Now here’s an idea: you take an iconic villain of Indian cinema, the mention of whose name alone sends shivers down someone’s spine, and you convert him into a symbol of the people, a crusader fighting against corruption. The idea is that if the corrupt don’t clean up their act, Gabbar will come and torment them.
Peppered with classic Gabbar dialogues from the record-breaking Sholay, director’s Krish’s Gabbar is Back is a remake of Tamil film Ramanaa, written by A R Murugadoss. Akshay Kumar stars as Aditya, a college teacher with the vigilante alter ego of Gabbar. His modus operandi is that if you kill one you open the eyes of thousands, so set an example, expose the criminals and clean up the system.
The film hinges on a suspension of disbelief and an acceptance that all the cops are incompetent and the bad guys are two-dimensional characters who wear too much foundation. In this case the baddie is builder Digvijay Patil, who feels compelled to keep repeating that he is “a brand”. Until Gabbar upstages him and proves that he is the bigger brand.
Only one smart cop, over-qualified to play a driver, who has been denied a sub-inspector post because he refused to pay a bribe, seems able to piece together the puzzle that is Gabbar. Sunil Grover is impressive in the part that he plays with appropriate understatement, outshining the over-the-top supporting actors around him. There are several such South India film tropes – a heroine that plays a minimal role, unexplained events, loud background music, caricatured supporting actors, a long monologue by the villain and a preachy speech by the hero at the end, justifying his highly questionable methodology as he addresses his fan following of the ‘youth’.
Kareena Kapoor Khan and Chitrangda Singh add the eye candy and glamour that Shruti Haasan is unable to provide. She comes across as a hyper, ridiculously Google-dependent girl who spends more time delivering babies and attending weddings than being a lawyer. Akshay Kumar is, as usual, the most watchable part of Akshay Kumar films and he is looking dashing in a beard too. But we’ve seen it all and heard it all before, and this remake just does not travel well.