(Published in The Friday Times, Lahore, on December 21, 2012, retrieved from http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta3/tft/article.php?issue=20121221&page=21)
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Asin Thottumkal, Himesh Reshammiya, Mithun Chakraborty, Raj Babbar, Paresh Rawal, Sanjai Mishra
Director: Ashish R Mohan
Rating: 1 star
I don’t know why we have elections in India anymore. We should just let Akshay Kumar run the country. That way, everyone would have an education – because, did you know, when he beats up people in a Balloo di Dairy in Punjab, he retains the right to have it converted to Balloo di Paathshaala? If everyone in the country had an education, they would either be too busy to watch the movies he churns out six times a year, or would kill themselves when they hear lines such as, “She studied in London. Tenth pass. <Pause for laugh>.” Crime would grind to a halt – the baddies who survive Khiladi’s assault on their bodies wouldn’t survive his assault on their senses when he’s got them all to himself in the gallows.
The Pakistan Censor Board needn’t worry about Khiladi 786 – it isn’t any more offensive to Muslims than it is to all humanity. The title draws from Bahattar Singh’s (Akshay Kumar’s) belief that God has given him rahmat, but denied him mohabbat. To swallow that, we must believe God sneaks down to scribble ‘786’ on his palm, with a ball-point pen, after every shower he has. Or, we must believe he doesn’t have showers, which would explain the mohabbat-related hiccups.
The film’s USP is that hardly anyone has a name. All the Punjabis go by numbers – Sattar Singh, Ikhattar Singh, Bahattar Singh and Tahattar Singh. They even wear badges that go ‘70 Singh’, ‘71 Singh’ and so on. The camera zooms in on each badge, just in case we’ve forgotten to laugh. Oh, why are they wearing badges? Khiladi 786 sets itself apart from the stupid-supercop genre that Dabangg, Singham, and Rowdy Rathore belong to, by populating itself with fake-stupid-supercops.
Akshay Kumar’s Khiladi series, which he returns to after 12 years of churning out mindless comedy, was all about the action. The man tries to rise to the occasion by mixing the two genres, and ending up with an execrable film that should never have been made. The formula for his films is pretty much the same – he beats up the bad guys, smirks out a catchphrase, and then waits for the girl to fall into his arms, before beating up more bad guys. The girl is usually some khoob ladi mardani, whose exploits intimidate all other men, but impress Akshay Kumar, because he’s bigger, stronger, and he has a catchphrase. She falls for his macho, and gyrates through a series of love songs in exotic settings.
Here, the audience’s biggest disadvantage is that the love songs have been composed (and probably written) by Himesh Reshammiya, who is also credited with the absent script. As each nasal note quivered in my ear, I could feel my auditory receptor neurons dying. Worse, the tunes crawl into our memories, and refuse to leave. Reshammiya also stars in the comedy track, as Mansukh Bhai, a wedding broker disowned by his Papa (Paresh Rawal), and determined to prove his worth by finding mohabbat for Bahattar Singh.Mohabbat takes the form of Indu Tendulkar (Asin Thottumkal), the sister of Mumbai don Tatya Tukaram Tendulkar (Mithun Chakraborty), who comes with his own catchphrase. Defying the conventions of comedy, Reshammiya supplies himself with a sidekick called Jeevanlal Pranlal De Costa, played by Sanjai Mishra (more familiar to cricket-watchers as ‘Apple Singh’).
The movie might as well have called itself United Colours of Bhatinda. The song sequences don’t stop at featuring turbaned bhangradancers sporting fluorescent kurtas, and trucks sporting hideous paint. No, sir, the Seventies Singh family has an international horde ofbahuranis – a woman from Africa whose name is naturally ‘Mandela’, a woman from China whose ethnicity makes room for facepalm-provoking puns on ‘Cheeni’, and a woman from Canada who serves to reinforce the Punjabi-taxi-driver-in-Amreeka cliché.
The filmmakers buffer the laughter quotient of the film by throwing in a dwarf. You see, nothing is funnier in Bollywood than a fierce Little Man with a high Little Voice. For most of Khiladi 786, we’re not sure whether the film is paying tribute to yesteryear Bollywood, spoofing it, or both. Poor R D Burman and Nirupa Roy (the Woman Who Loses Her Kids in the Mela) sort of get it in the face.
But it would have been worth the ordeal of putting oneself through a Khiladi film that is littered with the Most Unwanted of Bollywood if the box office collections were to convey to the producers – and Akshay Kumar – that the era of Khiladi is, thankfully, over.