Saturday, December 26, 2015

Taking a look at the Krrish Series: Koi... Mil Gaya, Krrish, and Krrish 3

Rakesh Roshan may not have began the Krrish Trilogy intending to make a trilogy of any sort and yet somehow these three films--Koi... Mil Gaya (2003), Krrish (2006), and Krrish 3 (2013)--fit incredibly well together. Watching them back to back, as I did over the weekend, the films tell a story not just of father and son, Rohit (Hrithik Roshan) and Krishna (also Hrithik Roshan), but also of the evolution of Bollywood itself over the decade separating the first and last films.

The Krrish Trilogy begins in Koi… Mil Gaya (“I found someone”), which in turn, in the style of the day, begins with a lengthy prologue. Dr. Sanjay Mehra (Rakesh Roshan) is living in Canada with his wife (Rekha) and working at an astronomy lab. His research isn’t limited to working hours alone. Dr. Mehra builds a computer in his home that uses the power contained in the sacred syllable “Om” to make contact with alien beings in a far-away galaxy. However, when Dr. Mehra tries to tell his colleagues about his discovery, they mock him and belittle his breakthrough as mere fantasy. But it’s not fantasy that appears over the roadway as Dr. Mehra and his wife are driving home… it’s a giant spaceship! The shock sends the good scientist careening off the road into a ditch where he promptly dies in a ball of flame. His wife survives but the foetus she’s carrying suffers a grave injury.

Moving forward some years, Mrs. Mehra and her son, Rohit (Hrithik Roshan), are living in the idyllic hill station of Nainital. Due to the accident, Rohit suffered severe trauma to his brain and, as the film explains, despite his body being grown-up, he retains the mind of a child. No matter how hard he tries, Rohit can’t keep up with his schoolwork and gets left behind year after year after year. Yet despite the difficulties he faces and the merciless teasing he receives, especially by muscle-bound meathead Raj (Rajat Bedi), Rohit remains a good, earnest, and very sweet boy.

When the spunky Nisha (Preity Zinta) moves to town, nobody tells her about Rohit’s special circumstances and she assumes his childish pranks at her expense are eve teasing. So, when Rohit goes to apologize to Nisha for playing tricks on her, Nisha misunderstands his intention and gets even more upset. She calls over the meathead Raj who gets all his flunkies together to torment Rohit by shoving him down and scaring him by riding their motorcycles around and around him. Rohit’s charming little note of apology, unseen by Nisha, lays crumpled and dirtied on the ground.

Nisha, Raj, and the flunkies are all having a good laugh about it at a lakeside cafe when Mrs. Mehra storms in, eyes blazing, to give them a piece of her mind. She allows that Nisha couldn’t have known better but Raj and his buddies, they know Rohit… they used to be in his class before they, too, passed him by. Mrs. Mehra’s words hit Nisha right in the heart. She feels awful at what she’s done. Nisha may be an air-headed rich girl but she was raised properly and she’s a decent human being. Nisha makes amends with Rohit and promises to be his good friend from that point forward.

The first half of Koi… Mil Gaya is jam packed full of heart-melting scenes of kindness in the face of cruelty. Nisha overhears a teacher tell Rohit he’s too stupid to use computers and, without embarrassing Rohit by letting him know she overheard, she decides to teach him computers herself. Rohit is thrilled and tells Nisha that his father was a great computer scientist and even built his own computer. Little do they realize that when they turn it on and start transmitting the “Om”, their lives will be forever transformed.

Dr. Mehra’s “Om” calls forth the spaceship once again but this time it accidentally leaves somebody behind, a small blue alien named Jadoo (“magic”). Rescued from the forest by Nisha and Rohit, Jadoo repays the favor by undoing the damage they unwittingly caused all those years ago. Jadoo uses his powers to heal Rohit’s brain.

Using his new superpowers, Rohit’s first order of business is to prove to everybody just how wrong they were about him. He shows up the cruel teachers at school; he shows up Raj and his douchebag friends at the club and on the basketball court. The one person he doesn’t need to prove anything to is Nisha. She’d already learned what a great person he was before the magic.

