Back to the 80s

Blast from the past

Back to the 80s

Sajid Khan’s ‘Himmatwala’ remake rewinds to a decade that was over-the-top, outlandish, and yet unforgettable, writes Roshmila Bhattacharya.

Sajid Khan has watched the original Himmatwala (1983) 36 times in the theatres, played and replayed the action-drama another 200 times on DVD, and now the filmmaker, whose Midas touch is reinforced by the ‘housefull’ boards outside theatres screening his films, is aiming for one more Rs 100-crore box-office run with a remake of the K Raghavendra Rao directed Jeetendra-Sridevi starrer.

Back in 1983, the Madras masala mix itself was a remake of a Telugu superhit, Ooriki Monagadu (1981), directed by K Ragavendra Rao, and starring Krishna and Jayaprada. Today, it is best remembered for its matka dances, Jeetendra’s PT steps, and a thunder thighs Sridevi, who after the thanda (lukewarm) Solva Sawan (1979), took Bollywood by storm. Prod Sajid on his reasons for zeroing in on this particular film, and the director says, “Himmatwala best epitomises the 80s, a special decade that was over-the-top, outlandish, and yet unforgettable.”

Call of inspiration

He had just entered his teens and grew up listening to Michael Jackson’s iconic albums, Thriller (1982) and Bad (1987) on the just-out compact discs, and learning to break dance with the ‘Moonwalker’ by rewinding his 11-minute Thriller (1983) video umpteen times on VHS. “I also remember standing in the back row of the aisles, trying to ape our desi Disco Dancer’s hippy shakes,” smiles Sajid, who, during Housefull 2 (2012), had demonstrated the same moves to Mithun Chakraborty, while picturising a take-off on I am a Disco Dancer... that had brought the disco wave to India.

A self-confessed mimic, Sajid admits that dancing to the tunes of a Taki O Taki and Nainon Mein Sapna in the distinctive Jumping Jack style came easy to him and his Himmatwala remake is an ode to another childhood idol. “Every time I went to see one of Jeetuji’s movies, I would wear the t-shirt my aunt had presented me with ‘I love Jeetendra’ scrawled across in bold letters. Jeetuji was one of my heroes and he was thrilled when I informed him I was remaking his Himmatwala. None of his films had ever been remade before and he was glad it was me doing it, because I love the cinema of the 80s. He also agreed with me that there could be no better choice than Ajay (Devgn) to step into his shoes.”

Ajay may have had Jeetendra’s blessings, but not everyone initially believed that he was the perfect fit for this role till they saw him fighting a tiger with his bare fists in the promos. Sajid reasons that Himmatwala personifies courage, as opposed to Taaqatwala’s brute strength. “The tiger is my second hero, it’s for real, and like in the movie, Ajay actually befriended it before the shoot in Mauritius,” says Sajid.

Pointing out that unlike today’s computer generated action, Himmatwala’s fight sequences are hardcore, hand-to-hand combats, whether with man or beast, the kind Amitabh Bachchan and Dharmendra specialised in the 80s, he asserts, “It’s the kind of action that doesn’t bleed all over the screen, but is a hit even with the kids.”

Music mission

Like the action, the music of the decade too was distinctively different. Sajid describes the songs as “hummable and instantly catchy” and admits that he had pre-decided to incorporate two of the tracks, Nainon Mein Sapna and Taki O Taki.

“My composer duo, Sajid-Wajid, haven’t changed Bappi Lahiri’s original melody, just scaled up the song and made it more acoustic friendly, using over a 100 ‘live’ musicians for the recording, like Bappida had,” says Sajid.

He’s unfazed by some of the adverse reactions to the newly-mixed Nainon Mein Sapna. “What works for the goose doesn’t necessarily work for the gander, but I’m sure out of 100, at least 70 will like Amit Kumar’s Nainon Mein Sapna as much as they liked Kishore Kumar’s original song,” he asserts, reminding you  that The Dirty Picture’s (2011) Oo la la had outscored its Mawali (1983) muse, Oi Amma Oi Amma.

He is, however, quick to add that his Himmatwala is just 15-20 per cent of the 1983 hit, and doesn’t know if it’ll recycle fashion fads. “Looking back, I admit the clothes we wore were garish, but we loved our acid wash and stone-wash drain-pipe jeans. I haven’t made the move to bring back any trends, but to rewind to the feel-good cinema of the 80s that believed Hindi movies were all about entertainment, entertainment and entertainment,” Sajid asserts.

A week or two ago, he was outside Mumbai’s Chandan Cinema, and spotted a poster of Himmatwala with Ajay and Tamannah in a dance pose, with the tagline ‘Coming next month’. “It brought tears to my eyes because 30 years ago, I remember seeing the same poster, with the same tagline, and Jeetendra and Sridevi in the same pose,” he reminisces. “Himmatwala is a dream come true and when it opens on March 29, I’ll have to wear dark glasses to hide my tears of joy.”

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