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Masand's Verdict: Heroes' script full of holes

Oct 24, 2008 11:18 PM IST India India
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Director: Samir Karnik

Cast: Mithun Chakraborty, Sunny Deol, Salman Khan, Preity Zinta, Sohail Khan, Bobby Deol, Dino Morea, Vatsal Seth

There's a scene in Heroes in which Sunny Deol on a wheelchair, playing an Air Force pilot who's lost both his legs in war, makes mincemeat out of a group of goondas at a nightclub. Using his fists to punch them, pound them and pummel them into putty, he then proceeds to crawl around the room on his fists, smashing the tiles and the bones of anyone who dares attack him. The message is clear: you may have lost your limbs, but if you've fought for your country, you'll never lose your spirit.

Heroes is a film that has its heart in the right place, but I'm still trying to locate its brain.

Sohail Khan and Vatsal Seth play two aimless drifters who must take a road-trip across North India to deliver a letter each to the families of three dead soldiers as part of their graduating project for film school. Expecting to hear bitter sermons against the Army from fathers, brothers and wives who've lost their loved ones to war, our protagonists discover instead the pride so many families feel for sacrificing their men to the country. It's a sort of wake-up call for the two boys who learn there's more to life than dancing around in their boxers with their girlfriends.

Director Samir Karnik borrows his basic plot idea from the acclaimed film The Motorcycle Diaries based on an early memoir of famous South American revolutionary Che Guevera. But where that film was an excellent coming-of-age story, a study in human awakening, Heroes fails to successfully illustrate how this journey affects the lives of the protagonists. After spending some two hours and twenty minutes making a case for the life-altering impact this journey is likely to have on the boys, Karnik rushes through the most crucial bit - we never really understand if any transformation has indeed taken place, except for knowing that they go on to twice fail the army exams, and somehow manage to open a school that they run together.

Subtlety and understating are tools that director Samir Karnik has no use for. Once you've come to terms with that, perhaps you won't flinch during the half-dozen emotionally manipulative scenes that are thrown in with the sole intention of giving you that lump in your throat. Whether it's the scene in which a young boy holds up his dead father's Army uniform and declares that he'll grow up to be a soldier too; or then the scene in which a mother plays out a tape with her son's last message to her - the film taps all the predictable emotions in the most predictable manner.

It's true - everything about Heroes is loud, overblown and in-your-face. It's a film that shamelessly woos its audience. And yet, there's something inherently noble about the film. Much of its appeal lies in the performances. Preity Zinta does a terrific job as the Punjabi widow who assumes the place of the man of the house following her husband's death at war. Mithun Chakraborty melts your heart as the angry father who still hasn't forgiven his son for never returning from war. And that ridiculous action scene aside, Sunny Deol sincerely sinks into the part of the older brother who's determined not to feel anything but pride over his younger sibling's sacrifice. In much smaller roles, even Bobby Deol, Dino Morea and particularly Salman Khan deliver honest heart-felt performances.

It's the two main leads however, Sohail Khan and Vatsal Seth, who never succeed in convincing you that their experiences have changed them. Both limited actors - to say the least - they never make that transition from goofballs to grown-ups, and it's they who prove to be this film's weakest link.

In the end, Heroes is a far-from-perfect film, held together by a script full of holes, too long and packed with too many songs. Yet it's got its moments. I'm going with two out of five for director Samir Karnik's Heroes, it's not entirely a waste of time.

Rating: 2 / 5 (Average)

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