Invitation to 100 Years of Indian Cinema Launch

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The South Asianist Journal invites you to join us for the launch of 100 Years of Indian Cinema this Thursday, December 5th, from 6pm onwards.

The launch will include a dynamic panel surrounding “Pleasures and Perceptions of Indian Cinema” featuring Professor Crispin Bates, Director of Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of Edinburgh, Dr. Talat Ahmed, Lecturer in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology at the University of Edinburgh, Ashwin Devasundaram, PhD Scholar at Heriot-Watt University and former Documentary Filmmaker at Channel 4, and Dr. David Sorfa, Programme Director in the MSc Film Studies program at the University of Edinburgh.

We will also be showcasing Murabba (Fruit Preserve), a short film by critically acclaimed Indian Director Anurag Kashyap and a short documentary featuring legendary Indian actor Amitabh Bachchan, voted BBC superstar of the millennium.

Thursday, December 5th at 6pm

6th Floor Common Room, Chrystal Macmillan Building

The University of Edinburgh

15a George Square, Edinburgh, EH8 9LD

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A Thought Called Krrish!

By Piyush Roy

Krrish 3

A review of the latest film in Bollywood’s first superhero trilogy featuring interview excerpts of its director Rakesh Roshan.

The Team of Krrish 3 (L-R) - Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra, Director Rakesh Roshan, Kangna Ranaut and Vivek Oberoi
The Team of Krrish 3 (L-R) – Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra, Director Rakesh Roshan, Kangna Ranaut and Vivek Oberoi

Talking about the genesis of the idea behind India’s first superhero movie series, actor turned writer-director, Rakesh Roshan had rued that though Indian mythology has many superheroes, today’s generation doesn’t have any superhero, especially from a contemporary set up. Hence it took him one-and-a-half films to just establish Krrish. “The first film (Koi Mil Gaya, 2003) was about how a ‘mentally disadvantaged’ boy, Rohit Mehra (Hrithik Roshan) acquired divine powers from a lost alien, the second film showed the son of Rohit, Krrish (Hrithik Roshan), as a mountain boy growing up with some extraordinary powers. He eventually turns into a superhero towards the end of that film because of certain challenging circumstances. We had to do all of this because we never had any pan-Indian local superhero comics that people were aware of or had grown up with like their American counterparts had with Spiderman, Superman, Iron man or the X-men. Now in Krissh 3 we have created a super villain, Kaal (Vivek Oberoi), to match and further enhance the impact of our superhero,” Roshan had explained.

Krrish 3, like most superhero tales is about a clash between the good and the evil, where good eventually wins in spite of great odds. This is a universal concept, but then how does one better or Indianise it? Is it by increasing the level and quality of special effects alone? Krrish 3, made at nearly a tenth of the production cost of any Hollywood sci-fi or superhero film is in close quality pursuit, especially in some of its climax action sequences, but to harp on that alone is not a fair comparison.

Has it raised the bar for super hero films in India? Well, it’s definitely a welcome addition to the few and far between films in the genre after Shah Rukh Khan’s Ra One (2011) and Rajnikant’s Enthiran (Robot, 2010)!

Does it have a better story? Plot wise I would rate Koi Mil Gaya and Krrish (2006) higher. Krrish 3 also has some images that could be considered too violent for kids, who are supposed to be its core audience.

Krrish 3 - Hrithik
Krrish 3 – Hrithik

Krrish 3 too, is high on the emotion quotient. More importantly, it has a stronger and universal ‘soul’ quotient, which for me is its greatest differential as an ‘Indian’ superhero tale. Krissh is as much a product of his powers as his environment. And that environment cannot benefit from a one-man rescue mission alone, unless it makes serious efforts at improving the overall psyche by opting for a courageous and egalitarian thought process in its every member or citizen. Krrish thus goes way beyond being a powerful individual to being an inspiring icon for right action. The Indian superhero is not positioned as an aid to the divine for safeguarding the rule of the right, but as a song in the film states, is indebted to the divine for creating him – ‘God, Allah aur Bhagwan (different names of the almighty as referred to by different faiths) ne banaya ik insaan…’ (God has made a unique man…) No wonder, he falls and fails twice.

The resurrection of Krrish from sure death in the pre-climax through his father and the powers in the nature in a Christ like manner (involving a father, Rohit Mehra, a son, Krishna Mehra and some divine light a la the ‘holy spirit’), albeit with a quote from the Bhagavad Gita on the ‘eternity of the soul’ is a writing master stroke that echoes the ‘unity of all religions’ philosophy highlighting themes of Indian filmmakers of yore.

Krrish is, because of God, not in spite of or along with God! That makes Rakesh Roshan’s treatment of a superhero concept unique, spiritual and Indian in sync with traditional storytelling notions that there should be some message or purpose to entertainment. ‘Krrish ek soch hai,’ (Krrish is a thought) his father Rohit Mehra tells the fans of the superhero in the film.

The villain, Kaal and the hero, Krrish, both come from one father – one is an experiment of ego, the other is a product of love, and we are shown how diverse is the impact of their nurture on their natures. But then, aren’t the good and the bad, creations of the same God?

Kaal’s assistant ‘Kaya’ (Kangna Ranaut) has a loaded name. To the logical mind she is chameleon like and hence can take any shape. From a spiritual perspective ‘kaya’ refers to a physical shape or the body, which is a flexible entity vis-à-vis the ‘constant’ soul that changes bodies after every death. The character of Kaya too adapts into any shape of choice, and did attract a few knowing murmurs when her powers were argued to be not unknown to readers of Indian mythology. Demon king Raavan’s sister Shurpanekha too could change into any shape at will (in the Indian epic Ramayana).

Kangna Ranaut as Kaya
Kangna Ranaut as Kaya

Once again, it’s perhaps the film’s Indian sensibilities that allow someone born with a negative mindset to reform and wake up to the good side within like Kaya does. The villains in Roshan’s film are not completely lost cases sold to the devil like their counterparts in western superhero films. Wish he had delved further into Indian mythology for more desi associations in Kaal’s villainous attendants instead of opting for some X-men copies.

Rakesh Roshan is far too humble a filmmaker and simple a person (which perhaps explains why Hrithik Roshan is one of our best behaved stars) to his titanic reputation of pioneering Indian cinema’s first superhero series, in which each film is a blockbuster. In spite of a fairly consistent record of box-office successes across different genres and themes for over three decades now, he has never got the due reserved for Bollywood’s most revered showmen like V. Shantaram, Raj Kapoor, Manoj Kumar, Yash Chopra or even Subhash Ghai (in his initial phase) for making meaningful, yet popular films in the ‘masala’ genre and space.

On a parting note, the ‘relieved filmmaker’ wished that his film does get seen by everyone from an Indian villager to a film goer in Manhattan. Krrish 3 deserves that viewing, (a slightly tighter edit could have made it more consistently engaging), but in no way should it be missed for the thoughts it propagates…

This indeed is entertainment for the senses with some serious food for the soul as well!

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