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The dynamics of screen heroism

Krrish will be a conventional Mumbai film, predicts Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Feb 14, 2006 18:43 IST

Buckle up for the Gen-X superhero. Krrish is on the way. The trailers of the Hrithik Roshan starrer are already in the movie theatres. So is this really going to be the face of the vigilante of the future: invincible, athletic, capable of flying like a bird of prey, and completely make-believe?

The multiplex screens are currently awash with an ostensibly different colour with a bunch of recognisable university drifters out to change the world around them. Neo-nationalism, an emotion that is refreshingly shorn of jingoism in Rang De Basanti, is the order of the day.

So, the question is: will a superhero of the Krrish kind be able to wean the audience back to the world of out-and-out fantasy that popular Hindi cinema is most comfortable inhabiting?

Well, on the face of it, the force seems to be with Hrithik Roshan. He hasn’t been seen on the screen for a while and his fans would be only too happy to give Krrish a warm welcome when the film arrives at the theatres. The film has the makings of a runaway winner.

Noexpense has been spared to give Krrish the feel of a world-class special effects fantasy flick. Indeed, Rakesh Roshan’s upcoming sequel to Koi Mil Gaya… promises to be the sort of experience that Indian moviegoers haven’t been exposed to ever before in an indigenously made film.

A young man endowed with bionic powers can achieve the impossible. But isn’t that exactly what DJ (Aamir Khan) and his campus pals attain in Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti?

Hrithik Roshan starrer Krrish will hit the theatres soon. No expense has been spared to give Krrish the feel of a world-class special effects fantasy flick.

They are guys that, to begin with, are too self-absorbed to notice the pathetic state of affairs in the real world that exists outside the precincts of their university. And then a stray spark kindles a fire within them and they metamorphose into fearless crusaders for justice.

For all its obviously realistic moorings – most of its characters are real, middle class kids with their own little pet peeves and dreams – RDB is essentially a tale of fantasy, albeit one that is set in a tangible milieu. The transformation of the youngsters is triggered gradually, believably, convincingly, even though the end result of their awakening may seem a bit stretched.

RDB isn’t a conventional Mumbai film. Krrish will probably be one, barring the state of the art special effects and action choreography that it boasts. But, in essence, the new Hrithik Roshan vehicle might arouse much the same emotions that RDB has triggered among moviegoers. A hero is a hero, a symbol of power that gives the watcher a vicarious sense of achievement, much in the manner that Amitabh Bachchan’s angry young man did in the 1970s.

Back then, the common man was grappling with the disintegration of the dreams that all Indians had seen when the country became free. Twenty-five years on, the values of the freedom struggle had evaporated in the heat of electoral politics and the shameless quest by the ruling class for power and pelf. The Bachchan screen persona emerged as a metaphor for revolt in a climate of despair.

Here was a seemingly ordinary, usually working class, man who dared to take on an entire system and its guardians, which were clearly stronger than him. That little indulgence in fantasy allowed the unwashed masses momentary wish-fulfilment.

The times have changed. In a fast liberalising and globalising India, young mean and women are dreaming of conquests never imagined before. Yet, out there in cities and the hinterland, large segments of the population still struggle for dignity and hope. Therefore, RDB, for most part, works on the very principles that drove Deewar and Trishul although it is quite clearly a completely different kind of film.

The daring rebellion that the newly awakened RDB gang mounts against the defence minister for his insensitive pronouncements on a dead Air Force pilot is triggered by a sense of frustration and hopelessness that many in the audience can relate to. That is where the secret of the success of RDB lies.

It may be rather difficult to get the dynamics of screen heroism right, but once a filmmaker manages to get there, it all seems very simple. In a society where the rules are loaded heavily against the man in the street and those with political power run roughshod over the norms of fairplay, common man heroes often assume the role of a messiah. Only the settings change. From the essentially grounded RDB to the patently flighty Krrish, it’s much the same story.

Between the angry young man of the 1970s and the new-millennium anti-heroes with a cause, the distance isn’t really as much as it might seem at first glance. The faces change. The battle remains the same.

First Published: Feb 14, 2006 23:00 IST