All filmmakers make pacts with the devil to ease production costs. A Bond movie, say, will show M cracking open her laptop at an angle that highlights the fluorescent apple. But no one – no one – is as conscientious about product placement as Rakesh Roshan. He may shortchange his audience with regard to plotting and pacing, most of which is shockingly lazy, but to his business partners he is the very soul of integrity. Early on in Krrish 3, we have a frame whose star isn’t Hrithik Roshan but a bottle of Bournvita – it isn’t a blur in a corner, caught in the eye of a camera moving past, but part of the very, uh, mise en scène. Hrithik, playing the childlike scientist Rohit Mehra, eyes the bottle, and then gets distracted by the effort of hatching a Big Idea, and then, as if rewarding himself for his genius, he treats himself to his favourite malted drink. The scene looks like it belongs not so much in a thrilling superhero saga as a commercial for the brain-boosting powers of Bournvita.
Alas, there is little truth in advertising – for Krrish 3 shows no signs of heightened (or indeed, any) brain activity. This is a big dumb movie without the trashy thrills that we sometimes get from big dumb movies. There’s a sweet, silly scene where Rohit Mehra asks his son Krishna (the alter ego of the superhero Krrish) to fix a punctured tyre, and the camera stays on Rohit and Krishna’s wife (Priyanka Chopra) inside the car as it tilts up (while Krishna fixes the puncture) and then comes down. We don’t see Krishna, we don’t see the superhero stuff – just its effects on others who’ve lived around these superpowers for so long that they now take it for granted. Given Roshan Sr.’s penchant for overstatement, this is a surprisingly offhand moment. There’s another good bit when the villain (Kaal, played by Vivek Oberoi) flicks a wrist and surrounds himself with television cameras. This is exactly the sort of goofiness we come to these movies for.
But Roshan doesn’t do goofy – he wants grandeur, mythical grandeur. So when an airplane gets into trouble, a little boy inside pleads, “God, please help us” – and lo, Krishna himself appears. Only, this avatar answers to Krrish. Roshan plays up this conceit constantly. The villain, who plans to unleash a deadly virus on mankind, is torn between India and China, the two countries whose huge populations will ensure maximum havoc, and he picks India because we have… more gods. In the end, a resplendent Rohit assumes something of a vishwaroop and paraphrases the part from the Gita about the atma being eternal. Meanwhile, the city of Mumbai celebrates its Saviour by erecting a mammoth statue and singing God Allah aur bhagwan ne banaya ek insaan…
But Roshan doesn’t think these conceits through. When the virus finally strikes, a little girl dies in Krrish’s arms and others wail around him asking for help. Krrish finds out, in the most horrible manner possible, that despite his powers he isn’t God and he cannot save everyone – you’d think this somber realisation would occasion some finely wrought dialogue, but Roshan doesn’t address this at all. All the lines are flat, expository. The characters speak as if making presentations to especially stupid people, and the situations they find themselves in aren’t much better. We get a mutant with a tongue that flicks out like a whip, and he’s born in a supposedly dread-evoking scene where he’s coated in green jelly – and then Roshan stages a sequence where Tongue Man uses his special appendage to lick the ice cream off the cones in the hands of a number of people. How, after this, can we take this creature seriously?
How, for that matter can we take Krrish seriously? His shiny hair waves as if in a shampoo commercial, and the costume – a cross between a trench coat and an Anarkali suit – leaves us wondering what he’s going to do next, flash women in the subway or break into a kathak recital. And those creepy-looking muscles in his [insert number here]-pack… I fear the day may not be too far when an overachieving hero shows up on screen in a hundred-pack, stripping off to reveal a torso studded with flesh-coloured chiclets. And the acting is equally fussy. Hrithik, at this stage, seems incapable of playing an emotional scene without his eyes pooling with tears, and when he clenches up and speaks, a hole appears at the base of his throat that a curious kid may want to stick his finger into. Why all this huffing and puffing in a movie targeted at children?
The simplest dialogue, thus, comes off sounding like a florid aria. In an early scene (involving a Flair pen-cum prism), Rohit tells Krishna that his experiment needs the sun. It’s night, so they wait – and then, when the sun comes up, Krishna looks at the sky and says “Papa… suraj” with such tremulous awe that you think he was some kind of cave creature who has set eyes, for the first time, on this fiery orb in the heavens. There’s a halfway decent idea involving a mutant played by Kangna Ranaut (the only one who delivers something of a performance), but instead of going somewhere really interesting with this, we get a drag of a duet shot in a leftover locale from Kites. The villain’s identity, too, is a nice touch, but by then we have been sitting through a narrative that’s so drawn-out, so leaden and so derivative (the X-Men characters have been borrowed wholesale) that it’s too little, too late. Besides, who’s going to sit seriously through a climactic showdown where superhero and supervillain clash in front of a Bollywood Hungama banner?
Copyright ©2013 Baradwaj Rangan. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.