‘Nikamma’: Finally A Film That Lives Up To Its Title
Here’s why watching the Hindi remake of a Telugu movie was a useless experience
Cast: Abhimanyu Dassani, Shilpa Shetty, Abhimanyu Singh, Shirley Setia
Direction: Sabbir Khan
Playing in theatres
On Friday morning, for the first show of Nikamma, director Sabbir Khan’s remake of a Telugu film, Middle Class Abbayi, I had the whole theatre to myself. It was like a private viewing for one with expensive popcorn.
The 2017 Telugu film, starring Nani and Sai Pallavi, was a theatrical hit. But its Hindi version, I suspect, will start lingering on Netflix’s “Recently Added” list sooner than expected. This means that transliteration of stories and characters doesn’t always work. This means that stories have to be adapted, characters have to be changed so that they belong to their setting. This also means that a director who has till now devoted most of his time to making dhishum-dhishum Tiger Shroff films – Heropanti, Baaghi, Munna Michael – can’t be trusted to pull off even a trite, vapid melodrama.
True to its title, Nikamma (Useless) is an acutely incompetent B-grade film that can’t deliver two decent dramatic moments despite a set-up that is an old, tried-and-tested recipe for cheap jollies – Laxman saving Sita, Sita saving Ram, and Ravan shooting himself in the head to escape all this hopeless chaos.
Nikamma is set somewhere in the Hindi-speaking world where two brothers, both bachelors, live. The elder one, Raman (Samir Soni), is inconsequential. His younger sibling, Adi (Abhimanyu Dassani), is the nikamma of the title and of consequence to the story.
Raman works, earns and dotes on Adi. Adi likes that his bade bhaiyya Raman loves him.
Adi apparently has photographic memory which he uses to somehow win local cricket matches. Otherwise he does nothing except to laze around and ask his bhaiyya, chachi and chachaji for money.
Then, Raman marries Avni (Shilpa Shetty) and Adi feels left out. So he sulks, calls his bhabhi “Madam” and goes to live with his chacha-chachi.
Avni gets transferred as the Regional Transport Officer of small-town Dhamli and Raman requests Adi to accompany and stay with her.
This is really where the film takes off, except that it’s the flight of an inept hen.
In Dhamli lives Vikramjeet Bisht (Abhimanyu Singh), a don with bulging eyes who runs a taxi service and dreams of becoming the area’s MLA.
He also does strange things to himself, including wrapping himself in black dustbin liners and trying to choke to death. He says these self-suffocation exercises, which he stages to impress his motley crew of two-bit goondas, are meant to test his mortality. Nothing, it seems, can kill him, except his own stupidity.
When he is not trying to kill himself, bushy-eyebrowed Bisht goes around killing all those who are creating problems for his MLAship.
Avni, straight-laced and strict, begins investigating why state transport in Dhamli is suffering while a cab service is flourishing. This puts her in direct conflict with Crazy Bisht.
Adi, meanwhile, has been sulking because of all the housework he has to do. But he finds a happy distraction in Ms Flouncy Skirt Natasha (Shirley Setia), a college student.
But then, Badman Bisht threatens Avni with a gun, and Adi, like all sanskari Indian devars, doesn’t like it one bit. For the rest of the film, Bisht and his goons keep trying to kill Avni, while Adi keeps trying to save her. Except that Anvi really needs no saving.
I last saw Abhimanyu Dassani in Vasan Bala’s 2018 super-hero film, Mard Ko Dard Nahin Hota. I liked that film a lot, and I enjoyed watching Dassani’s flying stunts and cute expressions. There was a charming freshness to this son of Bhagyashree.
Dassani can still kick and slide, jump and punch well. His limbs move fast, but he can’t act. So he overacts. That could have been kept in check by a sharp and skilled director, which Sabbir Khan is not.
Shilpa Shetty is a decent actress who has, in the past, taken on some risky roles and delivered a few memorable performances. In many of these she has played a stoic, good woman. That’s what she does here – her Avni is a mother-like bhabhi to Adi who is also a diligent, conscientious officer. With pursed lips, an enviable waistline and quick kicks, Shilpa Shetty does her job competently. But the film’s writer-director Khan fails her. In fact, the most basic of scenes in Nikamma are so uniquely tacky that it must have taken special effort to ensure the film lives up to its title.