Wednesday, August 31, 2016

A Flying Jatt  

Low-Flying Superhero

We don’t have a culture of superhero comics in India, so when a homegrown character has to be created, a large chunk of the material comes from Hollywood, added to time-tested Bollywood tropes, and in Remo D’Souza’s Flying Jatt, there’s plenty of Sikh religious symbolism.

The result is a mix of very silly comedy and solemn bombast stirred with tacky special effects. The target audience must have been small children, who may not be able to figure out Superman, Batman and the rest, but can appreciate Tiger Shroff dancing and showing off martial arts moves.

He plays Aman, the son of a strong Jatni mother (Amrita Singh), who stands up to a real estate guzzling industrialist, Malhotra (Kay Kay Menon), a man who is polluting the city with smoke and effluents from his factories. Aman is a timid martial arts teacher, and shy around the half-wit, squeaky fellow teacher (Jacqueline Fernandez), whom he loves.

Malhotra summons a white giant Raka (Nathan Jones—from Mad Max: Fury Road to this khichdi) to beat up Aman, and both end up with superpowers—Aman’s are a bit hazy, since he remains scared of heights and dogs, but acquires a mean fist; Raka (a very old Bolly name) survives a toxic dump, gets black blood, a black soul and the ability to thrive on waste and pollutants.

Aman’s mother and brother (Gaurav Pandey) think it is cute that their boy is a superhero—they watch Hollywood films to tutor him in the ways of superheroes, and she stitches him a costume. Now go save the world they say, and it’s a while before Flying Jatt gets his groove, after a few funny false starts.

While the film remains at a silly, spoofy level it’s somewhat bearable; when it starts getting serious and preachy, it goes off the rails. Raka, with his shiny white teeth and black smoke hovering around him, mainly goes around saying “Ha” or “Surprise Surprise” and  makes for a most ineffectual villain—the kind of guy who would lose his powers if the city folk cleaned up the streets and planted more trees. Who would have thought that a superhero film would end up being about Swatchh Bharat? You don’t know whether to giggle or to groan.

It’s all too much for poor Tiger Shroff to hold together—he can dance and he can fight, but he is expected to act too, looking all solemn when he being given sermons (in animation) about brave Sikhs by his mother. Nice to see Amrita Singh chewing up the scenery, but she is not given much to do.  If this is the start of a franchise, the Remo D’Souza needs to get back to the drawing board.


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