A 90s top heroine (Shilpa Shetty) making her big screen comeback after 14 years, a young hero (Abhimanyu Dassani) who was touted to be the next big thing right after his first film, and a popular playback singer (Shirley Setia) making her Bollywood debut — sounds like a pretty decent recipe for a commercial film. But, director Sabbir Khan’s Nikamma makes you wonder how wrong a filmmaker can go with his story, treatment, pace and overall impact. Given that Nikamma is based on 2017 Telugu language film, Middle Class Abbayi, which was just about an average film itself, you shouldn’t really keep high hopes from the Hindi version. Also read: Nikamma trailer: Shilpa Shetty dons superhero avatar to fix a lazy Abhimanyu Dassani, fans call it ‘disastrous’ already
Nikamma starts with Adi (played by Abhimanyu) telling the doctor to save a patient because — ‘Jab tak iski saansein chalengi, meri zindagi chalegi’. Yeah, you think he is about to lose a loved one but wait till a never-ending flashback sequence tells you what actually happened. For a moment you think, did this really need a flashback? The film could have just started from scene two. And what’s with these dialogues from 70s era? Even they did better for their time.
Cut to the introduction sequence between Abhimanyu and his brother Raman (Samir Soni) — it’s melodramatic to a level that you want to go back and watch Shashi Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan in Deewar to feel better and restore your sanity. Then enters Avni Singh (Shilpa) in a rather subtle and understated manner as Soni’s wife and Adi’s bhabhi. There are portions with her dressed in Gal Gadot’s superhero outfit or as Goddess Durga, which are plain outrageous. I leave it to the film’s creative team to someday tell us what they were thinking while putting down such scenes.
Written by Venu Sriram (who had directed and written the original Telugu film), with dialogues from Sanamjit Talwar, the first half of Nikamma is extremely patchy and looks like pieces of a puzzle have been mindlessly put together without any thought. For the first 30 minutes, I wondered if it was the same film I was watching, as two parallel and disconnected plots unfolded one after the other. At 2 hours 30 minutes, the film just tests your patience and, ends with a headache.
That being said, the performances, too, couldn’t salvage this half-hearted and mindless film. It really takes a lot to make a good actor like Abhimanyu Dassani, who impressed everyone with his acting chops and screen presence in Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota and Meenakshi Sundareshwar, look so awkward on screen. His overacting and amateur dialogue delivery in Nikamma are hard to overlook (and forgive). Perhaps the only two scenes where he shines would be a pre-climax action sequence and one in the second half. Other than act, his machoism with an innocent looking face doesn’t do any good to the film.
On top of it, the film introduces a female lead Natasha aka Nikki (Shirley) only because this is Bollywood and we need a love story, no matter how forced it is. I wish Sabbir Khan at least paid some thought in coming up with a plot to base their love story on. It’s actually the lamest I have seen in a long, long time. It took me back some three decades ago to Hum Aapke Hain Koun! days when falling in love with sister’s brother-in-law was kinda cute. If that’s not all, Adi and Nikki addressing each other ‘Cutie’ and ‘Beauty’ is enough to make you cringe. There are no sparks that the two bring onscreen with their odd-looking chemistry or juvenile ‘love at first sight’ romance.
Somewhat better that this lead pair is the film’s villain, Vikramjeet Bisht (played by Abhimanyu Singh). He delivers an impressive performance with his eccentric portrayal of a corrupt goon obsessed with becoming the next MLA. He does make some bad scenes look good. And finally, Shilpa Shetty — perhaps the only reason I could even watch Nikamma till the end — doesn’t disappoint. She is gutsy, fierce yet vulnerable, and wows you in some bone-breaking action scenes. I’m glad the makers didn’t put a needless dance and song sequence featuring Shilpa just for the sake of it. Also read: Nikamma first look: Shilpa Shetty debuts as superwoman Avni before trailer launch, fans call her ‘desi Gal Gadot’
To cut a long story short, because we can’t still edit this review unlike the film, Nikamma is a one-time watch only and only for the grace, poise and charm Shilpa Shetty brings onscreen. Other than that, there’s nothing in Nikamma that we haven’t seen already some two-three decades ago. If the makers had taken an OTT route, maybe the film would have landed a few more viewers than the almost empty theatre I watched the morning show at.
Director: Sabbir Khan
Cast: Shilpa Shetty, Abhimanyu Dassani, Shirley Setia, Abhimanyu Singh