(“New” Rohit taking a dance competition by storm!)

But the good times can’t last and shady governmental entities come looking for Jadoo, presumably to take him away and run awful experiments on him. Rohit, Nisha, and their kid friends try to hide Jadoo as long as they can but Mrs. Mehra speaks aloud what they all know in their hearts: The only way to keep Jadoo safe is to send him home… even if it means Rohit will revert to how he was at the beginning of the film. Bless all their hearts, especially Nisha, for saying they all love Rohit no matter what his mental capacity. After all, his heart remains the same, right?

So, after a lengthy chase sequence, Jadoo gets sent home and Rohit returns to his old self… or does he?

(He doesn’t.)

In a last burst of jadoo before their ship departs the galaxy, Jadoo sends a beam of magic back to Earth and heals Rohit’s mind permanently. Thanks, Jadoo!

But should we really thank him? The consequences of Jadoo’s actions are explored in the second film, Krrish. It’s now 20-ish years later and Rohit and Nisha are dead, leaving behind Mrs. Mehra (the ever-beautiful Rekha) to raise their son, Krishna. Mrs. Mehra wants nothing more than to be left in peace. But Krishna’s incredible mental abilities begin to draw the notice of the scientific community. Having seen firsthand the negative affect the global attention had on Rohit, Mrs. Mehra takes Krishna and flees to a rural area of mountainous Himachal Pradesh where nobody will ever find them.

There’s one thing Mrs. Mehra couldn’t have predicted: the rise of “adventure tourism.”

Rohit’s abilities were mental but Krishna’s abilities are physical. Raised in nature, Krishna makes friends with monkeys, horses, and fish. He knows trees, mountains, and rivers. Rohit was surrounded by people; Krishna only has his grandmother. And it’s Mrs. Mehra’s positive influence that is the link between them. Both Rohit and Krishna were raised to be good, earnest, and open-hearted boys.

As Krrish first begins, Krishna is lonely, living in an eden artificially created by his grandmother. He knows nothing of his father’s story and has grown resentful of his grandmother’s attempts to keep him isolated from the rest of the world. And it’s because he’s lonely and isolated that Krishna is primed to fall in love at first sight with the first woman to cross his path… a dippy, spoiled-rotten adventure tourist from Singapore named Priya (Priyanka Chopra).

Priya and her equally vapid gal-pal Honey (Manini Mishra) have invaded Mrs. Mehra’s rural hideaway with their camping equipment and short-shorts on a ten day holiday. Krishna, being a young, red-blooded male, is powerless in the face of all that female flesh and spends those ten days mooning over Priya. Priya, for her part, is happy to have a tall, handsome man lavishing attention on her but when the ten days are over, she departs without a second glance back.

And that would have been the end, except that dippy Priya and Honey were gone 20 days from the TV station where they work instead of the 15 they requested off. So, in order to get back in the boss’s (an underused Archana Puran Singh) good graces, the two dodos concoct a cruel plan to lure Krishna to Singapore by pretending Priya is in love with him in order to capture his physical abilities on TV to get good ratings. Krishna, the innocent, has no concept that such deceit is possible. When he gets the call from Priya he’s over the moon, infatuation soaring high.

(Krishna’s infatuation song. Painfully beautiful, knowing what’s coming.)

Mrs. Mehra is reluctant to let her grandson leave, knowing the dangers that await him in the wide world. Krishna is furious and throws an epic tantrum, believing that his grandmother is being selfish in wanting to keep him safe and hidden forever. But Mrs. Mehra is nobody’s fool and she realizes that the time has come to tell Krishna the true story of how Rohit was killed. You see, Rohit had also gone off to Singapore, full of hope, but he never returned… only one final phone call to his mother, telling her how hurt he was, that he had been used, taken advantage of. Once Krishna understands, he agrees to be careful in Singapore, to not reveal his true identity so people will not try to take advantage of him. Little do they both realize, it’s way too late for that.

