Khiladi 786 a tedious exercise in kitsch
Starring Akshay Kumar, Asin Thottumkal, Mithun Chakraborty, and Himesh Reshammiya. Rated PG.
In Khiladi 786, Akshay Kumar returns for the eighth time in a film with the word khiladi (player) in the title, and for the umpteenth time as the hackneyed buffoon he plays in all of his films. This movie tediously recycles all the elements of standard Bollywood slapstick fare, with preposterous fight sequences, garish dance numbers, and heaps of ethnic stereotypes.
The Khiladi films are not connected by plot or character name. In this one, Kumar plays Bahattar Singh, whose large family has always bent the law by posing as police officers. They stop cross-border smugglers and steal their cargo. To be fair, they give a cut of their profits to the actual police and to the surrounding villagers in rural Punjab. Like all the men in his family, Bahattar can’t find an Indian wife.
Meanwhile in Mumbai, the gangster Tatya Tukaram Tendulkar (Mithun Chakraborty) is having trouble marrying off his sister, Indu (Asin Thottumkal) who scares off prospective grooms with her fast driving and violent tendencies. Enter failed matchmaker Mansukh (Himesh Reshammiya), whose incompetence has had him shutout from the family business. Within the first fifteen minutes you know exactly how this story will play out.
The soundtrack of this film, also composed by Reshammiya, will likely yield several hits. Continuing with Bollywood’s trend of having white women as dancers, the song “Balma” features an “item-girl” cameo by German model and Indian reality star, Claudia Ciesla. It’s a tribute to the great Indian composer R.D. Burman with some distinctive hints of the ‘70s in its beat. “Sari Sari Raat” is the best song in the soundtrack, but all of them sound better without the film’s visuals.
Kitsch can be fun when it’s playful and clever. Here, it is not. Without one genuine laugh, this film is long and grating.
Watch the trailer for Khiladi 786.