in front of everyone? Nisha was almost done with the relationship and had promised her mother to file for divorce if she felt that the relationship had absolutely no chance of working out. She resolved one last time to travel with Ajay to Europe and find out for certain if they could ever love each other. Ajay couldn’t refuse this time because if his father came to know that he wasn’t taking Nisha with him, he would take the money he had so hesitantly given.


Does Nisha divorce Ajay? Is Ajay’s ‘image’ intact?

Ajay was a history teacher, yet he couldn’t care less about the significance of the events that filled the history books he was supposedly teaching. The children were in awe of his legendary status and always passed his exams, so they didn’t care either. No status could help him here. Being in Europe, he realized that he was a foreigner with no knowledge about the region and its culture. He didn’t even understand the English the locals were speaking. Acting like he didn’t need Nisha’s help, he went his own way and ended up spending a chunk of his father’s money on expensive cab rides while Nisha traveled by bus and saw the Eiffel Tower.

Nisha was clear that if she saw no change in Ajay during the course of the trip, she would divorce him. Ajay was in no mood to work on his relationship. It was not in his itinerary to make amends by recognizing his rude behavior. His aim in Europe was to make superficial videos about the locations and events revolving around World War 2, thinking it would blow over everybody back home. He acted like he didn’t know it, but subconsciously, he was punishing Nisha for something she couldn’t control and also for her audacity to accompany him to Europe. He didn’t know that he was about to learn some lessons that would change him forever.

After getting a reality check on the very first day, he realized that he couldn’t function without Nisha’s help. This was the first instance where they started to form a connection, but the real change in Ajay came during their visit to Normandy Beach. It is here that he imagined the horrors of war and how he was living only for himself, whereas the American soldiers died to save France from Hitler’s army. Next, the tour to Anne Frank’s hiding place before she was killed by the Nazi forces opened his eyes to what compassion and forgiveness truly were, despite the suffering she faced. Seeing the changes in Ajay’s personality, Nisha thought she was actually making a breakthrough in the relationship, but she posted a video of them dancing in Paris, which was seen by everyone back home. Ajay again went back to being the same pathetic man who cared only about his persona. He thought that his whole plan of making the trip seem like a teacher working hard to revolutionize education would now be seen as a ‘titillated teacher’s getaway’. Distance grew between Ajay and Nisha, and this time it seemed irreparable, but fortunately, Ajay realized his true feelings for her. They were to visit Auschwitz as their final location, and Ajay imagined himself as a prisoner being taken away to the concentration camp. He was allowed to bring only a few belongings, and in his fever dream, he chose to take his wedding photograph with him, where he could see Nisha happy.

He realized he couldn’t live without her, but Nisha was still unsure, even after his apology. She agreed to accompany him to Auschwitz, and seeing the concentration camp and imagining the horrors of what happened there, she fainted and started to have a seizure in front of the visitors. This time, Ajay didn’t care about his image and helped Nisha until her fit ended. According to an Auschwitz survivor, whom they had heard speak the day before, every relationship had its ‘Auschwitz’, where it seemed impossible to overcome the suffering, but one must resolve to love their partner, just like the old survivor had loved his wife while he was in the concentration camp.

Ajay returned to India a completely different man. He resigned from the school before they could fire him, as he understood that he was just deceiving everyone with his persona. He did add that he taught the kids during the 15-day trip with his heart and soul truly into it. The local politician was also present there and revealed to Ajay that while he was returning to India, he, the politician, had organized a surprise history test in class where his students scored unbelievably good marks. They had done so after seeing Ajay’s videos he streamed from Europe. His resignation was declined, and Ajay, for the first time in his life, felt free of this ‘image’ of his that he had created because he didn’t feel he was actually good at anything but wanted people’s praise. It was on the trip that he realized that even Hitler swayed the masses through his charm and larger-than-life image but ultimately brought doom and destruction upon humanity. With this newfound wisdom, Ajay seems to be on the path to becoming an authentic person, one who understands his wife’s needs, and also grew passionate about teaching his students.


Final Thoughts

Perhaps Nitesh Tiwari was covertly going for the idea that it is men like Ajay who are themselves low on self-esteem, and under deteriorating political climate, turn out to be the supporters of a regime run by an charismatic yet inhuman dictator. But ultimately Bawaal feels extremely disjointed with its far-fetched ideas. Maybe the film’s superficiality was planned in advance to have a tongue-in-cheek dialogue with its “woke” audience. Or perhaps it was directed to be digestible to the mass audience which mostly comprised men of similar disposition to Ajay. But again, these are speculations and even if that were the case, the film fails to set up the characters that would work despite the ideological baggage. The metaphors in the end become absurdly disproportionate in the comparisons as one simply cannot compare the horrors of Auschwitz with the sorrows of a married couple; that too without compelling contextual justifications. Bawaal is a misfire for sure, but view it once, for you may find what Nitesh was going for.


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Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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