You have to grant Sajid Khan this; he is consistent. Once again he makes a lowest common denominator film which assumes his audience is either stupid or has a lot of money to waste. The 1980s are infamous for being the decade that saw the worst of Bollywood, so why take a film that represents just that and then remake it in exactly the same mould?
Himmatwala 2013 is set in 1983. It comes with a widow in white, a younger sister who is threatened with gang rape, a comic sidekick to the villain who is adorned with a bizarre wig, a tiger who is tamed and chiming temple bells that respond to a desperate mother’s pleas for help. Plus there’s ‘Ta thaiya ta thaiya’ with matkas and jhatkas on the beach.
Since it’s a Sajid Khan film, it also comes with Chunky Pandey and Ritesh Deshmukh in cameos and multiple item numbers. In the opening song Sonakshi Sinha tries to disco in a fitted gown that shows off her authentic 80’s hips for sure, but in which she looks anything but grateful when she sings ‘Thank God Its Friday’.
The setting is Ramnagar where the villagers are steeped in debt to landlord Sher Singh (Mahesh Manjrekar). His biggest chamcha is his brother-in-law Narayan Das (Paresh Rawal, with the curly wig). Enter Ravi (Ajay Devgn) who returns to find his long-lost mother (Zarina Wahab) and sister Padma and to exact painstaking revenge on Sher Singh because Singh had framed Ravi’s father and destroyed his family.
Expectedly Ravi and Sher Singh’s daughter Rekha (Tamannah) fall in love. Over time, Ravi saves the village, his family and reforms the baddies. In between there are a series of politically incorrect and regressive scenes e.g. Ravi fighting a tiger, Ravi’s sister almost getting gang-raped, the mother telling her daughter that she must return to her in-laws even though they abuse and whip her. Among the couple of somewhat amusing scenes are the Psycho shower scene adaptation and Rawal’s crazy feet when a crab is slipped into this dhoti.
So why remake a film in the same milieu as 30 years ago when society has changed so much? Why make a half-hearted effort at creating something retro and the other half attempt to be authentic? But mostly, why do filmmakers assume that the audience is unintelligent? As for the performances – Devgn is dull and plays this part as he has every other angry, vengeful action hero off-late. Tamannah is pleasant and stays within the remits of a role that demands very little. Rawal has his moments but jars after a few scenes while Manjrekar gets into the character only post-interval. It took me a moment to recognize Padma’s tubby hubby as Adhyayan Suman. The constant punning by dialogue writers Farhad-Sajid gets tiresome and the action – which might have been one element to elevate the experience – is also uninspired.
Another Khan weakness is indulgence. Himmatwala plods on at 150 minutes testing your patience and bombarding you with volume to compensate for the story’s banality and the film’s mediocrity – a word often associated with films of the 80s, a decade we are happy to disassociate from. You need himmat to watch this film.