Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Bhavesh Joshi Superhero [dir. Vikramaditya Motwane]

I suspect this movie would be out of the screens by the time you see this opinion but if it isn't you might give it a shot.

It would have been more apt to call Bhavesh Joshi Superhero (BJS) as Bhavesh Begins because this vigilante hero origin story is a fitting companion piece to Chris Nolan's Batman Begins. The vigilante movement begins with a more playful spirit when chaddi-buddies Bhavesh (Priyanshu Painyuli) and Sikander aka Sikku (Harshvardhan Kapoor), a trio with their more nerdy friend Rajat (Ashish Varma),start a youtube video campaign to confront and intimidate wrongdoers on camera wearing a patently goofy paper bag mask (the film even riffs on this when one petitioner offers a disguised Bhavesh tea and he struggles to drink under the mask). Things get more serious with a genuine ideological clash when Sikku bows out to social pressure, paying a bribe for his passport, and Bhavesh calls out some very bad guys in his bid to expose the Mumbai water mafia. A series of events leaves Bhavesh dead and guilt-ridden Sikku takes on the vigilante mantle.

BJS is notable for the grounded manner in which most of the action is set. When Bhavesh and later Sikku go into action, they don't become ultra-nimble fighters and genius masterminds that trounce legions of bad guys without breaking a sweat. Sikku's actions are more like a guy who got his ideas from watching movies improvising on them without realizing the drawbacks in reality. He takes a lot of dumb chances in his crusade against Bhavesh's killers and he must face the consequences of those decisions. On more than one occasion he is overwhelmed and has to get his butt saved by someone else. These are not script fallacies, they are the flaws within the character that go a long way to making him more human. The film is also to be praised for its non-stereotypic exploration of Mumbai and its surroundings, raising issues that mainstream cinema will not acknowledge. The sequence where Bhavesh tracks down the base of operations of the water mafia is a marvelous piece of guerilla style visuals in rarely captured locations (A previous film that shined in this regard is Chandan Arora's Striker).

Apart from some narrative snafus, the film IMO suffers mainly what I call the Gulaal Syndrome, where the character that really holds your attention dies before the interval. Harshvardhan Kapoor of course is nowhere as bad as the moronic milksop lead of Gulaal but his weaknesses in the acting department make it harder to empathize with the grief and confusion which his character is burdened with during his crusade. Like a mirror to the onscreen drama, Priyanshu Painyuli's spirited and passionate portrayal of Bhavesh Joshi leaves a void that HK struggles to fill. Slack editing, a half-baked romance angle and mostly cardboard villains also bring down the experience. But the reasonably unique approach to the vigilante hero genre is worth a watch.

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