Sunday, March 31, 2013


The Nightmare Returns

The hero in the Sajid Khan Himmatwala cuts his hand. The girl says, “What shall we do, your hand is bleeding?”  He says, “Arre yaar, 1983 hai, tear your pallu and bandage it.”

Mercifully, Khan sets his tribute to the Terrible Eighties in that very period.  So there is the kitsch, comical costumes, melodrama, bombastic dialogue and the vulgarity that was a mark of the Padmalaya-Kader Khan-Jeetendra combo. The original was not a classic by any means, and was so awful, one fervently prayed for that era and that genre of cinema to be buried forever.  But, like in the movies, there is no miracle. The nightmare returns.  But even Sajid Khan, champion of ghastly films, stopped at including the song, “Ladki nahin hai tu lakdi ka khamba hai, bak bak mat kar naak tera lamba hai.”  It was in the original ‘classic’... really... swear!

The Bollywood formula that we now look back on with such fond nostalgia, had family values, genuine emotions, romance, some action and good triumphing over evil. The Padmalaya (and other studio) products coming out of the South, took the worst elements of those stories and poisoned them with unimaginable regression. The cringe-making line, “Jis ghar mein ladki ki doli jaati hai, wahan se uski arthi hi nikalti hai,” pops up as a nasty reminder of that period. 

The revenge of the hero in Himmatwala revolves around the villain being made to beg before the man who made his daughter pregnant.  Today such a plot device would be laughed at with derision.

The skinny plot involves Ravi (Ajay Devgn) coming to a village terrorised by the sarpanch (Mahesh Manjrekar) and his cartoonish sidekick (Paresh Rawal). The headman’s daughter (Tamannaah), starts as a mini-skirted, whip-wielding virago who “hates gareeb” then gets a “bum pe laat” to switch sides and change to ethnic costume.  This is the eighties, remember? Good girl rules apply. Mothers weep, sisters get rape threats.

If it’s possible to tarnish dross, Sajid Khan has done it. (There’s a scene of Manjrekar and Rawal in bed, with the latter nibbling the former’s ear!) 

Ajay Devgn manages to get out of this monstrosity with his dignity just slightly dented, but it will take the other a while to live this film down. Particularly if it does well.


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