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Bollywood Review

'Himmatwala' review: 'Sajid Khan commits crimes against cinema'

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Director: Sajid Khan; Screenwriters: Sajid Khan; Starring: Ajay Devgn, Tamannaah, Zarina Wahab, Paresh Rawal, Mahesh Manjrekar; Running time: 150 mins; Certificate: 12A


The '80s represented the worst of Hindi cinema. Why anyone would want to revisit this era in the first instance is questionable, but to then remake a film which even in its time was dubious, seems like a deliberate act of self-sabotage. An opening sequence that includes Chunkey Pandey channelling Michael Jackson is a good indicator of the crimes against cinema that are to come.

Ravi (Ajay Devgn) returns to his ancestral village to wreak his revenge on the landowner who destroyed his family. He finds his grief-stricken mother Savitri (Zarina Wahab) and his sister destitute, and the villagers living under the harsh rule of landowner Sher Singh (Mahesh Manjrekar). When his sister is duped into marrying the odious son of Naryan Das (Paresh Rawal), with the help of Sher Singh's spoilt but reformed daughter Rekha (Tamaannah), Ravi finds a way to wreak his revenge and win justice for his family.

Sajid Khan's Himmatwala (Braveheart) is replete with the well-worn clichés that contributed to marking this era as a decade of overblown melodrama and misogyny; the long-suffering mother; the helpless sister who is preyed upon by local henchmen; a battle waged with God and an all-singing, all-dancing hero who bends steel bars with his bare hands and fights off ten men at a time.

Devgn spouts his dialogue with the cocksure confidence of a minor despot. His expressions veer between angst and delirious joyfulness, and while he is presented in a larger-than-life heroic form, be it grappling with a tiger or fighting off the villains, he falls flat, seemingly acting his scenes through gritted teeth.

'Himmatwala' movie poster


The melodramatic stand-offs between mother and son that were a staple of '80s cinema, today are mawkish, and rather than having sympathy for the underdog in their plight, you are left frustrated at their willing state of martyrdom. The inclusion of a gang-rape sequence is surely ill-advised in current times, and while an effort is made to make a moral message urging modern men to be the 'himmatwala' who would fight for a woman's honour, the message is quickly diluted by the appearance of a succession of scantily-clad, hip-thrusting village belles.

Khan goes all Hitchcock on us with an ill-placed homage to Psycho in a shower sequence, while Rawal and Manjrekar are the butt of the jokes, with humour borne of cheap gags and physical comedy that is at best simplistic, at worst inane.

The only redeeming features are the fact that there is a tangible storyline and in the near-faithful recreation of the popular Sridevi-Jeetendra songs which allow for a moment of genuine nostalgic reverie. Tamannaah is reminiscent of a young Madhuri in her prime and a future in Hindi cinema for the South Indian screen queen seems assured regardless.

There are those who will be satiated by the story of the poor man's struggle against corrupt overlords and will revel in the triumphant conclusion, while Sajid Khan will undoubtedly defend his film to the hilt, issuing the caveat that it is but an 'entertainer'.

Thankfully, Hindi cinema has moved on in leaps and bounds from this. It's a period we would rather forget. Instead of being nostalgic about the regressive cinema of yore, it's surely time to leave the archaic values and misogyny of the past behind us and look towards a brighter future both for modern Hindi cinema and Indian society.

The title is fitting. You have to be a 'himmatwala' to endure this.

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