Okay, who at Balaji Motion Pictures decided to green-light this movie? Who was the person, or people, that said, "You know what, Indian viewers don't get to watch enough bad superhero movies. Let's give them one", and then lit a cigarette or whatever?
Well, whoever they were, the result is Remo D'Souza's superhero flick A Flying Jatt, which comes across as one of those reckless studio decisions. This film is what happens when smarmy execs who wouldn't be able to identify good cinema if it danced naked (or, y'know, in a burkini, which is apparently worse in some parts of the world right now) in front of them get to decide what lakhs of people are going to find 'entertaining'.
No doubt the film's raison d'être lies in its lead actor Tiger Shroff's inexplicable popularity amongst teenagers. I say 'inexplicable' because, despite a fantastic physique, enviable dancing skills, and the flexibility of a gymnast, Shroff is not an actor. I mean, the guy is literally better at taking care of his hair than he is at portraying a fictional character on screen. He's the kind of actor who needs to be given a mug of coffee to hold in most scenes because it's so obvious he doesn't know what to do with his hands while delivering one of two stock expressions: a) painfully earnest and b) visibly upset about something bad that is happening to him.
He plays Aman, a constant disappointment to his mother (Amrita Singh in Kirron Kher mode, but at least she seems to be having fun with it) and a punching bag for his brother Rohit (Gaurav Pandey, in the movie's most enjoyable performance). As a martial arts instructor at a local school, he craves the affections of Kirti (Jacqueline Fernandez), a fellow teacher who is only shown being annoyingly giggly and 'bubbly' while two of her colleagues resort to inane tactics in repeated attempts to woo her. Irritating, varyingly accented, and utterly lacking in depth — who better than Fernandez for this role, right?
The set-up is dull but things get moving when, after a series of events, Aman acquires superpowers and turns into the titular superhero. This, admittedly, is the most watchable portion of the movie despite being inspired by a number of Hollywood films. We have the mandatory 'funny' costume selection montage, a staple of every superhero origin movie that isn't dark and brooding. A scene in which the costumed Flying Jatt, blessed by his family, looks heroically into the distance and promptly sits down on his bed to relax, is genuinely funny. A montage in which he attempts to 'save' people is, well, less than Kick-Ass, but still digestible. Alas, the film fails to properly exploit the one truly good idea it has — a superhero who is afraid of heights — but at least has the good sense to include a scene wherein our caped crusader is sent by his mother to buy lauki.
The conflict is introduced by a greedy capitalist named Malhotra (Kay Kay Menon). The town they live in has been ravaged by the industrial waste produced by his factories, which automatically makes him the arch-villain of the story. Or perhaps it's because he wears these solid, monochrome ties that look like they're made of carbon fibre (honestly, I thought they looked kinda cool). Either way, Menon, one of Bollywood's better actors, manages this role well enough, albeit in a disinterested, 'I'd like an advance because I'm thinking of buying this house in Andheri West' manner.
No amount of well-intentioned subtext about taking care of our environment — as though no one in India has ever watched an episode of Captain Planet — can save this atrociously directed film.
Oh, and 'surprise, surprise', there's Australian WWE wrestler Nathan Jones (Mad Max: Fury Road) as Raka, this movie's version of at least two Spiderman villains. Buried under a rubble of toxic waste after an initial encounter with Flying Jatt (what an awkward superhero name), Raka finds that toxic fumes give him even more superhuman strength than he already possesses.
Alas, if only bad movies worked the same way with viewers. No amount of well-intentioned subtext about taking care of our environment — as though no one in India has ever watched an episode of Captain Planet — can save this atrociously directed film. The special effects are occasionally so tacky that some shots of Shroff flying past green fields reminded me of that cult song from 1988's Dariya Dil, in which Govinda and Kimi Katkar dress up as Superman and Spiderwoman respectively. The staging of action sequences ranges from just-about-competent to that final battle, which takes place in outer space, which is just flat-out ridiculous. And let's not even talk of any modicum of subtlety — this is a film where, in the climatic moment, the director flashes the message of the film on screen, as A QUOTE ATTRIBUTED TO HIMSELF. AAARGGGHHH.
Add to that the blatant plagiarism, which is just infuriating at this point. Sure, many superhero films have common tropes, and A Flying Jatt establishes very early on that it isn't the most orginal or sophisticated of movies. But, really, what made D'Souza and the folks at Balaji think they could rip off the Quicksilver 'time slowing' sequences from the two most recent X-Men movies? How is this shit still happening in 2016, for heaven's sake?
Sure, there will be some who'll say, "Eh, who cares. It's a movie for kids, and they're going to love it." I would say that kids are and always have been smarter than 90% of the work that's made for them — they just have fewer choices than adults do. They deserve better than A Flying Jatt, which is nothing but a symbol of Bollywood's laziness and creative bankruptcy.
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