In the most recent episode of the HBO series Entourage that aired in the U.S. last weekend, Vince and his buddies go through opening day of the actor’s big budget release Aquaman, tracking the opening grosses and comparing them to the opening weekend of Spiderman. Initially, only E is interested in how the two movies compare, but by the time the 28 minutes of the show have run their course, everyone is looking over their shoulder at Peter Parker’s red and blue stretchy-suited alter ego.
I had a similar sensation at Krrish tonight, at the 10 p.m. and final showing of the night at the local Indian multiplex. (By the way, I must find out if this is the first time a big Bollywood release has opened in the U.S. a full day before India, and why.) The action hero scenes shot amid the high-rises of Singapore called to mind Spiderman, while Krrish’s movements and fight scenes themselves were a melange of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Matrix. Not that that’s an entirely bad thing; we all know how often Bollywood takes its inspiration from other movies. Of all three of the aforementioned movies, I’d say that technically Krrish approaches Crouching Tiger most: there’s a lot of running and climbing by hopping quickly from one place to another, when not bouncing off trees, branches and bodies of water.
Krrish is the story of Krishna, the son of Rohit Mehra, the character that Hrithik Roshan played in Koi Mil Gaya. He has the same magical powers that his special father did, and, growing up parentless, Krishna has been raised by his grandmother, played by Rekha. (It was a surprise for me to see her with grey streaks in her hair and the stiff gait of a woman in her 70s, given her recent, wince-inducing appearance in Bachke Rehna Re Baba and her item number as the heavy-lidded, somewhat fleshy vamp in Parineeta.)
Grandmother and grandson have lived an idyllic and isolated existence up in the green hills and mountains of Manali. She wants to protect him, as she believes it was her son’s powers, and the evil intentions of a Dr. Arya (portrayed with relish by Naseeruddin Shah) that led to his death. All goes as planned until a camping group of young people shows up, including two Singapore-based friends, Honey and Priya (the doe-eyed Priyanka Chopra). Priya, out paragliding, gets into trouble when she lands high up in a tree and Krishna amazingly is able to fly to the top and carry her to safety. It doesn’t take long before he’s in love with her. Aside from the ridiculous amount of ear-splitting screaming that Priya does, the scene does convey well the amazement between two people as they stare into each other’s eyes that something is happening.
Priya and Honey return to Singapore and their jobs at a television network. Having stayed away five days longer than allowed, they are about to be fired by the boss (Archana Puran Singh, doing her customary Hot Aunty role, with a dollop of Bossy Harpy thrown in) when Honey has a brainwave: they’ll get Krishna to come to Singapore and film his superpowers, and by getting this scoop, they’ll be saved. Priya lies to Krishna, telling him if he doesn’t come right away and meet her mother, she’ll be married off to someone else.
Though he’s stated he’d never leave his grandmother, he gets her approval and shows up at the Singapore airport in his father’s dorky, I’m-with-the-Gestapo-geek-squad trench coat. While he takes up temporary residence in the metropolis, Priya’s efforts to trick him into performing on film fail, but she finds herself falling in love with the muscular but unassuming hunk. Before leaving home, his grandmother extracts a promise from Krishna that he will never use his powers in front of people, but when a fire breaks out at a circus, he feels compelled to step in and save lives, so he dons a black mask and turns the nerdy coat inside out to reveal a shiny leather trench straight from the costume cupboard of The Night Porter.
And Krrish is born.
While Krishna’s romancing Priya and saving children from a burning tent, his father’s crooked business partner and megalomaniac, Dr. Arya, is on the verge of recreating Krishna’s father’s invention: The Computer that Allows You to See the Future. You know that the paths of these two men will cross as the story comes to a climax.
So this is Hindi cinema’s first superhero movie, such a newsworthy event that even the New York Times has written about it. The budget is reported to have been between $7 and $10 million, and to prepare for the role, Hrithik Roshan trained with Tony Ching Siu Tung (of The Hero and House of Flying Daggers) on how to do wire stunts. The training and the green-eyed boy’s natural grace lend a gliding fluidity to the action scenes.
The only other movies I’d seen Hrithik Roshan in were K3G and Lakshya. In this movie too, he has several opportunities to show off his dancing ability and he is a joy to watch. The Dil Na Diya number has shades of Ek Pal Ka Jeena for the way it highlights Hrithink’s footwork. His face is quite compelling to behold too. Technically, you would think that a nose as long as his would be a strike against him, but somehow, it works, probably because you find yourself – when he’s in close-ups – staring at his eyes and trying to figure out which order the concentric circles of brown, light gold and green appear. His pre-Singapore wardrobe could have included some long- or short-sleeved shirts; he spent that entire part of the film in a sleeveless sweater/shirt and soon in you think “Ok, we get it, he’s got big muscles!” I found the long hair distracting in some scenes. Early on, it was ruffled and curly and went well with the whole quasi-Tarzan thing Krishna had going on, but in other scenes, where it was straighter and darker, it just seemed off, and at one point I thought to myself “That’s the same hairstyle Monica Lewinsky had for a time!”
Priyanka Chopra plays The Beautiful Girlfriend role well enough, but it’s not a terribly taxing one. Her Singapore wardrobe consisted of several outfits that included several pairs of pretty low-slung jeans, the lowest I’ve seen in a Bollywood movie so far.
Product placement was all over: Tide detergent (also prominent in Chup Chup Ke), Lays chips, Samsung electronics and Bournavita.
The soundtrack is enjoyable enough, moreso than that of KANK I’d say, but there are no WOW! moments, where you think “I’ve gotta get that number onto my iPod work-out playlist.” One song – Chori Chori Chup Ke Chup Ke – comes from what I’d refer to as the filmi school of bullock carts, flute and drums numbers (you know, the scene where the hero or heroine, or both, return to the countryside (think Veer-Zaara or even Pardesi Babu) and appreciate how beautiful it is.
See it or skip it?
See it! This movie is a first in Hindi film history, but bring a cushion, because it runs over three hours. (The movie could have benefitted from less time with the evil Dr. Arya.)