We once had the hero introduction scenes beginning at the feet. Getting out of a police jeep. Getting out of a car. Climbing the staircase or coming up an escalator or coming out of an elevator. We don’t have that anymore. Now it is all hands and biceps and naked torsos. That’s what we get here with Sooraj Pancholi. It’s all arms and chest. Not surprisingly this is a Salman Khan production. This is the remake of Hero, the very 80s representing potboiler that catapulted the trio of Subhash Ghai, Jackie Shroff and Meenakshi Seshadri into the big league. Why remake an 80s film that has aged terribly in 2015? Simply to service a storyline that can introduce two star kids.
Sooraj Pancholi is Sooraj just like Jackie Shroff was Jackie in the original film. Athiya Shetty is Radha. In trying to project the hero we are left with a film that fails its heroine and leaves her at the altar as someone disposable. If I remember correctly, the original film offers more agency to its Radha. She’s not dumb – like Shetty’s character is here – and her convictions were stronger. It’s probably the difference between Subhash Ghai and Nikhil Advani. As irrelevant as the former has become you cannot fault his sensibilities that worked for its time. Not only was his Radha better written, he was also one of those filmmakers that defined the mainstream Hindi cinema of the 80s and Hero had all those tropes. The star crossed lovers, the standing up for or against the family, the hero and the villain in broad strokes but their encounters staged like epics. It’s all there. But Advani is no Ghai. He has no eye for myth-making or love stories. While Pancholi is content with body building masquerading as acting, Athiya Shetty is roadkill. I’d wait for a better role to judge her acting skills. She is not treated with dignity by half of the cast, has horrible lines to mouth and the farthest Advani goes in terms of establishing her character is to make her take selfies.
Last year we had another star kid with a mediocre film entirely designed for his launch. Tiger Shroff, Jackie Shroff’s son starred in the close enough Heropanti with a story not dissimilar to his father’s lead role debut. While Heropanti was partly entertaining and wholly offensive, Hero is neither. It is cold and therefore makes no impact. Pancholi – without Jackie Shroff’s flute – settles for a mouth organ here with a forgettable score. Tiger Shroff borrowed the original’s Laxmikant-Pyarelal theme for himself. And therein lies an insignificant but not negligible difference. If you get what I mean.
(An edited version of this was published in The New Indian Express)