In Singapore, Priya and Honey string Krishna along by telling him that Priya’s mother is in Hong Kong and of course he can’t take Priya away until he’s spoken to her personally. While the two dippy ladies scheme to catch Krishna using his talents on camera, Krishna, blissfully ignorant, passes the time exploring the city. He meets a new friend--an adorable, sweet-natured circus performer named Kristian Lee (Chinese stuntman Bin Xia) who is working to earn money for his younger sister’s operation. After Krishna steps in to help Kristian in a sword fighting demonstration, Kristian invites him out to see the circus as thanks. But there’s more plot to be had! After a delightful circus-themed song (“Dil Na Diya”), tragedy strikes at the circus. A fire! People are trapped inside! Priya is knocked unconscious! Krishna wants to help the others but he can’t reveal himself. What’s a man to do?

Krishna puts on a mask.

Unfortunately Krishna didn’t realize that Priya had left her creepy, sneaky video camera running and she catches the transformation on film.

The masked superhero is the talk of the town and a reward is offered for his bravery if the mask is offered up as proof. Knowing that the money would be enough to cover the sister’s operation, Krishna tells Kristian to take the mask and become Krrish. But no good deed goes unpunished and it’s incidental footage of the celebratory event that tips off an ominous, mysterious man (Sharmant Saxena) to Krishna’s whereabouts.

So, many days into his stay in Singapore, the inevitable happens and Priya slips up in her cover story. Krishna overhears just enough to figure out her scheme and feeling betrayed he heads to the airport to go home to India. But Priya has been developing a crush on Krishna over the past few days, although perhaps what she really likes is the person she sees reflected back in his eyes. She catches Krishna at the airport just in time… accompanied by the mystery man! It turns out the mystery man, Vikram, is an old coworker of Rohit’s and brings some interesting news: Rohit is still alive.

Because while Priya--allegedly working as a “journalist”--has been trying to trick Krishna into revealing his supernatural talents on camera, a real scoop of a story has been developing. Rohit’s old boss Dr. Arya (Naseeruddin Shah) has built a computer that can predict the future. Actually, Vikram tells Krishna and Priya that Rohit had developed it years and years ago but when the computer foretold Dr. Arya’s betrayal, Rohit destroyed it. But Dr. Arya rebuilt the computer. And he kept Rohit alive in medical statis, because the computer, as designed, used Rohit’s vital signs as a sort of password.

Rohit intended the computer to help governments prepare for natural disasters and famine and other good causes. But Dr. Arya plans to use it for his own nefarious, greedy purposes. He wants to rule the world! But when he turns on the computer, the only thing predicted is his own demise at the hands of a masked assailant. But everybody thinks that the masked assailant is actually Kristian!! Bye-bye, Kristian.

As if Krishna wasn’t angry enough, the death of the good-hearted Kristian tips him over the edge. Krishna hunts Dr. Arya all the way through Singapore to a super secret island lair. Fighting his way through some ninjas and plenty of emotional blackmail, Krishna comes face-to-face with his father for the first time. He saves his dad, saves Priya (who had somehow, true to her incredibly stupid nature, managed to get herself kidnapped), was unable to save Vikram, and handily defeats Dr. Arya and all evil schemes.

The film ends with both Rohit and Priya, in a demure sari, accompanying Krishna home to India to greet Mrs. Mehra.

Krrish 3, the third film in the series, picks up some years after the events of Krrish. Mrs. Mehra has passed away and Rohit, Krishna, and Priya are now living in a super-fancy bungalow in Mumbai. Rohit is a scientist at a lab, Priya is a TV journalist, and Krishna… well, Krishna can’t seem to keep a job. As the film opens, we see Rohit tinkering with a light-based Chekov device that can bring the dead back to life. Of course this won’t come up later… or will it?!

The move to Mumbai is never explained but one senses that it was at Priya’s behest. Krishna, whose abilities are so very in tune with nature, is completely out of place in the city. Priya is happier than a pig in mud with her glitzy TV presenting gig but Krishna is drifting aimlessly, cycling through a series of dead-end, low-paying jobs. The one thing that brings a spark to his eyes is helping people. Krishna has brought “Krrish” to Mumbai and as Krrish he is able to bring some meaning to his life.

