We are living in fluid flux ridden times, we Indians. We are. In almost every public sphere of life and existence, there is a decided shift against inheritance and for merit. Be it politics, business or even smaller work spaces, the idea of letting sons take over your mantle whether they deserve it or not is fast losing the social acceptance it enjoyed all these years.
Yet if there is one place where this change has seemingly not taken roots in is Bollywood. That weird animal of celluloid where at one hand you have spectacular outsiders like Shah Rukh Khan or Madhuri Dixit making dream careers, and “Star Sons” like Abhishek or Ranbir and Sonam being unleashed on unsuspected audiences solely because they belong to the fraternity. Not every one of these star sons deserve this opportunity, scores of unconnected others do. Not that this fact makes any difference to the stars. They expect us audiences, like subjects of a fiefdom, to extend the same warmth and love to their (more often than not talentless) kids like we did to them.
This weekend, we the audiences are decreed to welcome another such “star kid” pair into our collective cinema conscience. No questions asked, of course. To add to the weight of this decree is the fact that an A-lister super star of questionable talent and undeniable charm is backing these novices.
So true to style, weeks for now we have lapped up Sooraj Pancholi , Athiya Shetty and Salman Khan do the omnipresent act- radio, TV, paper, digital, everywhere, telling us how much cute fun they had shooting this film, how much sweat and toil went into getting the film to the screens, how Salman personally oversaw the edit of the film and micromanaged the debuts of these star kids.
This, in their world, is guarantee of the newcomer’s talents, a testament to their potential as tomorrow’s superstars. Why would Salman Khan back them otherwise, no?
The only reason therefore for you and me to watch Nikhil Advani’s Hero is that Salman Khan said so.
Well, to put it simply, Bhai was wrong. Not only is Hero one of the most irritating and dismal Star debuts, it is a mockery of audiences, of the fact that making films is art and that art needs some basic minimum qualification if not talent or even a disposition to creativity of any kind.
Hero, starring Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty is as unpalatable as bowl of milk gone bad.
Let’s face it, Sooraj and Athiya aren’t exactly born with the silver spoon in their mouths, what with their respective fathers having B grade films at the max to their credit. It is therefore entirely the super star backer who is to be blamed for this monstrosity of a movie. More of that later though.
The first rule of a star debut vehicle is – keep it a complete silly no frill showcase of the debutants. Which in Bollywood lingo translates to dances, fights, romance, chases and a happy family ending. So out comes Subhash Ghai’s Hero from the 80’s, a film that deserved to sit in the dusty annals of history untouched and unremembered. At least Ghai then tried to go off the mould with a mediocre script and gave us a rough raw hero in Jackie Shroff in a time where goody two shoed men ruled the marquee. What Salman gives us here is a pale sad charisma less replica of himself who spent more time at the gym than reading books on acting.
Sooraj (Pancholi) is a local thug who believes in not wearing a shirt if he can (and that he can is pretty evident all through the movie) who is loyal to a local don Pasha (Aditya Pancholy). Pasha asks him to kidnap arch rival Mathur, an IG’s daughter Radha (Athiya) which he dutifully does. Sooraj and Radha fall in love with each other (but ofcourse) and Pasha is happy, cause that is his weapon to get even with Mathur. Mathur doesn’t like this one bit, then yawn, yawn and some more yawn after, love wins and all is well. NOT.
You know things are not right when in the promotions, the director of a movie talks more of how the film is Bhai’s vision and less his. Hero however is another level of awkward.
Not only does director Nikhil Advani expect his audience to wake up this Friday morning and fall in love with the trashy times of 80’s Bollywood, he also expects us to have tolerance levels of a nurse in charge of a psychotic TV serial Saas suffering from piles.
So we are served dialogues like “aaj main tumhe surprise nahi shock karne aaya hu” (the point where I started clawing at the seat fabric), random action sequences where hero beats up baddies through brick walls (cue to start playing catch-the –pop-corn here) and most importantly, for a launch vehicle, the makers do not even give the newcomers a chance to shine or show some promise.
This is where, during one of the weird songs you wonder, if there was any promise in the debutants in the first place.
Sooraj is a dull drab screen presence who is nothing beyond the sum of his muscles. His eyes perpetually seem to be looking out to Bhai in the corner for the nod of approval each time he mouths a line. Most of the time though he is content with his shirt off and mouth sealed. Thank god for the latter.
Athiya with her sportsman physique and sharp features is miscast as a bimbo with the brain of a four year old. One look at her and you would imagine a smart intelligent girl of today in there somewhere, who is driven ambitious and serious about acting as a career- someone who would choose a role , a character to debut with not a sad excuse for a part in a sorry film like this. What we are forgetting though is that she is her father’s daughter and time stopped after 1990’s in the Shetty household.
Both Sooraj and Athiya seem comfortable in this mess, they even seem to enjoy it. For their own sakes, I hope this was a pretence and they just cannot wait to get on to better things in life post this disaster they fathers have conjured up for them.
The only saving grace, if one can call it that, is the end credits where Salman comes in singing (auto tuning) Main Tera Hero, and all the behind the scenes footage that accompanies the song.
That is where one sees the real Sooraj and Athiya, normal youngsters having a good time, like everyone else their age. Like we would want to see characters on screen in films made today, for today’s audiences. Hero is not that film. The two newcomers deserve a second debut.
That brings us back to the man who gave these two a chance. A super star who makes inane ridiculous nonsense work. A super star who has the heft to make millions buy tickets for this mess of a movie just cause he said so. A super star who could be backing films that actually have some content in them, backing actors who actually flex their acting muscles , people who strive hard sitting on the periphery of this family business that cinema is waiting for that one chance to show their worth. A super star who could have redeemed his sins on celluloid by backing a film that at least made some sense. Asking for too much I am no ?