At a promotional event for the upcoming film Total Dhamaal (the third installment in the Dhamaal series), Anil Kapoor quipped how a sequel to his 2001 film Nayak would be a good idea. Directed by S Shankar, and a remake of the 1999 original Tamil film Mudhalvan, this political drama failed to become a box office hit, but has since then gained a cult following.
The year 2001 was a strange, almost mythical, year in Bollywood. On one hand Hindi cinema was coming-of-age with films like Dil Chahta Hai and Lagaan and on the other, 90s Bollywood was still thriving in films like Lajja, Ajnabee, and Nayak. It’s easy to forget that the latter three films released in the same year as other two due to the stark difference in terms of tonality and narrative structure. Nevertheless, most of us have a special space in our Bollywood-loving hearts for all five of them, albeit in five different corners. And a sequel to one of the most daring (for 2001) political films, doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all, provided there are certain upgrades.
Although a film about a journalist becoming the Chief Minister for a day to bring corrupt politicians to justice, might not get a clean chit from our censor board to release, given our political climate. Having said that, Nayak wasn’t exactly a flawless piece of cinema. For obvious (commercial) reasons, it was too simplistic in its approach to solving socio-economic, religious and cultural problems that plague our nation till today. However, that’s not the actual problematic bit about the film that we want to be left behind.
#1. There was that transphobic “humour” that needs to never come back…not in Nayak, not anywhere else
In one scene, Johnny Lever’s character Topi referred to his reel-life father-in-law’s character, played by Razak Khan, as “abbey oye chhakke”. The term “chhakka” is often used derogatorily to mock men who are deemed ‘effeminate’. This word was actually commonly heard in many Hindi movies from that time period, and no one batted an eyelid because there wasn’t enough conversation about how it wasn’t okay.
#2. Kapoor’s Shivaji Rao was a peeping tom/creep…apart from being a superhero journalist-turned-politician
Stalking and harassment is still sold in Bollywood as just another language of love. So, we shouldn’t really be surprised that Kapoor’s Shivaji Rao also stalked his lady-love, Manjari, played by Rani Mukerji, filmed her bathing in secret, and she ended up falling for him…because of it!
In case you don’t remember, Shivaji spotted Manjari in a village he went to, to report a story. He immediately went on to stalk her around, film her with his camera, and when she saw him creeping on her while bathing, she snatched his camera away. But instead of breaking it on his head or throwing it (along with him) in the river, she was thoroughly impressed with how “beautifully” he had shot her. This scene should not make a comeback in a sequel or reboot. Or in real life, ever.
To be fair, it could very well have been there in a 2019 film. In fact, in Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, there’s an entire song dedicated to how Akshay Kumar stalks Bhumi Pednekar and takes her photos without her consent. Even though, she is pissed at him in the beginning, she does eventually find it all charming, and falls in love with him!
#3. The throwaway “humour” in the film that relied on rampant objectification of women
In several scenes, which involved mostly the secondary characters of the film, there was rampant objectification of women. The David Dhawan school of comedy where staring at a woman’s breasts and then blackmailing men to marry them found its way in Nayak, just like it did in so many other Hindi films back then. Even though Dhawan’s brand of comedy still survives, what with reboots like Judwaa 2 made by him and starring his Salman Khan-Govinda hybrid of a son Varun Dhawan, we would be happy to live in a world where it just dies a quiet death.
Therefore, to conclude, Bollywood needs to pull up its socks and get with the woke times already, with or without a Nayak sequel, basically.