Cast: Shilpa Shetty, Abhimanyu Dassani, Shirley Setia, Samir Soni
Director: Sabbir Khan
Rating: 1 star (out of 5)
Sabbir Khan's Nikamma is so abysmal that it isn't funny. Not even unintentionally so. A sloppy script, rudimentary performances and a storytelling style that borders on the mind-numbingly daft reduce the action comedy to two and a half hours of unalloyed twaddle.
For some perspective for whatever it is worth, the director's previous action films, Heropanti and Baaghi, are masterpieces in comparison with Nikamma. Yes, that is how utterly ineffectual the sound and fury that this brainless concoction whips up is. It has absolutely no saving grace despite being Shilpa Shetty's comeback film.
She plays a tough woman who never flinches from a confrontation be it at home or in the workplace, which leads to at least a couple of sequences in which she cocks a snook at the villain and, having made her point in no uncertain terms, strides towards the camera in the manner of a model on a catwalk as the background music rises to an ear-splitting crescendo.
Adapted from Venu Sriram's Telugu film Middle Class Abbayi (2017), Nikamma, headlined by Abhimanyu Dassani and shot in and around Lucknow, appears to fancy its chances to be a meaningful commentary on the troubles that the rich and the powerful create for those who want to make an honest living in middle class anonymity in the small towns of India.
All that it can become is a trashy actioner in which a footloose drifter finds a purpose in life when his sister-in-law runs afoul of a goon who owns a fleet of unlicensed taxis and is on the verge of winning a seat in the state Assembly. The police force and the administration are at the man's beck and call until a 'lady officer' (the aforementioned sis-in-law) takes charge in the Regional Transport Office.
Much earlier in the film, Aditya Singh (Dassani), facing a tearaway fast bowler who gives him a piece of his mind, hits the last ball of an innings out of the park and ensures a victory for his team. The story might want us to believe that the protagonist is a wastrel without a future, but with a cricket bat in his hands he is clearly quite a handful.
But Adi is more than that: a middle-class lad who can be a lover boy, albeit a somewhat gawky one, when a pretty girl, Natasha (Shirley Setia), enters his life and suggests marriage at first sight. Adi, unsure of the consequences of the dalliance, plays along until things begin to turn serious.
When a gang of criminals led by an aspiring MLA Vikramjeet Bisht (Abhimanyu Singh) threatens to eliminate Adi's sister-in-law, he turns into a one-man demolition squad, ready to do whatever it takes to protect his family.
Adi starts off on the wrong foot with his sister-in-law, a stern government employee. A Lucknow boy raised by his elder brother Raman (Samir Soni), Adi drifts away when his sibling marries the no-nonsense Avni. The new bride takes total control of the household and Adi takes no time to figure out that he has to shape up or ship out. He opts for the latter.
As luck, and the slapdash script, would have it, Raman orders Adi to accompany Avni when the latter is transferred to a place called Dhaami as a regional transport officer. There, she makes Adi do all the household chores much to the guy's chagrin. Worse still, she confiscates a few of Vikramjeet's cabs and refuses to release them despite the latter's dire warnings.
As all hell breaks loose, the unflappable lady keeps asserting that she can fight her own battles - main apni ladaai khud lad sakti hoon, she says - but Adi will have none of it. He hovers around her like a round-the-clock bodyguard to ward off attacks on her. The family drama turns into an action flick. No matter what, Nikamma remains just that - no good.
Indeed, nothing that Nikamma throws at the audience lands right. The contrivances are laughable, the plot twists are puerile, and the dialogues are unbelievably arbitrary in a bid to be humorous. Sample this: when the chips are down, villain Vikramjeet pipes up: Mere naam mein hi jeet hain, main kaise haar sakta hoon, or something to that effect. Apply the same logic to the film and you know why Nikamma is the way it is.
Apart from the fact that the hero strives very hard to be as rounded a personality as a man can be but gets nowhere in particular, the villain is a sickeningly whiny bloke who raves and rants when he does not get his way. Worse, he whips out his revolver and points it to his own head - he does this more than once - to settle an argument.
The romantic track involving Abhimanyu Dassani and Shirley Setia is an even bigger disaster. It scrapes the bottom of the barrel. The heroine calls herself a "love addict" and addresses her boyfriend as "cutie". Adi, on his part, calls her "beauty". Somewhere along the way, the girl reveals that Adi's memory is so strong that once he sees or hears something, he never forgets. He is a "cutie" with a "brain" that is rarely put to the kind of use that his fists are. As for the beauty with the beast, the less said the better.
Dassani was a hoot in Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota and well above average in Meenakshi Sundareswar. If Nikamma proves anything at all, it is this: the young actor does have potential but he needs to be far more judicious with his choice of roles. Here, he struggles to rise above the script.
Shirely Setia is a fetching presence but she has some way to go before she can be regarded as a finished article. Shilpa Shetty's role has a high swag quotient but is miserably low on genuine substance.
Nobody gets as pathetic a deal from the script as Abhimanyu. His role is all mess and no menace. And that about sums up Nikamma. It is a film that should have stayed where it began - on paper.