In an early, very telling scene, Krishna, as Krrish, rescues a little boy who’d gotten tangled in some wires high above the street. Instead of returning the little boy immediately to safety, Krishna has a heart-to-heart chat with him, high up on a window ledge, the noise of the city street far, far below. The boy had been trying to rescue a pigeon when he fell and was caught in the wires. Krishna seems at momentarily at peace here, high above the streets, chatting to a kindred spirit. He’s kind to the little boy, telling him that Krrish resides in the heart of everybody who does a good deed for another (and also no more trying to imitate Krrish’s daredevil stunts, kids watching at home). The pigeon flies away but Krishna remains trapped. Priya is pregnant.

Meanwhile, over at Kaal Laboratories, a wheelchair-bound villain--Kaal (Vivek Oberoi)--has concocted a brilliant money making scheme. Create a highly contagious, highly deadly virus and antidote. Set the virus loose, wait for international health organizations to panic, and then sell the antidote at a ludicrous markup! Profit! And what does Kaal need the money for? EVIL EXPERIMENTS! In an attempt to find the cure for his full-body paralysis, Kaal has mixed his DNA with that of different animals and created human-animal hybrids called “manimals” or “maanvars”. The most dear to him is a chameleon-human hybrid named Kaya (the talented Kangana Ranaut).

Setting your poison loose in Africa? Fine, whatever. But in Mumbai? No way. Krishna and Rohit are on the case! After some heartbreaking scenes of Krrish coming to the realization that he cannot save the city one person at a time, he joins his father in the lab. The two discover that they alone are immune to the quickly spreading disease and create their own antidote, which Krishna, as Krrish, spreads around the city using his superspeed.

The city rewards “Krrish” with a giant statue and celebration in his honor. What’s fascinating is that Krishna himself remains humble. After all the events of the first half of the film, we understand Krishna doesn’t see himself as superhero “Krrish” but merely as a man doing what any other man would do, given the powers he has. There’s a reason his catchphrase is “we are all Krrish”. But as we see in the song “God Allah aur Bhagwan” Priya, as ever, is in thrall to the image.

(“God Allah aur Bhagwan” created a man to save us all.)

Kaal is furious… but curious. He sends his maanvars to find out more about Rohit and Krishna. Staging a fight, the maanvars distract the two men and kidnap Priya, leaving chameleon Kaya in her place. And, quite tellingly, Krishna has zero idea that his wife has been replaced by somebody else, showering the fake “Priya” (actually Kaya) with love and affection.

Kaya, who up to this point has only been touched in anger and disdain, finds herself experiencing all sorts of new feelings living with Krishna. Through his eyes, she starts to see the world as beautiful. The horrible conditioning from her “father” Kaal slowly fades away and Kaya realizes she’s in love with Krishna. She’s in love with his kind and gentle spirit. She’s been changed by it, for the better. She stalls, wanting to stay as “Priya” for as long as possible.

So when Krishna puts two-and-two together and realizes that the real Priya is missing, Kaya offers her help in the rescue mission.

Meanwhile Rohit, still the more clever of the two, has figured out who Kaal is… a second son! Artificially created from Rohit’s DNA by the evil Dr. Arya but Kaal came out defective and was unceremoniously dumped in an orphanage, his powers left to fester and grow as twisted as his own nature. Kaal goes ahead and kidnaps Rohit, too.

Kaal intended to use Priya’s baby to heal his broken body but he’s told he needs to wait a whole week to harvest viable parts so he decides to use Rohit, his “father”, instead. Kaal heals himself.

