The superhero’s résumé is one with which we’re all familiar: super speed, super strength, exceptional courage, sometimes the ability to fly, abs chiselled from granite, great hair…and musical skills? Welcome to the superhero—Bollywood style.
Over the past decade, as the superhero has grown in popularity in Hollywood, so too has the genre been revived in the world’s biggest film industry. Bollywood’s exploration of the superhero has risen in the past few years with films like Drona (2008), Prince (2010), and Ra.One (2011) to compete with Hollywood’s stream of cutting-edge superhero movies. The latest in Hindi cinema’s superhero lineup is the sci-fi mash-up film Krrish 3.
As the title suggests, the film is the third in a series, following Koi Mil Gaya (“I Found Someone”) (2003) and Krrish (2006). The series follows the adventures of the Mehra family, who are forever changed when Rohit Mehra, a young man with a developmental disability, befriends a little blue alien who super-charges his brain, turning him into a genius overnight. Rohit’s intellect garners him worldwide fame, and he is hired by a Singapore-based inventor. Just before the birth of his son, he is betrayed by his employer, Dr. Arya, who fakes Rohit’s death and imprisons him for twenty years. Rohit’s super-genes are passed on to his son Krishna, who must learn to balance using his powers as “Krrish,” a masked and caped superhero, with his attraction to a young journalist, Priya, and his promise to his grandmother to keep his superhuman abilities a secret.
Krrish 3 takes a darker route than its predecessors , opening with the machinations of the brilliant yet twisted quadriplegic geneticist, Kaal. In the midst of his attempts to cure himself, he creates and spreads a virus in order to raise money for his experiments by selling the antidote. Intricate and polished, the writing throughout the film neatly ties up plot details from both prequels. The returning characters are given enough depth and development to make them simultaneously familiar to returning viewers and sufficiently detailed for audience members new to the franchise. The script handles the serious tone well with recurring comic relief, such as Krishna’s chronic inability to hold onto a job for more than a day because of his superhero responsibilities.
The “manimals” (superhuman-animal hybrids) that Kaal creates and uses as his minions are somewhat under-utilised. As interesting as the animation is, Kaya is the only “manimal” developed as a character, and realistically, she could likely manage 90% of the other henchmen’s jobs single-handedly. Despite being slightly extraneous, they unquestionably add to the scale of the film.
Excellent performances abound in the film. Once more, Hrithik Roshan’s dual-performance as Rohit and Krishna is refined and detailed, which is particularly impressive given that he is reprising a role that he last performed eight years ago . Kangana Ranaut’s portrayal of Kaya is carried off with exceptional poise and delicacy, successfully navigating the line between effective and exaggerated, and creating a complex character with whom the viewer can sympathise.
Vivek Oberoi’s Kaal, however, is a bit uninspired. Though suitably seedy, he veers off into histrionic. While melodrama is typical for Bollywood, it seems at odds with the Hollywood look of the character and the film as a whole. Furthermore, given Kaal’s intelligence and the intricacy of his plans, one might reasonably expect more subtlety than we’re offered. Granted, the effectiveness of his nuanced facial expressions somewhat make up for the exaggeration of his vocal performance.
The score is masterfully done, adding to the dramatic height of the story, but the soundtrack is somewhat mixed. Even after four viewings, the purpose of “Dil Tu Hi Bataa” (Tell me, my heart) still eludes me. The song attempts to reveal the burgeoning relationship between Kaya/Priya and Krishna by having them dance around coloured pools in the Jordanian desert. (Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds.) Overly electronic and yoked to a random dance routine, it’s a Bollywood garnish of the past that seems incompatible with the film’s modern style. While Bollywood tradition has its place in contemporary films, unnecessary songs are a habit that makes Bollywood an acquired taste for many Western viewers—rather problematic when one of the expressed intentions of the franchise is to attract Western viewers. “Ragupati Raghav” is incredibly catchy though slightly confused; it doesn’t seem quite able to decide whether it’s hip-hop, pop, or soul. “God, Allah aur Bhagwan” was well done, and even included some of Rohit’s classic dance moves from Koi Mil Gaya.
Overall, Krrish 3 delivers an extremely enjoyable two and a half hours. Despite a few stumbles, the exceptional quality of the writing holds the film together. From its sophisticated graphics to its epic score, it’s a distinctly modern movie, but stays Bollywood at heart with its focus on family and good over evil, and its adherence to facets of Hindi film tradition. Bollywood is awash with movies trying to decisively bridge the gap between Asian and Western cinema. Surely, with a film of Krrish 3’s calibre, we can’t be far off.
-Contributed by Emily Willian