Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Khiladi 786: Review

Khiladi 786 is number eight in the Khiladi series, a loose franchise that began in 1991 and introduced a new kind of action hero in the husky-voiced Akshay Kumar. All subsequent Khiladi films have starred Kumar, though it’s been 12 years since the last, Khiladi 420. Ashish R Mohan, making his directorial debut here after assisting Rohit Shetty on the Golmaal series, pops the Dabangg/Singham/Son of Sardar template into the microwave, lets it heat for a bit and serves it up to a public that seemingly can’t get enough of silly action comedies.

Apart from Khiladi Kumar, the biggest name attached to the film is Himesh Reshammiya, who’s written the story, composed the music and lent his nasal twang to most of the songs. He also plays an inept matchmaker who, in an attempt to get back into the good books of his father, vows to bring Bahattar Singh (Kumar) and Indu Tendulkar (Asin Thottumkal) together in holy matrimony. Given that Bahattar is a criminal – albeit one who beats up other criminals to help out the Punjab police – and Indu the daughter of a Mumbai don (Mithun Chakraborty), it would seem a pretty straightforward match. But that’s too easy for Reshammiya and Mohan, who contrive to bring the entire Singh clan to Mumbai, and have both sides pretend to be policemen. With Rahul Singh filling in as Asin’s jealous boyfriend and token villain, the stage is set for a lot of over-the-top muscle flexing, pronouncements of Punjabi pride and songs that go “lonely lonely tere bin”.

It’s not like there’s no fun to be had. Kumar, a less tightly wound star than Salman Khan or Ajay Devgn, tosses off all his lines with a wink, while Raj Babbar (as Bahattar’s father Sattar), Chakraborty and the perpetually on-edge Rahul Singh are effectively hammy. Some of the gags – Kumar walking on top of a row of afros, for example – are so outrageous they work, and character names like Margaret Mandela Kaur are weird even for Bollywood. But Mohan seems terrified of boring the audience – he’s constantly speeding the action up and slowing it down, a trick which was already stale in 2010. For all the progress made by just-outside-the-mainstream Hindi films this year, no one seems to be giving the slightest thought to changing the staple Bollywood action comedy formula. Considering the brisk business these films do, no one’s likely to attempt it in a hurry either.

This review appeared in Time Out Delhi.

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