Sometimes, in addition to knowing that a film exists, it’s important to think about why it exists.
Some films exist to entertain you, some exist to stir something within you, some have an agenda. Some want to highlight social issues, historical events, political tussles. Some just want you to laugh, cry, and feel warm and fuzzy inside.
And some films, like Nikhil Advani’s Hero, exist largely to satisfy inflated egos.
Even if it hadn’t been mentioned by Advani in sundry interviews (including ours) that he has mostly done Hero because Salman Khan (who has produced the film) called him up and asked him to, it is evident from the finished product that this is not a film that has been made as much as it has been executed and delivered.
Advani, whose last film was the effective spy thriller D-Day (2013), makes some attempts to create a one-size-fits-all masala entertainer that launches star kids Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty. A remake of Subhash Ghai’s 1983 film (which had launched Jackie Shroff, who was literally the opposite of a ‘star kid’), Hero features pretty much exactly the same plot: a small-time rogue kidnaps the police inspector-general’s daughter, but they end up falling in love with each other.
Just as in the original, the small-time rogue here is named after the actor playing him: Sooraj. While Jackie was lean and grungy-looking, Sooraj sports multiple tattoos and a Gold’s Gym body (the kind that seems as though he spends a small fortune every month just on whey protein). Jackie simmered, grunted, grinned, and fought believably; Sooraj often seems as though he suffers from partial facial paralysis and fights like he’s in a Kung Fu Hustle movie.
Pancholi has clearly graduated from the Salman Khan School Of Acting. You can see it in the way he confuses inexpressiveness for impassiveness; and the blank, almost-glazed look in his eyes that seems to repeat ad infinitum: ‘Bhai ne bola hero banna hai toh hero banna hai’. And of course, there’s some sort of obsession with his hair, with several scenes utilising fans to make this film look like the world’s most elaborate shampoo commercial. There’s this scene with his face covered in blood and dust after having narrowly survived a bomb blast, but Pancholi’s hair clearly did not get that memo.
Making an even worse debut as Radha, the inspector-general’s spoilt, selfie-obsessed daughter, is Athiya Shetty. In a ‘Daddy, I want to be in the movies’ role that once made Meenakshi Seshadri a household name, Shetty is, unfortunately, completely out of her depth here — and it doesn’t help that her character appears to be quite poorly-written.
For instance, in a chase sequence where she believes that Sooraj and his men are cops protecting her from goondas sent by Pasha (played by Aditya Pancholi here, for those ‘hey, look, father and son acting together’ moments), she seems to not think it weird that they arrive in uniforms on motorcycles as well as helicopters. In the original, if you remember, Seshadri’s character at least had the sense to ask why apparently small-time goondas were arriving via chopper. The film’s writer Umesh Bist confuses naïveté with utter stupidity, and poor Shetty, who genuinely does not seem cut out to be an actress, takes the fall for it.
Sooraj Pancholi in a still from 'Hero'
Advani tries to make the film look both glossy and gritty and there are a few things that catch the eye: a niftily choreographed laser-light dance sequence, a chase in the icy mountains of Kashmir. Other parts, however, are downright lazy — in quite a few scenes, they don't even seem to have bothered to get the dubbing right.
On the plus side, there are a few moments salvaged by Tigmanshu Dhulia, who plays the inspector-general Shrikant Mathur. In a role originally essayed by Shammi Kapoor, Dhulia is watchable enough, even if he looks somewhat embarrassed to be a part of this movie.
Hard enough as it is to buy the lead actors’ performances and their chemistry (or lack thereof), the second half comes bundled along with more cringe in the form of Rannvijay (a scarily-bulked-up Vivaan Bhatena), who throws a spanner in the works of the ensuing love story for his own personal gains.
Meanwhile, the choppily-edited film plods along with several lapses in logic, moments that stretch incredulity (a computer-generated bullet-stopping sequence suddenly takes the film into campy Rajinikanth territory), and very few explanations to give the viewer company.
Instead, all you’re left with are questions. How stupid do the makers think the audience is? Why are Pancholi and Shetty being foisted upon us — have all the strugglers in Mumbai’s Oshiwara area packed up their bags and returned home? Do they really expect us to believe that Salman Khan sang the title track, when it actually sounds like it should be credited to ‘Mohit Chauhan feat. Auto-tune’?
Hero is a vacuous and self-indulgent exercise, akin to taking star kids on a field trip in order to show them the ropes. Do it, by all means, but why must you subject an audience to it?