Remakes are like soul transplants, with the intention remaining same, with the interpretation changing to adapt to sensibilities. So as far as remakes are concerned, it’s no big deal if it’s a case of being lost in translation. Case in point, Gabbar Singh,a remake of the immensely popular Dabbang. It looked nothing like the original, nor sounded. It was an improvised version, altered to cater to the cravings of its viewing demography. But it felt and hit like the original. This is where KhaidiNo150 misses a beat ot two, it’s a cause lost in transition. Right from the word go, the makers leave little to ambiguity about the Boss being Back. The title is underlined by the statement in Bold Italics, a gyrating babe in an item song informs us to get ready for the same, Chiranjeevi himself interjects the same in the pre-interval conversation with the villain and Devi Sri Prasad solicitously bookends every song notwithstanding the genre with the word “Boss”. So with such tender subtlety of a sledgehammer we do get an air of what the movie is about. Or rather who it is about.
The core issue of water scarcity becomes an artifice to fill the lull between comedy,fights and fourth breaking soliloquies, to feel less guilty. It’s like those mutton biryani binges preceded by righteous half day fasts. Take the case of this important sequence where the hero and his elderly entourage have taken the city’s water pipes hostage from within. Before we begin to sink our teeth into the situation’s pulp, a phone call between the lead pair breaks into a collage(I’m not dignifying that to be a song) of crass sounds and crasser words that goes-Ammudu Let’s do Kummudu. The farmer’s plight, the gravitas of the issue pale out to oblivion and we’re treated to Chiranjeevi’s version of Lungi Dance. How seriously am I supposed to take his angry monologue that follows suit about the dire state of the sons of the soil. It’s not like Kaththi was a PSA documentary. The Vijay starrer was a manipulative commercial subversion of the issue with all the crowd traps-songs, fights and comedy, just that it knew when to press the right buttons and when not to. Like the Selfie Pulla number which came immediately after the interval to warm up the crowds, to an entirely songless second half. Kaththi let us take a moment off to ruminate about the problem put ahead, grin at the quick fix solutions it offered and took us close to the head space of its protagonist(a crook who’s redemption we were partaking in with shameless fun). It entertained without diluting its core.
Imagine those days from playing street cricket when a friend’s dad would stop by to hijack a match for a few balls with the bat. He would get beaten, bowled and just wouldn’t give back the bat till the cover drive came on a full toss. But still we would be courteous, despite that courtesy getting mistaken for encouragement. Watching Khaidi… was at some level like that. The euphoria in the theatre I watched after a point turned placid after the initial excitement. The wolf whistles for the star’s trademark moves in the songs came in sputters- almost as an afterthought -without the organic delirium. The pairing of Vijay and Samantha looked natural, despite the love track being preposterously spun. Here the sight of Kajal and Chiranjeevi feels like a pervert’s version of Cheeni Kum. And the sight of the star, his son and the actress dancing in tandem to the beats of a ludicrous song, looks creepily incestuous given the number of movies she’s done with the latter.
Kaththi was a star vehicle designed to service the imagination of the legion of its star’s fans, alright. But the situations were staged in a manner they added a layer of vulnerability to the larger than life proceedings, bringing credibility to the cinematic liberties taken. There’s a little prologue to the coin scene, where the agitated hero sets the stage to marry his brawn and brain. Or be it the initial love hate banters between Vijay and his partner in crime, where the former sportingly takes a few for the team; the twinkle in Vijay’s eyes every time he spawns up something; the dexterity with which he deconstructs blueprints or the slo mo shot of the impromptu gesticulation in the middle of a fight. These aren’t path breaking stuff essentially, but grace notes that add finesse to the proceedings.
Khaidi… is a bloated affair with a hero on his A game scene after scene. After a point it gets tedious to watch a clueless villain and his army of henchmen participate in a cat and mouse game played with a cheat code by its hero. The thumb rule of escapist cinema is “travel light”. Khaidi… saunters ahead with the heft of accoutrements in the form of a dozen comedians shitting bricks to scratch our underarms and countless unimaginative dance numbers aimed at boosting up tourism Europe if not the hero’s calorie burning process. The legendary blueprint scene is shot so charmlessly that all we see is a hero- with nostrils raised – thoughtfully deducing who spoilt the room after lunch, as the topography in the blueprint becomes three dimensional. There’s this portion in the film where Chiranjeevi’s Seenu with a hapless Kajal- who looks like a prom queen lost in her Grandpa’s tea party -galvanises a troop of elderly men to act citing Gandhi; couldn’t help but contemplate if the pep talk was meant for them or was it the founding stone to this come back vehicle as well?