Alongside his famed abs, Kangna Ranaut and SFX steal the show in the desi superhero movie Krrish 3.

Diwali ain’t Diwali if you’re not lured by the ‘Buy one, get one free’ sales pitch. That’s the premise on which Rakesh Roshan seems to have fashioned Krrish 3, his Diwali offering that gives us three Hrithiks and two movies when we might have been perfectly happy with just one of each.

Oh all right, let’s be reasonable and grant Roshan Sr and Jr two Hrithiks, since a double role is the base requirement for a superhero movie. But that still leaves us with one Hrithik too many. And one, sadly, with no abs to show off.

No other actor in India could have made this role even half as good as Hrithik has, and he’s the big reason this movie works. But much as I admire his palpable sincerity as an actor and the sheer beauty of his physicality, there’s just so much I can take of him in one movie.

As for the two films-in-one, Krrish 3 had me feeling mildly schizophrenic. Was I seeing a film from the mass-produced 1990s or one from the digital age? It was like watching two movies directed by two directors from different eras. Good ol’ Bollywood-style emotions and sequences, songs and dances (the music sounds like it’s from another age, too) juxtaposed with another time-zone and mindspace. It’s not just the special effects that separate the two parts: it’s the genres, the narrative technique, the cinematic grammar that are all jumbled up. It is, simply, a mish-mash.

You can imagine Rakesh Roshan working out his strategy: Okay, we’ve got to make the most of our superhero, but we’ve got to keep it Indian; let’s throw in some solid desi emotions to make it an all-round package for our box-office.

It’s what he did with Koi… Mil Gaya — and it worked for three reasons: the courage and charm Hrithik brought to his role; the film’s artistic honesty; and Jadoo, the cherubic Indian version of an alien. But it all started to feel forced with Krrish and with Krrish 3, it’s become downright schizophrenic.

Now, Rakesh Roshan is a director with one of the best records in B-Town; few would question his knowledge and judgement of the Indian box-office. I certainly won’t. Not when Krrish 3 has made over Rs 100 crore in its first four days and has racked up the second highest opening collection this year, next only to Chennai Express. Considering that Diwali celebrations would have kept quite a few people away, the rest of the week should throw up good numbers for the movie.

Clearly, Rakesh Roshan knows what he’s doing, as always. Unlike many directors in his age-group, he’s kept reinventing himself, largely because he’s open to ideas. Also, he’s one of those film-makers who are ready to take the big risks, who don’t let money come in the way of their vision.

Since it’s his home production, no one knows just how expensive this movie was; budget estimates vary between Rs 100 crore and Rs 150 crore. The second figure would make it one of the costliest Hindi movies ever made, but nowhere near the gasp-inducing $180 million (approximately Rs 1,080 crore) that it took to make Spiderman 3.

Given that comparison, Rakesh Roshan has pulled off a near-miracle. Certainly, the special effects (and, really, everything else) in Krrish 3 are far superior to those in that disaster called Ra.One.

But the question is: Should we forever make superhero or SFX-dependent films that have no hope of matching the best in the business?

One argument would be that we can’t achieve that level of technical wizardry and truth is, we simply don’t have the originality of vision or the money to make a film like Gravity or Life of Pi. So much of Krrish 3 is derivative — bits and pieces picked up from assorted superhero and mutant movies. (And surely, you remember the shades of Steven Spielberg’s ET in Koi… Mil Gaya).

But what we lack in originality we make up for with our talent for jugaad, for cobbling together a product at a price that’s way below the market price — from the Nano to the Jaipur Foot to hundreds of other products. And they work for us — for our peculiar needs, our wallets, and our unique sensitivities. Krrish 3 is just one more example. So we have a superhero who breaks into song (‘Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram’, no less) and dance. We have a godawful comedy track, heavily mushy scenes, and Lord Krishna of course. There are some embarrassingly obvious product placements, no doubt to recover part of that Rs 100-plus crore. We have a mutant who dreams of dancing in a desert — a song picturisation that reminded me eerily of ‘Tu Meri Adhuri Pyaas’ from Ghajini. (The music and lyrics of that song were exquisite, but have to admit Hrithik beats Aamir Khan abs down.)

In fact, it is Kangna Ranaut, playing the mutant Kaaya, who perhaps comes closest to achieving any degree of fidelity to the genre. She’s edgy, she’s cool, her costume’s evil chic and she plays her part at the perfect pitch. I’d even go so far as to say she looks sensational enough to give Halle Berry or Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwomen some competition.

Vivek Oberoi, on the other hand, tries gamely as the villain Kaal, but is too mono-tone and simply doesn’t get there. As for the leading lady Priyanka Chopra, it’s difficult to get past her plumped-up lips. And that’s the kindest thing I could say about her.

So there it is: We’re down to Hrithik Roshan in that bizarre cape-cum-raincoat, the sizzling Kangna Ranaut and some decent SFX. Simply not enough. But the box-office doesn’t seem to be complaining. What can I say but: Rakeshji, you know best. But please make the next Krrish 4 or even 2, but please don’t skip a number. Thank you.

(This article was published on November 7, 2013)
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