Lallu is a term used in North India to denote a person who is excessively naive or purely stupid in the context of the worldly knowledge. Popular Hindi novelist Late Ved Prakash Sharma wrote a novel under this title which was a suspense thriller and published in 1994. Ved Prakash Sharma gave the story of this novel to Bollywood director Umesh Mehra for making a Hindi film on that. Umesh Mehra not only bought the story but also hired the services of Ved Prakash Sharma to write the screenplay and the dialogs of that movie. Popular action hero Akshay Kumar was signed for the lead role. The movie proved to be a box office grosser. It’s Sabse Bada Khiladi (1995).Sabse Bada Khiladi (the biggest player) is the story of a simpleton (Akshay Kumar) who calls himself as Lallu. He saves the life of a rich businessman, Jamna Daas (Avtaar Gill) when a truck was about to trample him. Jamna Daas has a motherless daughter, Sunita (Mamta Kulkarni) who has become a brat. A crooked criminal lawyer Amar Singh (Sadashiv Amrapurkar) is planning to usurp the wealth of Jamna Daas by getting his son Amit (Mohnish Behl) married to Sunita. Amit has been successful in trapping Sunita in his fake love. Now the situation is that the self-proclaimed Lallu has himself got injured in his attempt to save the life of Jamna Daas. Out of gratitude, Jamna Daas arranges his medical treatment and also gives him a job in his household. Feeling that Lallu is innocent and clean-heart, Jamna Daas assigns him the responsibility of bringing Sunita on the right track. Since this does not suit the greedy father-son duo, i.e., Amar Singh and Amit; they go after Lallu. A police inspector, Kekda (Gulshan Grover) also becomes a part of this scenario. He is also trying to grind his own axe in the given status of things but he suspects that Lallu is not what he claims to be and his real motive is not just grabbing Jamna Daas’ wealth. Now a game of checks and checkmates start between Lallu and his opponents. Finally, the real identity of Lallu as well as his real objective comes to fore and he only emerges as the winner in the end, proving himself to be the biggest player (Sabse Bada Khiladi).While making a Bollywood movie on a good story or a good novel, it is a Herculean task for the filmmaker to do justice to the original work. Why ? Because he has to take care of the commercial considerations and stud the script with regular formulae viz. songs and dances, romance, comedy, fights etc. so that the movie can appeal to the masses habituated of watching such flicks. And in this bid, the original story gets distorted. Exceptionally, sometimes the movie proves to be a better creative work than the novel / story. However on most of such occasions, it’s the movie which comes a cropper when compared with the good literary work which is its premise. Sabse Bada Khiladi falls into the latter category. I read the novel first and watched the movie later and concluded without any doubt in my mind that the movie is many notches below the novel. While the novel is a brilliant suspense thriller, the movie is a run-of-the-mill Bollywood movie with many things going over the top, diluting the quality of the original story.
The novel has been written on a very large canvas which could not be covered in the two and a half hours long movie. But this is one aspect only. The style of narrating itself is faulty in the movie. The novel starts with Lallu’s encounter with the benevolent rich man and gradually the story unfolds on layer-by-layer basis, rendering shocks to the reader after every few pages, the movie starts with those events which have been narrated in the novel in flash-back. The flat narration has not allowed the suspense factor to thicken and envelop the audience in the desirable manner. The movie focuses more on romance, (slapstick) comedy, songs and dances and action and less on the mind-games between the protagonist and the antagonists which is the backbone of the novel. Unlike the novel, the movie is devoid of any shock value.Several sequences have gone over the top. The negative characters (and also the heroine) appear to be caricatures instead of real life human-beings. The courtroom scenes have been executed in a raw manner, being nowhere near the real courts of India. The movie is an interesting one, all the same. Those who have not read the novel will find themselves as hooked throughout. It does not bore at all.
Rajesh Roshan’s music with the lyrics of Dev Kohli is also a plus point of the movie. Mukkala … Muqaabla … and Bholi Bhali Ladki had become chartbusters when the movie was released. If I have to choose the best song, then I will choose Har Dil Mein Hai Rab Basta which is linked to the Lallu avatar of the hero making the entry. Music is not great but it’s appealing and adds value to the movie.Performance wise talking, the director seems to have allowed the actors to act in whatever way they wanted. Character actors – Avtaar Gill and Sudhir Dalvi (playing the role of the doctor of Jamna Daas) only are able to impress. Akshay Kumar has acted according to his action hero image of that period. He had already become famous as ‘Khiladi’ (player) by that time and this movie consolidated his position in the industry in that form. It’s a pity that a fine actor like Mohnish Behl had to overact (perhaps because of the instructions given to him by the director).Technically the movie is up-to-the-mark. The get-up of Lallu is impressive. Cinematography and art direction are satisfactory. Length is appropriate. Background score is in order. Production value is decent.
All in all, Sabse Bada Khiladi is a value for money flick. Definitely a nice timepass. However as said earlier, the novel is much superior to the movie and therefore, while recommending the movie to the typical movie buffs, I advise those who can read Hindi to read the novel Lallu which is a gem from the pen of the famous Hindi novelist Late Ved Prakash Sharma.
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