Akshay Kumar may be taking over Rohit Shetty’s cop universe soon with Sooryavanshi, but he is no match for the blonde-haired He-Man-looking Salman Khan, the original Suryavanshi.
Even with an inexhaustible collection of national and international shows and movies at our perusal, we found ourselves reaching for ‘Suryavanshi Salman Khan’ in the search bar – Salman’s was with a ‘U’ and not ‘OO’. Self-isolation and lockdown can affect you psychologically.
Salman Khan’s Suryavanshi (1992), co-starring a Rekha-inspired Amrita Singh and an expressionless I’d-rather-not-be-here-but-I-have-to-looking Sheeba, is essentially a story of punarjanam, a one-night stand Bollywood keeps repeating even though the morning after results in a walk of shame. Suryavanshi, not to be confused with Sooryavansham, the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer, was once a Set Max favourite, and therefore, many a childhood afternoon were spent watching and re-watching Salman Khan’s blonde hair glisten in the sun, or staring at his He-Man outfit.
The film had potential simply by virtue of an interesting story but was ruined because it failed to manage that story. We have an extremely strong, hotheaded woman, Amrita, as Rajkumari Suryalekha at the centre. She’s complemented by an equally strong, borderline douchebag Salman as Suryavanshi Vikram Singh (we’ll come to why we used these adjectives in a bit). These are characters of the past. In the present day, Vikram Singh is reincarnated as Vicky but he is completely unaware of any pichhle janam ki baatein. Born and raised in America, he lands in India for the first time, and thanks to his overenthusiastic dad JB (Saeed Jaffrey) and his friend DD (Ajit Vachani), almost lands straight into shaadi ka mandap. Sheeba as Sonia is the would-be bahu – a girl so perfect that Tulsi Virani would be jealous. He doesn’t want to get married, he wants to live his life, she is heartbroken, but destiny in the form of guilt – ki main apne papa ka dil nahi dukha sakta – binds them in matrimony.
DD is an archaeologist and is digging around the ruins of Sangramgarh, intrigued by an entire kingdom now completely buried underground, quite like Atlantis. The newlyweds and their respective fathers decide to check it out firsthand as the excavation continues. Somethings happen in the middle and they discover an old journal by Sangramgarh’s Rajguru and finally decode what went down.
The 2-hour-47-minute film has tones of bad make-up and hair and overacting, but we’re not getting into that. What stands out as particularly wahiyat, is the treatment of Suryalekha. She only asked for not to be forced into marriage for the sake of the rajvansh, until she found her match. If the process of mortal combat in swamvar seemed barbaric, all of world history should. Nonetheless, she found one in Suryavanshi, but our hero here simply wanted to show Suryalekha her place – something that could only be achieved by tricking her into a one-night stand, and leaving her ‘kalankit’. Serves you right, woman, this is a man’s world, after all.
Everything else that followed thereon, is a post-#MeToo world’s nightmare. From Suryalekha killing herself and coming back to haunt the whole kingdom (umm, not the haunting bit, of course) to Sonia shielding Vicky aka Vikram (yes, he remembers now) with her love and defeating the ‘evil other woman’, everything from the mid-point mark to the climax needed a hard swallow.
We’re not going to reveal the ending. If you do have the time – and by that, we mean at least three hours to spare from managing office and house chores – the original Suryavanshi is available on Hotstar. All things said and done, Bhaijaan is Bhaijaan, and Khiladi Kumar is no match. Sorry.