May 23, 2014
Tiger Shroff, Kriti Sanon, Prakash Raj, Vikram Singh
When was the last time you watched a film in which the heroine’s toughest competition in the looks department was the hero? Tiger Shroff can take off his shirt and display that ripped torso all he wants, but he can’t alter the fact that his over-muscled body is a complete mismatch with the smooth, almost hairless face and effeminate dancing. There’s also a mismatch with his partly Caucasian features when he lip synchs all-out-desi song lyrics like “O gal na kar tu chhad ne di / Plan hai ghodi chadhne di / Paas mein aa zara hotth mila aur / Mere naal tu whistle baja”.
On debut, Tiger romances a girl, dances to choreographed moves, single-handedly bashes up groups of goons, has a catchline he repeats throughout and, like all aspiring Salman/Akshay clones, even has his shirt torn off by a bad guy towards the end of the film so that he gets to stay topless for an entire sequence. If acting is his strength he does not tap into it though, instead spending large parts of the film trying to look intensely in love by staring into the distance.
Therein lies the difference between him and his female co-star. Kriti Sanon made her big-screen debut earlier this year in the Telugu film 1: Nenokkadine opposite Mahesh Babu. In her first Bollywood role, in a film clearly designed as a showcase for Tiger, son of Jackie Shroff, she stands out all the same because she happens to be more than just a pretty face: her looks are complemented by a screen presence and the fact that she can act.
Heropanti’s story is as half-baked as the means Tiger uses to attract attention to himself. A young Jat girl in Haryana (played by Sandeepa Dhar) runs away with her lover on her wedding day. Her father (Choudhary, played by Prakash Raj) rounds up all the boy’s friends, convinced that one of them would have aided and abetted the elopement. Among them is Bablu (Tiger) who has fallen for local girl Dimpy (Kriti), having been smitten by her on sight on a street one day. Don’t ask. That’s the way love still happens in many Hindi films.
Dimpy turns out to be the runaway bride’s younger sister, which means we already know Dad does not approve of lowwe marriages. There’s a lot of yelling and flying limbs through Choudhary’s enraged pursuit of his elder girl across cities. The noise can be excused. What is unforgivable are the mixed messages being sent out, including an oblique justification of a father’s violence towards a daughter who picks her own husband.
On the one hand Bablu fights hard to help the couple. On the other hand he says at one point in the same context, “Baap hamesha galat nahin hota hai (A father is not always wrong).” In one scene he tells Dimpy, “Women are kept like cattle in your family,” while exhorting her to assert herself, dream dreams and take her life into her own hands. Yet elsewhere he tells Choudhary, “I don’t want to take away your right (haq) to choose your daughter’s husband for her.” Yes he said “haq”! Seriously! This film is set in 2014! And decisions in this matter are all his and Choudhary’s, not hers. This is DDLJ’s populist philosophy revisited, except that it’s 10 times more regressive, dangerous and irresponsible, knowing what we know about honour killings. Writer Sanjeev Dutta and director Sabbir Khan seem anxious to tread a fine line between projecting themselves as progressive without antagonising conservatives in the audience.
When some goondas are about to gangrape Dimpy, Bablu enters the scene and tells them: “Hindi mein nahin, English mein no. And no, means no.” At a time when the issue of consent in sexual relations is being hotly debated in India, this is an important point to emerge from a mainstream film. But consent is an extension of a woman’s autonomy over all aspects of her life, including decisions about marriage. Clearly Dutta and Khan are not committed to anything they are saying.
This is unsurprising considering that Khan debuted as a director with 2009’s Akshay Kumar-Kareena Kapoor-starrer Kambakkht Ishq in which casually and repeatedly referring to a woman as “bitch” was deemed acceptable for a man. This is not a director who respects women.
When a film transgresses in this fashion, nothing else seems worth commenting on, but a job’s a job so here goes… Senior southern Indian character actor Prakash Raj has so far been restricted to playing over-the-top serio-comic villains in Bollywood. This role and performance are a refreshing change. Equally interesting is Heropanti’s music. That lovely flute piece played by Jackie Shroff’s Jackie Dada and his father (Bharat Bhushan) in Hero in 1983 have been woven into the background score of this film and into the song Whistle baja for which Tiger even plays the flute on screen. Nice touch. Sajid-Wajid have composed a bunch of pleasant songs for Heropanti, with Tabah and Aa raat bhar standing out.
Whenever anyone asks Bablu if he’s about to do heropanti, he replies: “Kya kare. Doosron ko aati nahin aur meri jaati nahin.” Giving a hero one such punchline was a popular formula in Hindi films of the 1980s, the decade in which Tiger’s dad reigned in Bollywood along with Anil Kapoor, Sanjay Dutt and Sunny Deol, while Amitabh Bachchan loomed in the background. Salman carries forward that tradition even into this decade of this century. Tiger has a decent voice. What he needs is the pizzazz to carry off such claptrap. He doesn’t have it, not yet. You see, pizzazz is not a quality easily found in factory-made, assembly-line products.
Rating (out of five stars): **
CBFC Rating (India):
Poster and trailers courtesy: Everymedia PR
Song video - Tabah: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIpxgpV3PoY
Song video – Pappi: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3jVRNi-V5M
Trailer 1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-saIo5YXkuI
Trailer 2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wH22bvZpi-U
Trailer 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMuLhyTvOnE
Trailer 4: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jhl6nq18KPo
Trailer 5: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpwLpOWgg8c