Kaya and Krishna storm Kaal’s evil lair, rescuing pregnant Priya. Kaal kills Kaya without hesitation. Krishna is distraught. Kaal, with his power unbound, has become incredibly powerful, fashioning himself a suit of metal. Krishna cannot defeat him. Kaal leaves him a bloody pulp. But Rohit is not willing to let it end like this. Rohit has a machine that can use sunlight to bring the dead back to life… at a cost. Krishna lives but it’s at the price of Rohit’s own life. I’ll live on within you, says Rohit, as he disappears in a beam of light.

Krishna races back to Mumbai where Kaal is in the process of terrorizing the city, destroying buildings, destroying the statue of Krrish. Unwilling to admit defeat in anything, he demands the return of pregnant Priya or he will kill everybody. Priya, to her credit, offers herself up, spurring the crowd of terrified onlookers to join with her in a human chain. Is this the end? No! Krrish returns and challenges Kaal to knockout dragdown fight from which Krrish, of course, emerges victorious. Kaal is finished.

The film ends with the birth of a new baby, a boy! With superpowers! (To be continued?)

It’s a shame that for all the fascinating and emotional stories bound up in the Krrish series, most of the conversation around the films seems to be how Rakesh Roshan has “stolen” from a billion different sci-fi films. It’s a crime that I’m not particularly interested in prosecuting. For one thing, many of the loudest voices complaining that the Krrish films “rip off” Hollywood, have no problem with Hollywood filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino doing the same. “Oh but Tarantino does it, it’s different and cool because he’s from Hollywood.” Here’s an idea: think of the Krrish films as just as much as a love letter to and pastiche of Hollywood sci-fi as Tarantino’s Kill Bill films are a love letter to and pastiche of East Asian revenge films. Not only will it reduce the level of global Internet film nerd outrage by about 5%, it’s also true. Just like Kill Bill mixes Hollywood storytelling with fun elements from East Asian cinema that general audiences won’t have seen, the Krrish films mix Hindi masala storytelling with fun elements from Western sci-fi that general audiences will probably not have seen. In other words, the whole discussion of “stealing” is nonsense. Fans of Hollywood superhero films might find Krrish a poor substitute but I happen to loathe the storytelling in Hollywood superhero films so the Krrish series with its masala-ization of superhero tropes appeals to me.

There are a handful of broad themes that run through the three films: self-sacrifice for the greater good; loving somebody enough to set him or her free; the pain of being different; using compassion when dealing with others; technology can be warped for evil ends. But, above all, what stands out in the Krrish series are the characters of Rohit and Krishna and Hrithik’s own chameleon-like ability in playing both.

In the first film, Rohit doesn’t really have much character development. He starts the film as a sweet-natured boy and ends the film as a sweet-natured boy. He suffers the barbs of cruelty from some in the community but he does grow up as part of a community. To that end, he’s much more socialized than Krishna ever is. Rohit has learned how to filter out others, when necessary. Perhaps because he spent so many years unable to understand what was happening around him, Rohit hones his mental powers. He lives in his head. In the end, he likes the idea of helping people but understandably, after years of teasing, Rohit doesn’t really like most people one-on-one. He spends his time in the lab, creating things.

Krishna, on the other hand, is raised in isolation, in nature. Krishna hones his physical abilities. He runs and jumps and plays with the other animals. He develops an incredible connection with his physical surroundings but is a complete naif when it comes to human interaction. When the second film begins, Krishna’s desire for human interaction, to push his own boundaries, is reaching critical mass. So it’s understandable that he falls for the first lady who looks his way, especially one who is “exotic” and from a big city far, far away from Krishna’s own idyllic eden.

The third film highlights the limitations and strengths of both. Rohit is the brains, Krishna the brawn. The two together save Mumbai.

But it’s the pain hidden behind Krishna’s eyes in the third film that really make the character compelling. Is he really happy in Mumbai, in this marriage? One suspects that any fourth film would begin with Krishna and his son back in nature, in the mountains that raised him so well. To the end, Krishna seems most comfortable with those outside of mainstream society--an immigrant boy (Kristian Lee), a mutant (Kaya), or many earnest little children.

