Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Krrish 3: Love, Peace, and Hrithik

I apologize for this review coming so late! I had two functions to attend last weekend and just barely managed to fit in a screening of the film itself. I’m going to try and keep this as spoiler-free as possible, respecting Rakesh Roshan’s wishes, but really I would suggest just seeing the film if it seems at all like something you would enjoy.

If you are the kind of person bothered by the fact that there is no Krrish 2, then Krrish 3 is definitely not the film for you. Much like Rakesh Roshan’s numbering of the series, his narrative is more concerned with what feels right, as opposed to what would make logical sense. Fortunately, that’s exactly the way I like it. What Rakesh Roshan (and co-writers Honey Irani and Robin Bhatt) have given us is a wonderful mix of science-fiction, family drama, action, and good old-fashioned masala dil. Krrish may look slicker and more musclely than heroes of days past but his heart is firmly anchored in the time when we cheered for Vijay, not Don.

Krrish 3 opens with a recap of the first two films. Rohit Mehra (Hrithik Roshan), a young man with a good heart and an intellectual disability, is given the Flowers for Algernon treatment by a mysterious alien named Jadoo. The second film has Rohit’s orphan son Krishna (also Hrithik Roshan) being kept in a state of edenic innocence, which is shattered when flighty city girl Priya (Priyanka Chopra) stumbles into his world. Krishna follows her to Singapore where he uncovers real evil, embraces a secret identiy as superhero “Krrish,” and finds out that he’s not an orphan after all.

Now, in the third installment, Krishna and Priya have moved to Mumbai with papa Rohit but trouble finds them in the form of one Mr. Kaal (Vivek Oberoi), head of Kaal Pharmaceuticals. You see, Kaal is running this scam where he has his troupe of elite manimals (yes, I said “manimals”) release a deadly virus into some area and then sits back and waits for the world to come begging for an antidote. Guess what happens when he sends his most elite manimal Kaya (Kangana Ranaut) to that very same Mumbai with a vial of deadly virus? Guess who she runs in to?

The themes of family and social responsibility raised by Rakesh, as well as his use of the full masala palate (including a comedy track with Rajpal Yadav), make Krrish 3 feel more like Shankar’s recent work in Tamil films like Anniyan and Endhiran than with contemporary Hollywood superhero films like The Dark Knight. Unlike the typical Western superhero these days, Krrish isn’t acting out the desires of the lazy male teenager with a superiority-inferiority complex but grappling with issues of what it means to live in the modern world, of how to fit into society.

Hrithik Roshan is a very deliberate actor and very physical actor. Watching him over the years, you can see how he fully inhabits the body of his characters. So, it was fascinating to see the indifference with which he played his scenes with his on-screen wife Priya and this indifference fully set the tone of the character of Krishna for me. Krishna is a man ripped from an idyllic life in the countryside and thrust into an urban, upper-middleclass lifestyle that has no meaning to him. Priya is happy as a clam, with her career as a TV news person and endless stream of designer frocks but Krishna takes no pleasure in it and, worse, he can’t seem to find the knack of holding a “normal” job--security guard, waiter.

Krishna finds joy in helping people as masked hero “Krrish.” He’s not a vigilante, acting outside the law to bring violent revenge on those who would dare harm another’s property. No, Krrish is a friendly antidote to accident and mishap. Let the law handle the law-breakers; Krrish is going to use his powers to save people who would otherwise die. And he makes sure to tell the audience that they shouldn’t imitate his stunts but should imitate his modus operandi--we can all be Krrish, if we reach out a helping hand. The contrast of Krishna, the boxed up husband riding in the private car, to Krrish interacting with people on the street cannot be an accident.

Moving on to the two ladies of Krrish 3, Priya and Kaya, heroine and vamp, respectively. I was dreading Priya’s role going in, if for no other reason than she was played by Priyanka Chopra, but the two things that have bothered me the most about Priyanka’s screen presence where neutralized quite well here by Rakesh (proving yet again that he knows exactly what I like in a film). The first is her propensity to wear way too much make-up and way too few clothes for characters that are supposed to be ordinary women. This was successfully poked fun at within the first ten minutes of the film, which combined with Priya’s fancy TV hosting job, was just a nice acknowledgement that Priyanka’s glam act is an act, and one put on by wealthy women. The second is that she seems incapable of acting like a mature grown woman, putting on a grating “cute and girlish” act that has only grown worse as she’s gotten older. What’s tolerable at an adorably dim 22 is far less so in a woman over 30 and there is a scene late in the film that has--for plot reasons--Priyanka acting as Kaya acting as Priya. The sarcastic edge this gives Priyanka’s usual flighty heroine act was really effective. I’m not sure if Priyanka intended it this way but I thought it worked very well in the film.

As for Kaya, her character was the closest I’ve seen to the vamp with a heart of gold in a long time. Besides the fact that Kangana Ranaut is just electric on screen, I thought Kaya was a fascinating character. She is a manimal, created by Kaal to be obedient to him, even as he treats her like shit and orders her around like a robot. When she meets Krishna, she’s touched by his kindness--literally touched. Physical contact done with love and tenderness is something she’s never experienced and neither is praise. When Kaya, who is unconsciously becoming more sympathetic to Krishna, pulls a Krrish and helps a small child, she’s stunned by the applause and gratitude of the crowd. She asks, “What did I do?”

Perhaps I’m biased because the non-human who finds a soul and learns to love is one of my favorite science-fiction tropes but I loved Kaya. And I appreciated that she got to make her own decisions in the end and use her life in the way she thought was best. I also have to say that the bizarre picturization for “Dil Tu Hi Bataa,” filmed in Jordan and featuring Kangana decked out in some elaborate headdresses, makes a lot more sense when it’s clear that the song is from Kaya’s point of view. The desert can be seen to represent her previously empty heart and the odd styling… well, who am I to judge what a manimal would find fashionable?

The last two major characters are Rohit, the father, and Kaal, the villain--two different faces of wisdom. One has morals and the other is concerned with profit. You can guess how that confrontation goes; making money is not an end in itself in Rakesh Roshan’s world. His message is simple: Love, Peace, and Hrithik.

In the end, Krrish doesn’t want adulation or garlands or even to “find himself.” Krrish--and Krishna--just want to do what’s right, to help their fellow human beings because they can. It’s a beautifully uncynical message and the type of small ‘r’ romance I wish we saw more of these days.

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