Saturday, October 25, 2008



If at all Samir Karnik's multi-starrer Heroes goes down well will a section of the audience, thank the cause—patriotism. That done, the director madly switches all the clichéd melodramatic buttons and almost beg the audience to wave the Indian tricolour with him.

Two spoilt rich 'boys' – Samir (Sohail Khan—boy?) and Ali (Vatsal Sheth) have to make a film to graduate from college (how did idiots like them even get into film school?), so they set out to make a documentary on why nobody should join the Indian Army. It is not the kind of film that would question the rights and wrongs of war, or have any kind of political point of view, so the viewer knows right at the start that this film is going to end up proving that it is great idea to join the army, and a death via martyrdom in the line of duty is the best way to go.

The 'boys' are given three letters to deliver to the families of dead army men,so they get on to a bike (Motorcycle Diaries, anyone?) and go first to Punjab, where Kuljeet (Preity Zinta), the wife of dead soldier Balkar Singh (Salman Khan) struggles to look after her in-laws and her kid (Dwij Yadav). This episode is high on emotional quotient, as can be expected. Samir and Ali are amazed to see that the Indo-Pak border is just an ordinary gate, and that the fields on both sides are the same. (Did they just land from another planet?)

Next on the list is a crippled pilot (Sunny Deol), who misses his dead brother (Bobby Deol), who died fighting for the country. Sunny Deol has to have an action sequence, so there is one tacked on, in which he batters a bunch of goons misbehaving with his girlfriend, and does it while crawling on the floor, while each punch shatters a floor tile. If the first episode is for the family audience, this one is for action fans. The third story is a bit more complex, and this Karnik is unable to handle—a father (Mithun Chakraborty), unable to come to terms with his son's (Dino Morea) death, turns his grief into bitterness.

Since the film is meant to be a life-changing experience for 'boys', they figure out that pride in dying for the country is higher than any material reward, and that to love your country, you don't have to be in the army; they end up being 'heroes' too, though one never gets to see the film they shot.

Heroes is predictable and emotionally manipulative, simplistic at every level (do soldiers and their families always talk in Mera Bharat Mahaan kind of slogans?), but some of the performances rise above the banality of Karnik's story-telling— Preity Zinta in the scene where she hugs the uniform of her dead husband; Salman Khan when he gives an interview in a resigned tone to a TV reporter, Mithun Chakraborty weeping before his son's portrait, are moments that linger. Sadly, the two protagonists are duds, and Sohail Khan goes bare-chested as often as he can—even to lift a small trunk, he takes his shirt off!

Roadside Romeo

The alliance between Yash Raj Films and Walt Disney Pictures, has produced an animation film Roadside Romeo, directed by Jugal Hansraj. Like the Hollywood animation biggies, this one also has stars like Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor dubbing the voices of the 'toon characters. There's good news and bad—it has the best animation seen in Indian cinema so far (pat on the back for Tata Elxsi/VCL); if the plot had been as good, the film would have been world class.

Unfortunately, Hansraj gives all that imagination and back-breaking labour that animation of this standard sucks in, to a no-brainer story. With its tapori lines and many tributes to Yashraj (and Karan Johar) films, including the famous train chase ending of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge and a Dhoom poster prominently on the wall; its cleverness might appeal to adults, but will go over the heads of kids; the childishness in creating the characters (they are Bollywood stock-in-trade types, just in animated form) might bore grown-ups after a while. Maybe, it will provide a teen audience with the required number of giggles, and eventually find an audience on the same wavelength.

A pampered pooch Romeo (voiced by Saif Ali Khan) finds himself on the street after being abandoned by his owners. He befriends a rough bunch of street dogs, by giving them makeovers, and they all set up a salon for dogs. This brings the local don Charlie Anna's chief chamcha (a spoon hanging from his neck), the mangy Bihari cur Chhenu (Sanjay Mishra) to demand hafta, which makes Romeo and gang fall foul of Charlie (Jaaved Jaaferi).

What complicates things for Romeo, is that he falls in love with a club dancer Laila (Kareena Kapoor), whom Charlie wants to woo as well.Romeo can't fight Charlie and his Angels (three sleek martial arts expert female dogs), so promises to get him a date with Laila, and when she finds out, she is understandably angry. The common enemy of the entire dog clan is the municipal van that rounds up strays.

The cutest character of the lot is a cat (Tanaaz Irani) that wants to be a dog, and a tiny mouse, who pops up cheekily, among the menagerie. The music, however, is a let down. The best animation films (The Lion King, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Shrek, Cars, Ratatouille to name a few) are those that work across the board and have endearing characters that go on to become cult favourites; Roadside Romeo seems like a waste of effort, but still, it is a giant leap ahead for Indian animation.


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