Hrithik is the hero and the star and Papa Rakesh gives him ample room to show off his many talents. From his physical transformation to a childlike mentally disabled person in the first film to the gleaming hunk of perfect manhood in the second to the dual role in the third film as both a more adult version of Rohit and a less buoyant version of Krishna in the third. Each character is completely different and completely believable. It’s a true tour-de-force of acting and Hrithik makes it look so easy.

The women characters that populate these films are also fascinating in their own right. Mrs. Mehra, as portrayed by Rekha, is a rock. She mixes affection with discipline, loving but never spoiling or indulging. No son or grandson of Mrs. Mehra would ever forget his manners. She is the perfect person to raise a special child into adulthood without warping him. And, also, she is still looking gorgeous.

Preity Zinta is bubbly perfection as Nisha in the first film of the series. As a heroine, Preity always epitomized modernity and freedom. Even outfitted in mini-skirts and jeans, Nisha never comes across has coquettish or ditzy. The mini-skirts just make it easier for her to run around in. She has a free and easy physicality to match her easy-going nature. Her straightforward, likable personality allows her to interact with Rohit in a way that never feels condescending. She genuinely likes him and, when his intellectual abilities are brought up to adulthood, it’s doesn’t feel as if she’s suddenly falling for this “new” Rohit but more that her feelings for the “old” Rohit are finally able to fully develop. Nisha’s departure from the series was necessary for the story they wanted to tell but Preity’s absence is still strongly felt through the second and third installments. It’s not a mistake that we’re given a moment to mourn the loss of her sunny personality in both sequels.

Priyanka Chopra, as Priya, is the weakest link of the two sequels. She may win accolades for her acting abilities in more serious films but, to my eye, Priyanka has never been able to play a convincing masala heroine. It’s a completely different skill set than one needs for a film like Mary Kom or Kaminey. Some actresses can do both, Priyanka is not one of them. As Priya, she comes across as vapid and vain, simpering through all her scenes. Priya never seems to care for Krishna, the man, but is infatuated with Krrish, the superhero. There should have been a point in the second film where Priya, who had been acting as if she in love with Krishna so that he will stick around in Singapore, is supposed to genuinely fall in love with Krishna. But there is no difference in how Priyanka approaches the character before and after that point, making it feel as if Priya is still “acting” even if Priya has a line about genuinely falling in love.

The second sequel almost seems to comment on Priyanka’s inept heroine performance by having her spend a large portion of the film either off-camera or sharing screen space with Kangana Ranaut in chameleon disguise. Again, there was little difference between Priyanka as Priya and Priyanka as Kaya pretending to be Priya but because we, the audience, knew that Priya was really Kaya, the everpresent false undertones to Priyanka’s heroine performance rang very, very true for the first time. I don’t think it’s coincidence that Priya is the only character who never seems to really grow and develop. In the hands of a different actress, perhaps she would have.

Accompanying Priya is the theme of media and image. Not only does Priya work in television but she essentially falls in love with the image of Krishna that she captures on video. One of the points where (I think) we are supposed to understand that she has fallen for him is Priya sitting in front of the television alone watching footage that she shot of Krishna, instead of interacting with Krishna, either at the time or in the "present" of the film. Priya likes the image. Perhaps subconsciously she likes the control she has over the image, control that she could never have over the wild Krishna himself. In the third film, we see her communicating with Krishna via coy "messages to Krrish" over her television broadcast. Again, interacting with the camera rather than with her husband.

Kangana Ranaut, as Kaya, is a refreshing antidote to Priya in the third film. She doesn’t have much dialogue but Kangana conveys worlds of emotions in a single expression. We feel how much she wants to please her master, Kaal, and then we feel it again when she realizes that there is a whole world beyond what Kaal can promise her. Kaya’s character development anchors emotional arc of the third film in much the way Rohit’s and Krishna’s did in the first two. Kangana’s performance is what makes it clear why Kaya is willing to sacrifice everything for Krishna. She’s not a dimbulb throwing herself away for a man. With her eyes, with her posture, Kangana shows us how deeply Krishna’s affection and kindness have touched her, have opened new worlds for her. She could never live with herself if she didn’t help him. We are all Krrish, those of us who help others.

