Sabbir Khan’s Nikamma is an ‘inspired’ Hindi remake of Nani and Sai Pallavi-starrer Middle Class Abbayi, a 2017 Indian-Telugu action comedy film directed by Venu Sriram. The original commercial potboiler was itself average at best, and Nikamma fails to make an impression, except maybe promise a migraine for the day.
The film has a fresh cast that includes Abhimanyu Dasani, Shirley Setia — and Shilpa Shetty Kundra. The film follows a jobless youngster Adi (Abhimanyu Dasani) overcoming personal friction with ‘Bhabhi’ (Shilpa Shetty Kundra), who works at the regional transport office (RTO) and gets involved in a tussle with an MLA over taxi service. A romantic subplot between Adi and Nikki (Shirley Setia) is supposed to lighten the mood.
But the action scenes are the only mildly entertaining bits in an otherwise stretched film that definitely adds nothing to the career of anyone who is a part of it. The story is apparently set in Uttar Pradesh, except there’s no way to decipher it, save for car number plates. This Gen Z love story falls flat.
Failed attempt to be cool
Showcasing Gen Z may be ‘in’ right now, but Bollywood needs to be better at it, especially when the setting is a small town. Women in UP towns usually don’t wear the kind of clothes that Nikki is seen dressed in — cold shoulder tops, ankle-high boots, palazzo pants, and what not.
Assuming we allow a willing suspension of disbelief to take over, terms of endearment like ‘cutie’ and ‘beauty’ are cringe-worthy — even by Y2K standards, forget Gen Z. In fact, Nikamma looks like a Tusshar Kapoor-esqe film from the 2000s trying to put the spotlight on middle-class families, with loud and colourful clothes and without depth. At least they made sense back then, this film doesn’t.
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Not what we’re looking for
Abhimanyu Dasani made a promising debut with Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota (2018). His next film, Meenakshi Sundareshwar (2021) was average, and Nikamma seems to take 100 steps back. Dasani tries hard to ham, the reason unknown, but fails spectacularly. It is unclear whether he tries to imitate over-the-top acting that was once the forte of South Indian actors or tries to show a new side of his talent. Either way, it doesn’t work at all. He comes across as a wannabe Salman Khan, and in 2022, that’s not what audiences are looking for.
Singer-actor Shirley Setia was touted to be ‘the next big thing in Bollywood’. She is given an excessively glam avatar for the girl-next-door role in the film. She falters, mostly, and even the dialogue delivery is exaggerated. The attempt to show a Gen Z love story falls flat, with the songs failing to redeem anything.
The only good thing
The question is: Why is Shilpa Shetty chosen as the lead actor in the film? She does her part well and is the single good thing about the film. It is refreshing to watch her play a role that is so different from her glam heroine persona of the ’90s.
Abhimanyu Singh as the villain is largely a caricature, and by that standard, it works.
The conflict between a righteous RTO officer (Shilpa Shetty) and Abhimanyu Singh’s local don is too unimpressive to leave an impact. At some point, you start wishing for real action scenes with blood and gore to make it more powerful. Even the burning of a bus and 40 people dying are filmed in such a deadpan manner that it evokes no sympathy.
One wishes the filmmaker had spent more time and money on finding a better story or acting workshops instead of bigger promotions.
(Edited by Humra Laeeq)