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Movie Review: Khiladi

December 16, 2012

"Khiladi 786," starring Akshay Kumar and Asin Thottumkal, was released on Friday, Dec.7. — Courtesy Photo
"Khiladi 786," starring Akshay Kumar and Asin Thottumkal, was released on Friday, Dec.7. — Courtesy Photo

Khiladi: When a moniker just about serves its purpose!

It’s a morally adequate decision that no one is touting Khiladi 786 – or as it’s called here, Khiladi – as the successor to the original Khiladi. This is mostly because 20-odd years and seven unconnected movies of mix-genres and failed-success later, the title that sprang Khiladi-title bearer Akshay Kumar’s career is anything but its own flimsy-mockery. The titles, some of comedy, some of action– and maybe one of two of whodunits — are just there to cash-in a fleeting memory of a darn-good thriller; call it a faux-franchise if you may.

Still, the argument doesn’t make a speck of a difference.

Today, when Bollywood is suddenly high-and-might again with its off-the-cuff multiplex expansion and bloated budgets, a star is as good as his last venture — and if he has a signature title, then that’s all there is to it to get people on board.

At least for one week, that is.

But that’s all Khiladi needs anyways.

There are a lot of movies out to reshape new-Bollywood. If I am glad at Khiladi for one thing, it is for its unimaginativeness. This is routine, dumb, family-friendly, masala Bollywood — and I wouldn’t want this “old-school” feeling to slide away just yet.

Nostalgic-gladness aside, Khiladi is embarrassingly hollow. Its story is borderline no-frills, buoyed by a smattering of serviceable-to-good performances. Chief of these is Mithun Chakraborty, a don named Tatya Tukaram Tendulkar — TTT for short, who can’t get his off-kilter sister (AsinThottumkal) married.

Sure enough, she has her reasons. Her boyfriend (Rahul Singh), for sake of a late dramatic entrance and some sidelined skits, rests behind bars; even when the police (played by an excellent MukeshTiwari) want’s him out … sometimes desperately.

Unconnected — for now, though — out in Punjab lives a lawless highwayman in cahoots with the local law. He is “Bahattar” Singh — that’s 72 —. Dressed as a fake cop, he loots criminal consignments and delivers a stake for municipal betterment; call him Robin Hood, except that title is already half-trademarked to Salman Khan.

What makes him “Khiladi bhaiyya” (as the song goes), I don’t know (is he good at sports?)

From what we see, he punches and kicks real hard and moves just outside a normal human’s persistence of vision. Slow motioned cinematography and wireworks, however, tell us every “standardized” hit he connects.

Bahattar, being the swashbuckling and kind-hearted guy that he is, has a problem getting married too, until Mansukh (HimeshReshammiya, also the co-producer and the music director of the movie) — a wedding planner, born to bad luck — takes him, with his half-eccentric and racially diverse family, to TTT.

There’s a small catch: both parties have to play-pretend to be policemen.

Comedy of errors this isn’t. It is unfussy, when it should have been deftly topsy-turvy. We chuckle when we should laugh-out-loud. A yawn fosters slowly when six of the seven songs (also by Mr. Reshammiya’s music), threaten us on-screen.

Is the movie bad? No, no. Silly and standardized: yes.

When we come out of the cinemas, the only wispy after-thought most of us will probably share is: it came, it went; will probably see it on cable television one day.

Released by IMGC Global Entertainment and Eros International.