The villains are all scientists. The first film has a kabal of close-minded scientists who trash India and want to cut open Jadoo, the friendly alien, to see how he works. The second film has megalomaniacal Dr. Arya who wants to rule the world. The third has the sociopathic Kaal, who wants to be acknowledged as the best person in the world. Each of them is a slightly different flavor of jerk, all are self-centered. Naseer is probably my favorite of the three for the edge of casual indifference he brings to his megalomania. Sure, he wants to rule the world but he’s not going to be gauche about it. Vivek Oberoi is all uncontrolled simmering rage as Kaal. You can feel the frustration as he sits in his wheelchair. It’s also a great villain performance and both Dr. Arya and Kaal make me wish there were more quality villain roles in Hindi film these days, if only so I could see actors like Naseer and Vivek having fun hamming.

Science itself is not treated as bad in the Krrish series but there is an undercurrent of “play with fire and you could get burned.” Dr. Mehra innocently calls out to alien life in the first film and the response inadvertently causes his death. Rohit innocently builds a computer that can see the future, with no idea that it could be used for evil purposes. Mrs. Mehra hides Krishna away, fearful of the scientific community that pokes and prods without regard for damage they may do. Even good people with good intentions may cause horrible things to happen. We must all be on our guards. Rohit has learned this by the final film.

The last thing I want to mention are the styles of the films themselves, which span an entire decade of Bollywood filmmaking. The styles of all three are so different, watching them back-to-back was almost like time traveling. Koi… Mil Gaya is rooted firmly in family-friendly era of 1990s filmmaking. From the way scenes are framed to look their best on a large movie screen to the sprawling, slow-moving narrative that incorporates a lot of songs and even more minor comic relief characters (and so many children!!) to the use of that popular style of side-by-side dancing-in-the-mountains choreography. Koi… Mil Gaya seems so charmingly old-fashioned now. Scenes are left to run on for longer than they would today. The cuts are slower. The special effects clunkier. It’s a film made for a much slower world than we live in today.

Coming just a few years later, Krrish is already modern. The narrative is tighter and there are far few characters. The film is brighter, glossier, and features more close-ups. Even the special effects seem lightyears ahead of Koi… Mil Gaya. There is more money involved in Bollywood now. People have higher expectations. And the range of influences has widened. Bollywood been made aware of East Asia. Krishna is given a Chinese friend and a fun anime-style greenscreen effect to represent his point-of-view when he’s gone into superspeed. There aren’t as many songs as in Koi… Mil Gaya and the songs are shorter and more geared to club remixes. Side-by-side dancing in the mountains is still a thing, though. But not for much longer…

Krrish 3 looks as up-to-date as can be with incredible computer-generated effects. There’s only a handful of songs. The only greenery to be found is in the private garden in Krishna and Priya’s bungalow. The only real nature is in the desert-set song that is meant to represent Kaya’s romantic feelings. The film is meant to look good not on giant single-screens but in smaller mulitplex screens and home theaters. Yet the film retains something of the classic masala feeling. Importantly, and unlike many filmmakers today, Rakesh Roshan keeps a light comedy track--Rajpal Yadev as Krishna’s hapless friend Kripal. He also keeps the film very clean, eschewing the bathroom humor, sexual content, gay panic jokes, and nudity one finds more and more often in films. Krishna is not a “cool” antihero but an earnest, good-hearted hero who treats everybody with respect.

I always look forward to any new Hrithik Roshan films. Watching him over the years, he really has won my heart as a viewer for his earnest dedication to any project he takes on. I’m not sure if we will see a Krrish 4 but if Rakesh Roshan makes it--if he makes any new film with Hrithik--I will be first in line. Rakesh really is the last of great unironic, un-meta, non-South influenced Hindi masala filmmakers.

1 comment:

thursa14 said...

I really enjoyed reading this - Koi... Mil Gaya has a special place in my heart as one of the first Bollywood films I ever saw. Thanks for such a great write-up!

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