Is there any other Hindi film where the hero shows more skin than the heroine? Well, outside of the Salman Khan filmography. Add to that not only shirt ripping action scenes but also some suggestive dance steps. Tiger Shroff does a lot of this and in some scenes his lips look all highlighted. Incredulous considering this is a remake of a Telugu film with the exact sensibilities of a Telugu mainstream transported to Jatland. Even when he meets his friends he hugs them and rolls down on the floor. This is a debut chiseled to showcase Jackie Shroff’s son not to mention his equally well chiseled abs. But more on that later.

Heropanti begins with a song from a movie that had its physical setting in the same neighborhood but with sensibilities remarkably entrenched elsewhere. As the wedding band croons to Emotional Atyachar from Dev.D we get introduced to Chaudhary (Prakash Raj) and his family of goons. They don’t believe in love marriages and are firmly rooted in laws of their land. So rooted that they even refer to their favorite alcohol as kala kutta. Renu the eldest daughter of Chaudhary elopes with her lover and sets in motion the set of events that should be familiar to anyone who watches at least 5 Indian commercial films a year.

The story liberally takes its cues from the land it is set in. Not at all commendably so. There is a brief theme and commentary on honor killings as the film is set in the heart of Jatland. One of Chaudhary’s henchmen wears a t-shirt that says “Jaat do it”. When the story moves to Delhi we see multiple posters of “Death For Rape” conspicuously pictured in the background. That’s your cue and we have an attempted gang rape scene immediately after for the debutante hero to show more of his heropanti and save the day. There is no dearth of irony in a film that keeps harping on independence and free thinking even as it repeatedly shoves patriarchy down your throat. But we are at the wrong territory to be commenting on these lines. This film is not for those purposes. This film is for Tiger Shroff.

Has anyone else had this well groomed a debut since Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai 14 years ago? It’s not that Hrithik’s launch vehicle was a great film. It was every bit a formula film as Heropanti is but Rakesh Roshan subverted the limitations with a double role and some good music and created a sensation. Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai will be incredibly dated today and as proof stands Heropanti. Tiger Shroff is the sole captain of this mostly wobbly and cliched ship that even his love story is nothing but flotsam (You have to pity Kriti Sanon to be making a debut here. At least Ameesha Patel had more things to do). He gets an introduction and a fight scene. He gets to mouth punchy sounding dialogues. Kriti Sanon is set up as a prop even in song sequences. It is Tiger Shroff who gets all the moves and even the aforementioned suggestive ones. He gets the action hero image of his dad’s debut film (with the same background score), a brief stint repeating Shah Rukh Khan from Diwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge climax and dance moves like Hrithik Roshan’s debut film. No one can accuse him of lacking screen presence with three decades rolled into one. The film itself though is at least 30 years too late.

(An edited version of this was first published in The New Indian Express)


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