Diwali’s ‘other’ big release follows the current unimaginative but lucrative trend in Bollywood of remaking South Indian, usually Tamil, potboilers for North Indian audiences, especially the ‘masses’ in the Hindi-speaking ‘cow belt’ area.
Already remade in Kannada and Bengali, this Telugu ‘original’ (it is clearly a copy of the 1923 silent Hollywood film ‘Our Hospitality’) is now borne as ‘Son of Sardaar’.
The Dosa-thin plot remains the same but in its latest avatar the setting is now the Punjab.
This location gives it creative license to make its characters even louder, cruder and stupider as apparently all ‘Sardaars’ are loud, crude and stupid.
Ajay Devgn’s ‘introduction’ scene involves him standing on top of two horses as they gallop through the mustard fields of the rustic Punjab countryside. This is obviously a homage to his debut entrance decades ago in ‘Phool aur Kaante’.
Unlike the earlier film which involved a real stunt and was consequently dangerous and daring to perform, this horse-ride is clearly digitally enhanced. Boo!
The credits then roll with Devgan singing the ‘title’ song (with profound lyrics like ‘Son of Sardaar! Son of Sardaar!’) hanging from the long hand of ‘Big Ben’.
He plays Jassi, a turban-clad London based wastrel who picks fights in clubs with ‘goras’ as you ‘don’t mess with a ‘Sardaar’s turban’.
He learns that he has inherited some land in his rural village so he decides to go back home to claim it.
In India, he bumps into a pretty plump Punjabi girl, Sukhi (Sonakshi Sinha; will someone please tell the girl that the anorexic look is ‘in’ in Bollywood) who is running to catch a train ‘DDLJ’ style.
On board, he fantasises about their love which is a convenient excuse for another song.
When they arrive, it is revealed that there is a long-standing feud between their respective families. Jassi realises this only when he goes for dinner at Sukhi’s home. If he steps outside, her sword-wielding relatives will slice him to pieces (hurrah!) but he’s safe inside the house as ‘A Guest is like God’.
This inane film is clearly aiming to be the latest addition to the ‘Wanted’, ‘Dabangg’, ‘Rowdy Rathore’ dubious club established principally by Salman Khan.
Devgan gets all his forty-year-old plus mates to do cameos.
A paunchy Sanjay Dutt (looking like he’s back on the ‘herbs’) hams it up loudly as ‘Billu’, with his usual puffy, blood-shot eyes definitely nursing a hangover.
Juhi Chawla, whose latest nose actually works, plays Pammi, an ageing spinster while Devgan, a contemporary of Chawla’s, gets to romance a heroine half his age.
Tanuja is a natural as she plays a mad granny.
Director Ashwni Dhir swamps the proceedings with excessive and annoying use of CGI to compensate for his limited skills. This would not matter if the result was actually funny.
A cow urinates on a baddie! A donkey kicks the butt of a baddie! A buffalo kept indoors has ‘Delhi belly’! A flying coconut! ‘Fairness’ is equated to beauty! Punjabi daughters-in-law have names like ‘Sweety’ and ‘Poly’! Hilarious, nah?
The joke is on us; the filmmakers are laughing all the way to the bank. Devgn and co. should realise that we, the audience, are their guests and should be treated like God instead of serving us trash.
Look out for the inevitable sequel: ‘Grandson of Sardaar’.
– Anil Sinanan
Dr Anil Sinanan is a graduate of Oxford University and a specialist in European Law, which he teaches at London Metropolitan University. He is also an authority on Bollywood and owns a quite vast and invaluable collection of Bollywood memorabilia dating back several decades, carefully tucked away in the cellar of an idyllic country cottage. He is currently the Bollywood film critic for Time Out London.