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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Poll campaigning – the Bhutanese way!

By Meenakshi Iyer

Thimphu: The landlocked Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, winding its way through the intricate tapestry of hillocks, comes nowhere close to a country election-bound.

Blaring loudspeakers, colourful election posters, pasted just about anywhere and everywhere, mammoth sized billboards of political candidates at every second crossing, pamphlets that seems to be thicker than a national newspaper and graffiti blotched walls screaming, “Vote for us!”

A true blue Indian, or for that matter a South Asian, is used to all of this and much more. For example, in India, the slugfest between the ruling party and the opposition for the general election in 2014 has taken roots much ahead of time.

But Bhutan, unlike any other South Asian nation, stays peaceful and tranquil even with its final ballot just a day away. The only witness to an onlooker that the country is going to polls is perhaps the skinny newspaper – the national daily Kuensel.

In the land of thunder dragon, littering is banned and litter includes party posters and pamphlets! The only graffiti allowed on the walls are religious symbols of flowers, dragons and phallus that are meant to keep evil spirits at bay and a political artwork might be considered an offence.

Adjusting his knee-length gho, the traditional Bhutanese dressing for men, Dhanapati, a travel guide, says: “Why waste money on all that. Money should be used for development, not self aggrandizement.”

The country’s closest ally and neighbour, India, spent close to rupees 50,000 crore on its last poll campaign. According to rough estimates, the two main parties spent over rupees 20 crore in merely ferrying their leaders across India during the campaign; another 3000 crore was spent in advertisement and the ruling party shelled out a crore for just a one minute election song!

World’s youngest democracy surely has something for the old hands. Taking its wings under the aegis of the fourth King, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, democracy in Bhutan is five years old, but still looks similar to a “Shangri-La”, just as British author James Hilton described it.

Sewing her son’s torn schoolbag, Tanzie laughs when she is asked about voting and throws occasional blushes at her husband who signals to her to speak. “Whoever rules, he should keep us happy,” she says, without taking her eyes off the needle and then looks at her husband again, who gives her a thumbs up.

Tanzie and her husband Ugen live in Punakha, about 72 km away from capital Thimphu. The few paddy fields that they own take care of much of their needs. “A lot has changed after the first election. We have electricity, my son goes to a good school here and now even my mother has a cell phone,” says Ugen.

Ugen is aware only of the two main parties in the fray – the ruling Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT) and the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The other two parties in the reckoning are Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) and Druk Chirwang Tshogpa (DCT), both led by women.

Ugen swears by the present Lyonchhen (Prime Minister) Jigmi Thinley. “He is a man of words and I will vote for his party. Hope to see him this time round.”

Bhutan’s experiments with democracy have been largely successful, as of now. The standards of living have risen during the rule of DPT. Road connectivity and basic health indicators have shown positive trends.

In contrast, many pleaded with the King in 2008 to maintain the status quo, i.e. monarchy, since they were unsure about how democracy would function in a landlocked tiny nation that rests between two Asian behemoths – India and China.

“We are a small nation and I still don’t know why there is a need for a democracy or any other “cracy”. Anyway, I will vote out of sheer respect for my king,” says Dorji, a mask-maker from Thimphu.

In Bhutan, there are two rounds of elections and the first ended May 31. According to news reports, “about 55% of the roughly 380,000 registered voters queued up for the ballot”. The two parties with the biggest vote share – the ruling DPT and the PDP will face off on July 13.

The politics of Bhutan as of now is untouched by political mudslingling, blame game, corruption and inter party bickering. The candidates in fray are generous in their praise of opponents and the only thing that matters to them is country’s development, no matter who lifts the cudgels.

But then, this is just the beginning and Bhutan as a democracy has a lot to face and a lot more to prove. By proceeding in a peaceful manner, the Druk Yul had cleared the first hurdle.

(Meenakshi Iyer is the author of “False Sanctuaries: Stories from the troubled territories of South Asia”)

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