‘Gabbar is Back’ is a regressive and asinine film
MUMBAI – If you need proof that the Indian film industry is stuck in a time warp, then “Gabbar is Back” is it. It’s a flashing, neon sign that proclaims just how regressive and asinine our films can be, even when the subject is a noble one.
Director Krish chooses to focus on the rather tired theme of vigilante justice, and names his hero after Hindi cinema’s most notorious villain. Akshay Kumar is Gabbar, a college professor who picks his students to aid him in his fight against corrupt government officials. They kidnap, torture and finally hang these officials in public, earning much admiration from the fawning masses and drawing fear among crooked officers who suddenly mend their ways.
The confrontation scenes between Gabbar and the villain, an almost comical character called Patil who argues with our protagonist on who is the bigger “brand”, are unintentionally hilarious.
Krish uses the tried and tested trope of South Indian cinema – there are moral science lessons, an air-headed leading lady (Shruti Hassan) who is unflinching in her admiration for her man, and lots of blood and gore. Of course, in the world of Bollywood, a movie about corruption has to have a suggestive item song that has risqué lyrics and much pelvic thrusting, so the director manages to fit that in too.
Gabbar calls on his followers to harness their “youth power” and punish those who dare demand bribes from honest Indians. Rajat Arora’s dialogue supports the over-the-top tone of the film ably.
The “system” is compared to a diaper and the common man is compared to a newspaper “which starts off the day in the commode and ends the day in the rubbish pile”. Then there are gems like “Shivaji Maharaj (the Maratha warrior) didn’t start a chat group, he just set out on his own to start his revolution”, which is received with thunderous applause.
This desperate attempt to invoke the past and merge it with a modern phenomenon like social media leads to some ludicrous scenes. After one particular kidnapping, a student comes to Gabbar and declares their mission a success because “Gabbar is trending”.
“Gabbar is Back” is a dated film, both in look and feel, and the cast seems to know it too. They all ham it up like the Bollywood actors of the 1980s. Kumar is required to throw in a few punches, which he manages to do with aplomb, but other than that, doesn’t put in much effort. –Reuters