If you were expecting a smart remake of the hit that spurred a trend of tacky entertainers, you will feel cheated as director Sajid Khan seems to have got carried away by his reverence for K. Raghavendra Rao’s Himmatwala. He neither looks at the 1983 melodrama from the prism of 2013 nor does he try to improve upon the tawdriness we associate with the era.
It is not a spoof on the era either. Apart from a couple of sharp remarks on the genre, you can’t laugh at the scenario for Sajid seems serious about the regressive elements of the times when the films preached that a girl goes to her in-laws’ place in a palanquin and comes out on a stretcher or for that matter reinforced the belief that the mother or sister is the hero’s weakness that the villain loves to exploit.
When the sister is about to be raped after the staple chase sequence leading to a dead end, the hero turns up. Sajid follows the drill like a devout disciple rather than an inspired student out to reinvent the genre. All that talk of reviving the mother-son relationship proves to be hollow claims made by a director who has begun to take his audience for granted.
Talking of entry, the film does make an impact when Ajay Devgn turns up in an ‘in and as’ mood, but soon the title becomes a pain for, every 15 minutes we are reminded that we are watching Himmatwala on screen.
To Sajid’s credit, he does cut out a couple of incoherent subplots (Arun Govil and Shoma Anand’s characters are out and Asrani gets another role) and has brought in a tiger as the friend in need, but he does it with the flourish of an ironsmith, hammering his way to seek attention.
The changes his team of writers (Sajid and Farhad) has made are superficial. Like the profession of the protagonist has been changed to suit Devgn and a couple of item numbers have been added to keep the audience awake. They show so much deference to Kader Khan, who wrote the dialogues of the original that they have almost copied his ‘geographical’ humour wherein he used names of cities to express his witticisms. In times when Himmatwala is repeated twice a month on movie channels and YouTube is full of scenes from the film, it makes little sense to facsimile the farce.
A street fighter, Ravi returns to his village to support his sobbing mother (Zarina Wahab sheds as much glycerine as Waheeda Rehman did) and sister to seek revenge as his father (Anil Dhawan replaces Satyendra Kappu) was discredited by the megalomaniac sarpanch (Mahesh Manjrekar gets into Amjad Khan’s shoes) and his cronies (Paresh Rawal does justice to Kader Khan’s character, but Adhyayan Suman fails to match Shakti Kapoor’s expertise in playing a lecher).
The film is set in 1983, but one wonders when the original was set. For the feudal system and the lack of a law enforcing agency are not only ridiculous but also annoying and Sajid does little to improve the setting.
The stunts are lame. Devgn’s flair with action helps digest some of the punches but when it comes to reviving ‘Naino Mein Sapna’, Devgn’s deficiency with PT steps shows up as Sajid fails to recreate the grandeur that Rao managed on the beach with the song which continues to be a potter’s delight.
Paresh Rawal succeeds in bringing alive the hammy ways of Kader Khan. He has masterfully copied Khan’s style of speaking to the viewer in the middle of a scene and with Manjrekar resuscitates some of the crass situations.
The original was not a great piece of cinema, but the rural story was spiced up by the ravishing presence of Sridevi as the snooty girl who hates the poor. As the upmarket shrew was tamed by the hero, many got their money’s worth. Here Tamannah Bhatia proves to be an insipid replacement, both in terms of decorative as well as snob value.
Emboldened by our affinity towards mindless entertainers, Sajid has shown guts to offer us a recycled recipe. Do we have the courage to reject it?
Keywords: Himmatwala 2013 review