Krrish: Bollywood's very own Superman
Move over Hollywood Superman. Give way to Bollywood Superman. Hrithik Roshan takes on this new avatar in father Rakesh Roshan’s “Krrish” on June 23 2006, the date of its worldwide release.
Produced and directed by Rakesh, “Krrish” opens just a week before Hollywood’s “Superman Returns” hits Indian screens. A clever ploy indeed. For, often, the first weekend/week collections can make or mar the box-office collection. Will its tinkle sound sweet enough? Will Indian audiences be mesmerised? Will “Krrish” negate all that Warner Brothers hopes to pick up with their “Superman Returns” starring Brandon Routh?
One would never know till the Hrithik character actually summersaults, swims, flies and freezes in what appears like a thrilling exploration of his ethereal powers.
A sequel to Rakesh Roshan’s “Koi Mil Gaya” – where an ET-blessed Rohit acquires divine powers, marries and sires a son – “Krrish” visualizes the boy’s story, taking off after he has grown into a strapping youth.
Rakesh Roshan’s “Krrish” opened in India on June 23 2006 in a trail of publicity. But beneath this hype lay a disappointing effort to create a genre of Indian Superman.
The reasons for this are age old: mainstream Indian cinema just cannot accept that too many ingredients merely spoil the broth. If Roshan wanted “Krrish” to be a Superman saga, why did he not let it be just that?
“Krrish” begins with an IQ test on five-year-old Krishna by his schoolteachers. Midway, his grandmother (Rekha) whisks him away from the prying eyes of the world, because she knows that the child has the supernatural qualities of his father, Rohit, who was blessed by an ET and turned into a wonder in Roshan’s earlier work, “Koi…Mil Gaya”. The father’s power proved to be his nemesis: hired by a mad scientist to create a computer that will see the future, Rohit was killed when things went wrong. The grandmother does not want that to happen to Krishna.
Krishna (Hrithik) grows up like Tarzan, playing with birds and animals, partly because he has to remain hidden from the world and partly because his friends find him far too superior to themselves. But the film has to run its three hours, and Krishna finds himself enchanted by a television reporter, Priya (Priyanka Chopra), who comes hang-gliding to his village.
The story takes Krishna to Singapore, where Priya lives and where the young man transforms himself into Krrish, clad in black leather and a face mask to save mankind. He gets into the new avatar only to keep the promise he made to his grandmother that he would not reveal his magical side.
At this point, the movie could not have seemed more juvenile. With Priya chasing Krrish through the streets of Singapore to get a good story for her television channel, and the mad scientist (Naseeruddin Shah), having found out the true identity of Krrish, plotting to destroy him, Roshan’s work resembles a mishmash of the bizarre.
Ultimately, one finds that “Krrish” has little to do with the Superman. This relatively small part of the film -- despite the contribution of Hong Kong-based action choreographer Tony Ching, acclaimed for his work on "House of Flying Daggers" and "Hero, and who trained Hrithik in martial arts – is the least gripping with many of the scenes appearing rather amateurish. There is also little originality here. Ideas and scenes have been freely lifted from elsewhere.
The first half of “Krrish” is somewhat tolerable, largely because Hrithik’s performance as a shy village bumpkin is believable, and not without its merits. Chopra overacts most of the time, and two brilliant actors, Rekha and Shah, have been completely wasted in a movie where Roshan seems to have concentrated (in vain) so much on special effects that he could not even bother how Rekha looks. Her wrinkled face is undoubtedly the work of a rank bad artist. And, the angles chosen to photograph Shah make him look clownish rather than evil.
In Bollywood, one supposes, anything goes, and is invariably construed as fun.
Endowed with chiselled good looks, the young man, called Krrish (after Krishna, but of course), is raised in pastoral peace by his grandmother after his parents’ death. The tranquility is shattered by the romantic intrusion of an attractive television journalist (it can no longer be the unglamorous print reporter). Krrish’s heart palpitates, and he follows her to Singapore, where he meets the baddie responsible for his parents’ death.
Krrish transforms himself into a leather-clad superman, beckons his extraordinary qualities not just to woo his woman, but also to vanquish the villain. Krrish also sings and foxtrots to calm the viewer’s pounding pulse.
The narrative is not novel, nor the idea. Not even the concept. The superman has always existed in India. Our folklore and mythology are full of these men. Take Krishna. He would put to utter shame Mr Superman or Mr Spider-Man. Take Hanuman or even Rama, a wisp of a lad who broke the bow which Ravana could not even lift, and who eventually destroyed the king of Lanka.
Indian movies have always been inspired by such super-human prowess. Celluloid heroes have single-handedly fought dozens of goons in bloody street battles, and performed feats that would have astounded some of the Greek warriors, let alone American masked machismo in glazed garment.
Hrithik disagrees with the view that “Krrish” is all about a superman. A publicity brochure quotes him on this: “The movie is not about a superhero saving the world.’ Krrish’ is an attempt to lay the foundations of a superhero in Indian cinema. This genre was non-existent till date. My character has nothing got to do with Spiderman, Superman, Batman or Zorro. It is the story of an ordinary boy who has been endowed with super powers. He is not out there to save the world. ‘Krrish’ is an attempt to open new boundaries and cater to the vast international market. When we were making ‘Koi…Mil Gaya’ on aliens, people sniggered at us. But we made history. This time too we are going to create magic.”
Father Rakesh seems to have done his best to make “Krrish” what his son dreams of. To make the work truly world class, Rakesh hired Tony Ching, a Hong Kong legend renowned for his work on “House of Flying Daggers” and “Hero”, to train Hrithik in martial arts. Tony has worked with such celebrity helmers like John Woo and Zhang Yimou.
To perfect the visual effects, Rakesh got hold of two experts from Hollywood, Marc Kolbe and Craig A. Mumma, who worked on "Godzilla" and "Independence Day". These two have already worked with Rakesh on “Koi.. Mil Gaya”.
“Krrish’s” action sequences, which Rakesh described as poetry, were filmed mostly in Singapore. The Singapore Tourism Board went out of its way to help. It blocked traffic in the heart of the city to facilitate the shoot. “Rakesh says “this was necessary because ‘Krrish’s’ action scenes required huge industrial cranes. We had to have two, in case one broke down”.
All this pushed up “Krrish’s” budget to more than 45 crore rupees (approximately million). Bollywood will consider this figure huge, but it appears miniscule by Hollywood standards. Warner Brothers’ "Superman Returns," cost more than 0 million.
Will Rakesh’s effort pay off? Why not, he would ask. His reason is simple, maybe too simple. ”In fact, when I saw the ‘Lord of the Rings’, where just a ring could carry forward the story into a trilogy, I thought, in ‘Koi…Mil Gaya’, I had a real living character, who could take the story forward after an alien 'jadoo’ had bestowed him with a super-natural power. I couldn’t have left it at that. The concept of that passed-over power would have been incomplete without taking it forward” Rakesh has said.
And, now comes the punch line. Maybe, the Rakesh-Hrithik saga will not end with “Krrish”. There can be a sequel to “Krrish” to complete the trilogy!
(Posted on this website on June 23 2006)