Mayank Shekhar | Last Modified - Dec 07, 2012, 02:01 PM IST
The film aims to startle you right from the start. The head trembles from the noise even if the eyes don’t look equally interested. Right before the opening credits kick in, Akshay Kumar rises up in the air, kicks the bonnet of a jeep so hard that the whole vehicle breaks into pieces. A little later he introduces himself again, this time the jeep spins like a top as humans fly in the storm as he unleashes his punches.
Awesome Akshay, the Punjabi hero whose real name is Rajeev Bhatia, plays Bahattar Singh, a funny, fake cop as against Salman Khan’s crooked, corrupt Chulbul Pandey in Dabanng. He’s gifted with a supernatural power of whacking people faster than the speed of light. This means that while everyone can notice bodies lying on the floor, no one can actually see how he beat the living daylights out of them.
Many films are known to insult your intelligence, this one ignores it altogether. You don’t mind. It is after all a children’s flick, in ways that kids whose brains are yet not fully developed will enjoy, possibly clap, and laugh. God knows we love such films. A whole lot of them land up in the “Rs 100 crore” club. How much money these movies collect excites the imagination of the audiences. They get happy with the news every week. This is odd, since they were the ones who had spent that money; it’s not coming back to them.
The madness started with Aamir Khan’s Ghajini. It doubled with Salman Khan’s Wanted. Aamir moved on. Salman established himself as the top “single screen superstar”. The genre gave a couple of equally middle-aged actors (Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn) a new life in the theatre of the absurd. Khiladi 786 predictably attempts to be stupider than Singham, as bad-ass as Bodyguard, rowdier than Rowdy Rathod and more senseless than Son Of Sardaar. The inspirations come from cinema of the South, particularly Tamil and Telugu blockbusters. This movie is not a southern remake in that sense. Why bother, the filmmakers rightly suggest. Since all remakes seem to do well, it is only fair that the same remakes be remade. Good move.
The audience is still national, or at least from culturally diverse Indian states above the Vindhyas. The producer, like an able politician, fixes this minor problem by appealing to as many communities he can along the way. The film’s main don (Mithun Chakraborty) is from Maharashtra as is his daughter (Asin), the heroine, who also speaks in Marathi. The side-kick talks in a UP-Bihar twang. The hero is the Punjab da puttar, of course. The numbers 786 that he scribbles on his palm is sacred to Muslims. And there can’t be trouble pulling in the Gujarati crowd if the second hero is Himesh.
Despite allusions to the contrary this is His Himeshness’s film alone. They’ve cunningly kept him away from the promotional material. He’s scored the music, or at least picked up portions from recent tracks -- some of his own as well -- that worked. He slyly brings in RD Burman’s portraits while picturising a terrible number “Balma”. This makes you sad. Let’s not involve the great RD’s spirits into all this. So what if he wouldn’t mind and that he had a sense of humour. His Himeshness has also produced the film and written the lyrics and the story.
That reminds me, there must be a story. Himesh Bhai plays a wedding organiser’s son, who is no good with fixing matches, so his father kicks him out. To redeem his image, he tries to get a don’s daughter get together with a fake cop. The dialogue writer probably got paid per word, so when the cheques stopped coming in, he decided to repeat himself. Most similar movies give the hero a stock phrase or “takia kalaam” for audience recall. This one has almost half a dozen. We keep hearing the same lines being repeated over and over again. Finally when you hear Akshay mention for the 786th time that there are three things in the world you can’t see – Bhooton ka sansaar (ghost town), sachche wala pyar (true love), Bahattar paaji ka raftaar (Bahattar’s speed) – you know you just can’t see this anymore. Not again paaji, please.