Direction: Ashish R Mohan
Actors: Akshay Kumar, Asin, Himesh Reshammiya, Mithun Chakraborty
I’ve long maintained that Bollywood and Punjabi-ness are a perfect fit. Hindi films are designed to be larger-than-life, robust, brash.
The best are imbued with an inherent ‘masti’ or intoxication. In other words, Punjabi. But after watching Khiladi 786 – close on the heels of that other mind-numbing action-comedy, Son of Sardaar – I think it’s time for Bollywood to give Punjab a little rest.
In Khiladi 786, Akshay Kumar plays Bahattar Singh, an invincible son of the soil who at one point declares: Punjabi na toh chup chaap aate hain, na chup chaap jaate hain.
Bahattar Singh is a good-hearted goon who simply cannot find a wife. Enter actor-composer-writer-producer Himesh Reshammiya, playing a Gujarati wedding organiser who struggles to achieve the impossible by pairing Bahattar Singh with the unruly sister of the terrifying underworld don TTT or Tatya Tukaram Tendulkar, played by Mithun Chakraborty. That name, incidentally, is one of the funnier jokes in the film.
The trademark nasal voice insinuates itself into your brain and refuses to go away. So even as your head reels from the stupidity onscreen, you unwittingly hum along, Khiladi bhaiyya, khiladi bhaiyya.
Then, at one point in the film, Akshay breaks into a plaintive love song in Himesh’s voice. I laughed out loud.
All through, the funny bits were rare and mostly unintentional. Akshay swaggers above this messy material, which includes African-American characters and dancers in blackface.If I wasn’t so exhausted, I would have been offended. Box office figures suggest that many people enjoy this school of cheerfully moronic cinema, but Khiladi 786 really isn’t my idea of a good time.