Director Sajid Khan may lack the courage to take risks but he is a very optimistic man indeed. He believes what worked in 1983 will click in 2013 too. Come to think of it, he might actually be right. Sad!
Having been at the receiving end of the mindless excesses of the loud and laboured comedies that he specializes in, we know exactly what to expect from his latest foray into the terrain of tastelessness – zilch. And that is such a huge advantage for a filmmaker.
If you, in the manner of the director, accept that unalloyed bunkum can be legitimately passed off, and gleefully lapped up, as cinematic entertainment, you might even come away pleased as punch with Himmatwala.
The film lacks punch, but it loses no opportunity to pun on the word and the act.
The braveheart hero, a big-city streetfighter who returns to his village to settle old scores with an evil headman, uses a powerful punch to tame a tiger (no less!) and a host of other adversaries.
To rub it in, the villain’s puckish brother-in-law advises the village sarpanch to be wary of a ‘sar pe punch’ from the vengeful prodigal.
What unfolds in the course of a hollow and hackneyed two-and-a-half-hour clash between good and evil has neither head nor tail.
But Sajid Khan could not care less. He foists a turgid concoction of humour, drama and romance upon the audience without pulling a punch.
His male protagonist declares: “Main pehle hasaata hoon phir roolata hoon (I’ll make you laugh before I make you cry)”. So don’t complain that you weren’t warned!
The director strings together several supposedly comic gags to stretch the narrative to snapping point, but often forgets that he also has a story to tell.
One would have described the film as pea-brained and left it at that if only if it had a semblance of a brain.
Himmatwala is a mindless potpourri that brings together the worst ingredients of 1980s Hindi cinema and parlays them into a messy mélange that quivers repeatedly under its own weight.
Being a Sajid Khan film, it also has its share of item numbers that keep pace with the purposeless gags.
In fact, Himmatwala opens with an item number – Sonakshi Sinha sways rather disinterestedly to Thank God, It’s Friday – in a nightclub called Funkytown Disco.
And who is the owner of this disco? It’s Chunkey Pandey. He tells us that on the last day of every month, his dance floor turns into a bare-knuckles boxing ring.
It’s just the kind of site that the himmatwala needs to announce his grand entry. And who is his opponent tonight? It’s a man called Zebisco. Rhymes with disco, got it? The stage is set and the sluice-gates are thrown open for an abundance of such inanities.
If nothing else, what Himmatwala certainly has a profusion of is a complete disregard for logic and narrative finesse.
In remaking a revenge drama that barely passed muster as a film but made pots of money, the director has sought to attempt nothing that could tinker with the original’s lowbrow reputation.
Make no mistake: the 2013 Himmatwala is as awful as the 1983 Himmatwala. We can only hope against hope that consumers of Hindi cinema of this variety have moved on enough to treat it with the disdain it deserves.
Unfortunately for lovers of cinema and happily for the makers of Himmatwala, we have empirical evidence to suggest that the Sajid Khan brand of filmmaking still could be just as crowd-pleasing as it was 30 years ago.
Himmatwala is Sajid Khan’s first film without Akshay Kumar. But in Ajay Devgn, he finds an equally willing ally. So banish all illusions of a better deal.
This isn’t of course an exact copy. The director makes freewheeling changes both in terms of characters and situations. But no amount of tweaking can do much to save this piece of tawdry twaddle from being a complete washout.
Himmatwala is painfully overlong, insufferably silly and utterly devoid of any genuine touches of inspiration.
The schoolteacher-father of 1983 gives way to a devout temple priest, but the protagonist and the baddie remain essentially unaltered.
The wronged mother, the slimy munimji, the latter’s godawaful son, the hero’s lachrymose sister and the villain’s daughter keep popping in and out of the drama as the eponymous hero goes about setting things right in the village.
It is still 1983. One character even talks about catching the Jeetendra-Sridevi starrer. When another refers to swine flu, he is told that there is no such disease known to mankind. “It’ll come in 20-30 years,” he quips.
The acting borders on the crude for the most part, with both Mahesh Manjrekar (the sarpanch) and Paresh Rawal (the saala) pulling out all the stops.
Devgn gives Himmatwala his best shot but stepping into the Jumping Jack’s boots while strutting around in the garb of a bone-crunching terminator can’t be easy.
He is joined in the garish Taaki taaki and Nainon mein sapna routines by Tamannaah Bhatia. Sans the thunder thighs that made Sridevi such a force, she is no patch on the real thing.
Coming back to Sajid Khan, he not only believes in the ‘anything goes’ philosophy that drives a segment of the Mumbai movie industry, he also dares to go out on a limb to try and pull it off in practice.
To each his own. But you don’t really have to subject yourself to this monstrous assault on the senses, even if you are blessed with loads of himmat.