Nikamma: A lazy, cheesy film about a slacker
There is no better place for a science lesson than in a mainstream Hindi action film.
There is no better place for a science lesson than in a mainstream Hindi action film. At one point in Sabbir Khan’s Nikamma, our hero, Adi (Abhimanyu Dassani), sits atop a leaking gas cylinder, facing a pack of villains. “When liquefied petroleum gas and fire come in contact,” informs Adi knowledgeably, “it causes an explosion.” The lesson continues. “The temperature will cross 100°C… you’ll get third-degree burns…” The villains, thus enlightened, leave Adi alone, proving how at least some good sense can prevail in a film written, directed and co-produced by Sabbir Khan.
Nikamma isn’t a remake because Middle-Class Abbayi (Telugu, from 2017) was a popular hit. No. It’s a remake because no one—least of all Sabbir, creator of the Tiger Shroff films Heropanti, Baaghi and Munna Michael—cares for original plotlines anymore. The story is so thin it would’ve disappointed as a Tusshar Kapoor or Aftab Shivdasani launch vehicle back in the day. Adi moves in with his sister-in-law, RTO officer Avni (Shilpa Shetty), in an Uttar Pradesh town. There, a local don (Abhimanyu Singh) threatens to kill Avni after she interrupts his rental car business. It falls on Adi—loafing, unemployed, yet one of the most hectic slackers you’ll ever watch in a film—to protect her.
Even bad action movies attempt to put up a show. Nikamma, shot in the same house-road-RTO-office loop, is the opposite of that. Sabbir’s action design—a barrage of flying kicks in insipid slo-mo—feels outdated. Worse, though, are the spurts of sentimentality the director injects to hold up his disjointed narrative. Adi, facing his enemy, illuminates how middle class folk tackle ‘small problems’ like inflation and overcrowding. The endeavour (it seems) is to set up a rich-vs-poor narrative. However, as delivered by a star kid, the line rings of condescension.
That star kid has a baby-faced amiability that occasionally marks him out (Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota, Abhimanyu’s debut film, and a wholly accomplished one at that, exploited this well). Shilpa was one of our major actors once; here, straining for a comeback, she emphasizes arched eyebrows and stoically pursed lips. Shirley Setia barely registers as Adi’s love interest (it doesn’t matter; she looks happy while at it). And my heart goes out to Abhimanyu Singh, who deserved a Lifetime Achievement Award by now as Bollywood’s crummiest of steadfast villains. More than once, he puts a gun to his own head, but decides against it, as though resolving to hammer away at this gig for a few more years.
It’s amazing how thoroughly convinced Nikamma appears of its entertainment value, despite lacking all of it. Dassani said in an interview that it was Salman Khan who wanted him to do a commercial action film. The action is desolate, and we’ll talk commerce in a few days. “Will this emotional drama continue or is there a party too?” a character asks in Nikamma. The short answer is no.
Cast: Abhimanyu Dassani, Shilpa Shetty, Shirley Setia, Abhimanyu Singh, Sachin Khedekar, Samir Soni
Director: Sabbir Khan