Film Review: Heroes

Heroes

Directed by: Sameer Karnik

Starring: Sohail Khan, Vatsal Seth, Preity Zinta, Sunny Deol, Mithun Chakraborty, guest appearances by Salman Khan, Bobby Deol, Dino Morea, Monish Behl

The Diwali season always brings great movies to the big screen and this year is no exception. With 4 big films releasing for the festive season (helpfully hitting the marquee two at a time so we can get round to seeing them all!) Diwali 2008 is living up to the strong track record of previous years. The first of these releases is Heroes, (which was previously titled Mera Bharat Mahaan [My India Is Great] and a title I really liked) a film with a patriotic flavour, and a rather diverse cast (which has generated a lot of curiosity and was the major factor that drove me to see this film) and two songs which keep demanding the repeat function on my Ipod.

Heroes starts in the year 1999, during the battle of Kargil. A war reporter is given three letters, which eventually turn out to be the last letters ever written by their senders as all three are killed in action. Three years later, two lazy film students are given an ultimatum by their principal -make a film or fail their degrees. They decide to make a film about why one should not become a soldier for the Indian army. Put in touch with the war reporter, the war reporter gives them the three letters which he has kept and gives the boys the task of delivering them to their intended recepients. The boys see it as a fun road trip, not knowing the journey ahead will changes their lives forever…

Heroes is a simple concept and to its credit, does not tread territory already explored by films that define the military genre in Bollywood, namely J P Dutta’s Border (1999) and more recently, Lakshya (2004) and 1971 (2007).Instead, it looks at the bereaved building up their lives up after having lost their loved one to the war. One of the film’s strengths is the way it tries to look at the same emotion -grief – in three different ways: repressed, externalised and accepted as a way of life. This is a solid framework for the film to rest upon and when it comes together, Heroes is a very watchable film.

However, Heroes is also an inconsistent film in two ways: firstly, it is unable to control or sustain the levels of emotion in the film. At times, the film hits the right notes and manages to make the viewer smile and then cry in the next frame, which is neatly demonstrated with the Preity Zinta-Salman Khan storyline but by the time the other two stories arise, it is difficult for the viewer to accept the over emotion/under emotion presented and the impact of the other two stories is reduced.

Secondly, the film can’t decide who to appeal to – the first 20 mins is aimed at teenyboppers (and includes a useless item number, a rip off of Friends and a plug for safe sex) which fails to attract its target audience as well as piss off the maturer audience. Then once the film gets into its stride, it becomes entertaining -only to fall back into teenybopper territory for no reason. Ironically, when the film is in gear, it appeals to everyone, so one wonders why the makers felt the need to try too hard at times.

That is not to say Heroes is not worth a watch. The performances in the film are strong and push the film above average. First off, Salman Khan has a cameo and not the fully fledged role one would have hoped for. Playing a Sikh for the first time, Salman does a good job, one wishes we could have seen more of him. Sunny Deol is also very good, though the director seems to be unable to contain his performance which is a shame as Sunny does strike the right chords, albeit by accident. Mithun Chakraborty also gives a good account of himself, sadly his role is quite short and one hopes we will see him in more challenging roles soon. Sohail Khan and Vatsal Seth are bearable, with the latter outdoing the former, but both are let down by characterisation, playing stock characters which this film doesn’t really need. Dino Morea and Bobby Deol are also good in their cameos with not much asked of them.

The standout performance has to be Preity Zinta as the grieving widow whose character Kuljeet stays with you long after the film ends. Zinta is subtle and natural, making the character come to life and showing the strength and dignity of the character through few actions (easier said than done). Her character also had me welling up at times, with heartfelt acting and delicate dialogue delivery, and even in non emotional scenes, Zinta makes an impact. The debacle of Jhoom Barabar Jhoom is forgiven, Heroes is amongst Preity’s best and this is why we love Preity Zinta and one hopes her forthcoming performances will be of this calibre.

Had it been released a few years ago, Heroes would have been a must see film, simply because Bollywood doesn’t do many films like this – ones which can articulate an emotion with such a punch. However, in today’s times, holes in the scripts, pandering to certain sections of the audience and putting out a product which is a little rough around the edges will not suffice, especially as smaller, more polished films are becoming more successful in the mainstream.

But what Heroes does have, that many big budget films don’t, is genuine emotion. For all its flaws, I still liked the film – engrossing at times and enjoyable to watch on the big screen. Also, the performances of the cast also will keep fans in discussion for a while. Heroes may not have the do not miss factor but is an entertainer with a relevant social message, and for that, deserves to be part of your viewing list this Diwali.

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