Khan and Nadiadwala, the two Sajids responsible for giving us Himmatwala Redux got a letter of appreciation from Steven Spielberg recently. ‘Hmpf!’ we say, ‘as if the film needs a firangi filmmaker’s positive reinforcement. We already know it is the greatest film ever made, thank you very much!’
The question is not whether you will see it. The question is – how many dozens of times will you see it?
March 18, 2013
14 Sunset Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90099
Dear Sajid and Sajid,
Thank you for the amazing hospitality shown to me during my lightening trip to Mumbai last week. I must say, my spur of the moment decision to come meet you after watching the trailer of the incredible Himmatwala was, by far, the best decision I have ever taken in my life. To you, shorter and fatter Sajid, I must thank profusely for making time for me despite your busy TV schedule. I apologize that I was not able to guest co-judge the episode of Nach Balliye! with you due to the distractions afflicted on me by the Ambanis and the Bachchans – sadly, some people just can’t take no for an answer.
Thankfully, there is always the promise of next time.
Beyond expressing my heartfelt gratitude, I was also compelled to write to you for another reason. That being your magnum opus Himmatwala. Seldom, nay never, have I felt so enthralled by a motion picture before. By choosing to tell the real life story of a man who was part Schindler, part Indiana Jones, part Jaws, part Lincoln, and yet almost entirely E.T., you have reset filmmaking benchmarks so high that they may never be matched. Fortunately, Himmatwala’s story is so compelling that I am confident that future filmmakers will retell it to new generations of audiences every 25-30 years.
I must say that casting Ajay Devgn as Himmatwala, The Great, was a brilliant masterstroke. As you will recall, I had expressed to you my fear that, perhaps, Tusshar was more appropriate to reprise the role that had firmly established his father as the most fascinating actor the world has ever produced. After all, and as amply displayed by his body of work, Tusshar abounds with virtually the exact same characteristics that Jeetendra had – the same good looks, panache, hair, pelvis, feet and talent. But now, after having watched the film at least 3000 times, I see clearly why you chose Ajay over Tusshar. It’s because of the former’s ability to do a convincing tongue-twirl inside the mouth, isn’t it? The kind that Jeetendra used to excel at, especially while doing those acrobatic dance steps that were his forte? Clearly, Ajay matches the legend in practically all parameters.
I was also absolutely thrilled to find Sridevi replaying the same character she did thirty years ago in the original! She still looks great at 50. How she managed to recreate the same magic to flawless authenticity, I shall never comprehend. The mindblowing leather outfits with matching horse whips, skirts the size of postage stamps, a voice that reminds one of caged birds squealing inside a burning shack, an exposed supple belly that undulates precariously and eventually spills up and over the tight saree – it was all done to perfection. Not to mention the frantic eye movements and the tongue thrusts – delightful mannerism, timeless even in this day and age!
I must make a special mention of the film sets, make up and costumes, and action sequences. The village setting, the huts, the flying ox cart, the million drums and pots on a beach and the zamindaar’s haweli were just the kind of Indian touches that a common viewer even in New York can easily identify with. The white cotton saree of the widowed mother, for example, was the epitome of simplistic fashion that the sartorial connoisseurs in Milan, Paris and London are bound to usurp for their next collections. And who can beat the kind of hysterical guffaws that only a Hitler-moustache and an odd wig can yield in a Bollywood movie? By the way, here is my advance alert – when I eventually get down to my Extra Terrestrial Part II project, I am sure to ask for the services of your entire Himmatwala crew. Hope you won’t turn me down, considering we are now underwear-buddies (I googled the translation of chhaddi)!
My wife Kate and I, along with our six children have been ta-thaiyya-ta-thaiyya-ho’ing constantly ever since each of us downloaded the album of Himmatwala on our iPods. We thank the lord that there is finally music that is worthy of downloading on this remarkable invention of my friend, the late Steve Jobs. Though I must admit, I am now on my second downloaded copy. The first digital copy got all scruffy and scratchy due to overplaying!
I shall cherish the advance copy DVD of the film till my dying day – and given the profuseness with which I am watching it, I suspect that might happen any day. If I do, it will still be worth it!
I am looking forward to personally hosting you for the 2014 Academy Awards in Los Angeles where, undoubtedly, Himmatwala will shine the brightest. Do visit with Jennifer bhabhi. Farah, Shirish and the triplets as well.
With best regards,
Your totally unworthy friend,