Himmatwala: Toxic Camp


The pseudo-progressivism inherent in Himmatwala, an action-comedy remake of the 1983 Bollywood action-drama of the same name, makes toxic camp of otherwise meaningless kitsch. Though the film’s lead protagonist, played by Ajay Devgan, exclaims that history should not repeat itself, nothing about the new Himmatwala is different from the old one except that the remake’s creators constantly wink at their audience. Set in 1983, this Himmatwala nostalgically re-imagines the ’80s as a time when real women, wearing hoop earrings and scrunchies, were terrorized by misogynists, and real men earned money by fighting in disco clubs decorated with pictures of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Pac-Man. Himmatwala otherwise follows the same plot as its 30-year-old predecessor. Ravi (Devgan) returns home to get revenge on Sher Singh (Mahesh Manjrekar), the corrupt politician that drove his father to suicide. To get back at Singh, Ravi hatches a plan with Rekha (Tamannaah Bhatia), Singh’s daughter, and blackmails his rival by threatening to leave Rekha pregnant out of wedlock. The preposterousness of Ravi’s plan is symptomatic of the prevailing wrong-headedness. While the creators constantly joke about how dated their film is, their latently sexist avenging-white-knight hero isn’t substantially different from the original Ravi. So while Ravi’s denim vest is now supposed to be funny, the fact that, as in the earlier film, he needs to stop a thug from plunging a knife into his girlfriend’s crotch is not.