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Movie review 'Hero': In the name of their fathers

| SUPARNA SHARMA
Published Sep 12, 2015, 2:28 pm IST
Updated Mar 27, 2019, 8:52 pm IST
Cast:  Suraj Pancholi, Athiya Shetty, Sharad Kelkar, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Aditya Pancholi, Vivan Bhatena
Director:  Nikhil Advani
Rating: 2 stars 
 
Hero rhymes with zero and it’s tempting, for the sake of the headline and because in the first five minutes of the film my hand went lurking about in search of an eject button, to just write off this film as a big, fat zero.
 
And it doesn’t help that many of us, of a certain glorious vintage, still remember that moment in our lives and in Subhash Ghai’s 1983 Hero when we heard Reshma’s soulful, stirring rendition of Lambi Judai1983 was a very important year in our lives.
 
A year ago India had hosted Asiad and many of us had colour TVs in our homes on which we watched India win the 1983 World Cup and Kapil Dev and our boys pop champagne in the balcony of Lord’s. It was a moment.
 
1983 was also the year when we danced like mad to Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean and Beat It, Police’s Every Breath You Take, Sweet Dreams Are Made of These, and of course, Flashdance What a Feeling. All relatives coming from aboard were begged and besieged to get leg warmers. We paired them with sweatshirts whose necks we had cut into a w-i-d-e boat shape so that they’d casually droop to one side and bare one shoulder. In this gear we practised, repeatedly, taking off our mothers’ Libertina bras — Duchess, Princess, Empress, Dolcevita — without taking off the sweatshirt.
 
It was a moment we all hoped would come soon for real.
 
This was also the year when we rented VHS tapes of Scarface, Tootsie, Return of the Jedi and didn’t return the tape of Staying Alive. We went to the theatres to watch Octopussy with our families because some crucial scenes had been shot here, in Rajasthan, and because it had Kabir Bedi and Vijay Amritraj. Double-O-Seven had come to India and it was a moment in our lives.
This was also the year when Fidel Castro came to India and while we all swooned, he gave Indira Gandhi a bear hug. It was, again, a moment.
 
1983 was also a very important year in Bollywood. Coolie released with the frame in which Amitabh Bachchan was injured frozen. Then there was Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, Rajesh Khanna’s return as Avataar. Also, Betaab, Rang Birangi, Ardh Satya, Sadma, Mandi, Masoom, Woh 7 Din, Katha, and the year when Zeenat Aman became very, very namkeen and Razia Sultan ordered idli-dosa even as we all went crazy trying to figure out who Kabban Mirza was.
 
But, above all, this was the year Jaggu Dada as Hero came in our lives riding a bike, playing the flute and wearing a red bandana. Subhash Ghai’s Hero, starring Meenakshi Seshadri, Shammi Kapoor, Sanjeev Kumar and Bindu, was more than a smash-hit. It was a film we held dear.
 
Nikhil Advani’s Hero is a hu-ba-hu copy of that film. And as is the fate of most photocopies, this one too is a bit bleary and weakly. But, it’s not as bad as I had expected. Sooraj baba (Suraj Pancholi), who is body bold and body beautiful, does a lot of heropanti in his Mumbai neighbourhood. He thrashes his adversaries to into a bumbling, floppy pulp. After a successful fisticuff routine he and his flunkeys go to a pub to celebrate where he shows some filmy heropanti to Radha (Athiya Shetty).
 
She be upright cop, IG Shrikant Mathur (Tigmanshu Dhulia) ki beti. And Sooraj be sadak ka mawali. Her daddy is out to get Pasha (Aditya Pancholi) for a murder case, while Sooraj is Pasha’s bachcha who does his bidding. On Pasha’s say-so, Sooraj kidnaps Radha dressed as a cop. Off they go, in a jeep, from Mumbai straight to a hut nestled in snow-clad mountains. Later, when the real cops chase them, and they fall in a river, they reach Dharamshala to sing a love duet. 
 
Kooky geography is the least of Nikhil Advani’s flaws. He has co-written the film’s screenplay and that’s where the film’s first major problem sits. The second is his direction. Nothing new, nothing interesting has been added to the film as it was written by Subhash Ghai. Instead, characters who made the original film live and breathe have been watered down and reduced to stock characters. The underdeveloped characters are underwhelming.
 
Worse, Advani’s hero does only muscles ki dadagiri, not mind ki while his heroine keeps saying “stoopid”. And when she has to tick-off the villain, she calls him a “dork-faced muppet” before walking away with the mawali she loves. Wah!
 
A twist in the plot courtesy Ranvijay Singh Shekhawat (Vivan Bhatena) does nothing to up the ante. In fact, there’s no tension about the lovers’ fate because it’s painfully obvious that they are up against nothing except the film’s deadline.
 
Hero, 2015, is the launch film of Bollywood’s two bachchas. Athiya is the daughter of Suniel Shetty and Suraj is the son of Zarina Wahab and Aditya Pancholi. And both are blessed by the reigning god of Bollywood, Salman Khan. He has co-produced the film, sung a song for them and, apparently, even trimmed the film. We must all thank him for reducing the film by 30 minutes. Like his mentor, Suraj can’t act. But like his mentor, he can go bare-chest. Suraj can do stunts. But he needs an acting double. Athiya is very, very tall, very thin and she’s all hair. Suraj is always taking off his shirt and making smokey eyes at us and Athiya is always pouting, as if in a perpetual sulk at the world around her. She reminded me of Sonam Kapoor, though without the air of entitlement.
 
Suraj’s “entry” scenes are stoopidly conceptualised and shot — camera begins to roll when he’s looking down, downcast actually, and it stays on him as he s-l-o-w-l-y raises his head to present nothing spectacular. Suraj and Athiya are not A-list bachchas of Bollywood. Like their parents, they are B-grade and slightly schlocky. They have imperfections. And I found that endearing for their defects, their blemishes, their rough edges which are all very visible. They needed a film that saw and played with that. Sadly, they are encased in a film that’s really not about them. It’s about Jackie and Meenakshi.
 
But, they are not bad. In fact, how often can we say this about Bollywood kids — that they are better than their fathers. Suraj is better than Aditya Pancholi and Athiya is a far, far superior actor to her duh! daddy. That’s a first.
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