December 7, 2012
Ashish R. Mohan
Akshay Kumar, Asin, Himesh Reshammiya, Raj Babbar, Mukesh Tiwari, Mukesh Rishi, Mithun Chakraborty, Rahul Singh, Sanjay Mishra, Johnny Lever
A family of goondas waylays truck drivers on highways and loots them in collusion with the local police. Their son is in search of a bride but no family wants to give him their daughter. A gangster is in search of a husband for his sister, but the combined might of her explosive nature and bro’s explosive career keeps prospective grooms away. The girl is Indu Tendulkar; the ‘boy’ is Bahattar (yes, 72) Singh. You know of course without being told that he is played by Akshay Kumar and she by Asin, that their paths will cross at some point and that they will fall in love.
The name Bahattar forms the crux of one of the film’s many lame jokes. Equally lame is the ‘joke’ that the men in this family are all married to foreigners which means Bahattar’s mother is a white woman and his grandmother is black. This could have been funny except that the point is repeated ad nauseum plus both ladies can’t act. Cliches abound in this film, as frequently as dull songs. In the role of a marriage broker cum wedding planner, Himesh Reshammiya moves his facial muscles here more than he ever has before, but the fact that a non-actor like him gets to hog screen space in all his scenes while the supremely talented Sanjay Mishra is relegated to the role of his sidekick is completely unforgivable, even if Himesh happens to be one of the film’s producers. Johnny Lever appears in a brief role to contort his face a few times. Asin fans may derive consolation from the fact that her character is less insignificant here than she was in Bol Bachchan, but that’s not saying much for an actress who was an established star in southern India when she entered Hindi filmdom with a splash in 2008, before making a series of bad career choices. Still, it must be said that she looks pretty in Khiladi 786, has a natty wardrobe and shows off a refreshingly well-rounded body that’s neither overweight nor skinny in the manner of many of her industry colleagues.
Nothing, however, illustrates the poor quality of the film’s writing better than the title itself. We’re never given a full explanation for why Bahattar Singh is also widely known as Khiladi 786 in the story (apart from a brief glimpse of one his palms on which the lines form those three numerals), but it doesn’t take much of an IQ to figure out that this is the team’s unsophisticated effort to remind us of Akshay’s run of luck with film titles featuring the word “Khiladi” while also using the numerical significance of 786 to appeal to a community that Bollywood wisdom tells us has primarily been Salman Khan’s catchment area so far. So tacky and in-your-face is the effort that at one point, when Bahattar Singh aka Khiladi 786 has just notched up a major gain in his life, as he walks away from the scene of his victory, he turns to look pointedly at a place of worship that just happens to be there. Finesse is clearly not the strong point of this team.
Equally gauche is the film’s repeated odes to its leading-man-cum-Bollywood-box-office-king-of-2012-so-far Akshay, precisely in the manner that all Salman Khan’s films pay homage to Salman these days. But even a charismatic star like Akshay needs to do more than strut, preen and pose around to be appealing.
It’s not that Khiladi 786 is without any redeeming factors. It actually is genuinely funny in places, my favourite moment being the manner in which Bahattar Singh pronounces the word “valet” to mean something completely different in Hindi. But such moments are few and far between. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind mindless comedies. My issue is that this one is predictable and flat and just occasionally amusing. It actually made me long for Sajid Khan - yes, it is THAT bad.
If your tastes run in the direction of this genre, then here’s another comparison that may help you: with all its loudness and its repetitiveness in the second half, Son of Sardar is a far far far more entertaining film than Khiladi 786. Now have I made myself clear?
Rating (out of five): **
CBFC Rating (India):
Photograph courtesy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khiladi_786