“Lower your dupatta girls, I don’t want you all to block those elephants,” hollers ace Bollywood choreographer Farah Khan.
It’s not a line out of an animal adventure but a scene that tabloid! exclusively witnessed on the set of Ajay Devgn’s next film ‘Himmatwala’ in Mumbai as the choreographer shot the song sequence ‘Nainon Mein Sapna’.
An entire area of Aksa beach near Malad was cordoned off to bring the iconic, kitsch song to life.
In the original 1983 version of ‘Himmatwala’, Jeetendra and Sri Devi were seen romancing on the beach. Today’s film finds Devgn and Tamannaah recreating the hit retro number.
All the props — the gigantic elephants with trunks painted in bright colours, stacks of white pots with orange, green, red detailing, pink arches and colourful pillars have been retained from the original. Produced by UTV Motion Pictures, the rights of the song have purchased from the music company Sa Re Ga Ma.
“But I refused to wear those white pants and white shoes,” said Devgn referring to Jeetendra’s unique style in the song.
“It’s not a comic song. We are not trying to make a spoof here and I can never be in Jeetendra’s shoes,” he told tabloid!, claiming that he didn’t want the song to be reduced to a caricature.
He could have fooled us. At noon, the sun was beating down ferociously, but a loved-up Devgn in a white jacket (the only concession he made in terms of all-white gear) and a glittering Tamannah had their arms outstretched as they looked up at the sky mouthing verses about long-lasting love in Hindi.
Not a re-make
Director Sajid Khan is quick to second his hero. “To clarify, it’s not a re-make. It’s a re-write. It will remind you of 1983 ‘Himmatwala’, but it’s my own interpretation. This is also set in 1983. The ’80s were known for their bad hairstyles, bad clothes and bad fashion. I will stay true to the essence of the original song… Ajay will bring with him his unique style,” said Khan as he sat down to demystify the song sequence for us.
The original film was a typical good-vs-evil revenge drama that had a good-hearted hero (Jeetendra), a spoilt rich brat (Sri Devi) and a sadistic feudal lord (Amjad Khan).
Devgn, who gets his shot approved in less than two takes, joins us at the temporary camp erected on the beach.
“I hate dancing … initially everybody wondered, how will Ajay dance?. But you know what? I can get it technically correct … today it was easy since it was all about emotions,” said Devgn. Choreographer Khan, who joined our table, completes the thought for him.
“On the first day of the shoot, he got the steps right in one take. I think he just wants to finish with it,” said Khan. When tabloid! asked her to rate Devgn’s dancing skills, the verdict came swiftly.
“He dances like a hero and not like some pansy … like one of those dancer boys you see in Bollywood films. Remember he’s playing Himmatwala [which means ‘the brave one’] and not dancerwala [a professional dancer]. If a step looks bad on him, we change it,” said Khan, who has choreographed Bollywood hit songs such as ‘Sheila Ki Jawani’ and ‘Munni Badnaam Hui’.
Her last sentence held a mirror up to the way Bollywood functions. The hero of a film is often bestowed God-like status, with the crew of a film tweaking scripts and dance steps to suit the star’s image. This film is also an exercise in showcasing Devgn as an all-conquering hero.
“In Himmatwala, it’s the return of the typical hero in a masala film. I will touch the outer limit here. We Indians love the concept of a thali. We want some rice, dal [lentil], sabzi [vegetable stir fry] and in the end. a sweet dish. Himmatwala is that thali that says entertainment, entertainment, entertainment,” said Devgn.
The last phrase of repeating entertainment thrice may have been borrowed from Vidya Balan’s risqué hit ‘The Dirty Picture’, but Devgn manages to pack a punch without any cleavage show. The song ‘Nainon Mein Sapna’ also sees the return of the brother-sister collaboration between Sajid and Farah.
“Ajay is a sweetheart. But that guy, he can be a pain. Sajid is an expert on the bad movies of the ’80s and he made me watch every one to give me a feel of it,” said Khan.
Ire at critics
Hearing them bicker was like being an outsider at a large family dinner. The conversation meandered from ‘Himmatwala’ (their pride) to white jeans (their sore point) to critics (loathed with every fibre of their being). To put things into perspective, Sajid — credited with blockbusters ‘Heyy Baby’, ‘Housefull’ and ‘Housefull 2’ — is never a critic’s pet. His films are often low on logic but high on entertainment. While Sajid claims he never gives any weight to film reviews, Devgn uses a joke to highlight his stand on the issue.
“I heard this funny line the other day: Critics are like eunuchs, they know how to do it but they can’t do it themselves,” said Devgn. Sajid high-fives him. (The two have been friends for decades before signing on ‘Himmatwala’.)
“The problem with critics is that they come into theatres to learn cinema. We are not here to teach cinema, we are here to entertain people,” said Devgn, who was recently seen in the hit comedy ‘Son Of Sardaar’.
As if on cue, Devgn was called in for his next shot. The scene: He stands with his legs apart on a wooden moving trolley as Tamanmah shakes her hip sensuously. Hundreds of girls swirl their chiffon scarves to possibly cover the hero’s amorous advances. Can it get any more surreal and fantastical than this?