Planet Bollywood
Mr. India
Producer: Boney Kapoor
Director: Shekhar Kapoor
Starring: Anil Kapoor, Sridevi, Amrish Puri and Ashok Kumar
Music: Laxmikant-Pyarelal
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Genre: Comedy
Recommended Audience: General
Reviewed by: Shahid Khan  - Rating: 7.0 / 10
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Public Rating Average: 5.08 / 10 (rated by 415 viewers)
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Mr. India” is that delicious mix of patriotism, comedy, science fiction, romance and adventure. In a period of the 1980’s when all directors wanted to make were inferior and violent imitations of “Sholay”, “Mr. India” offered something a little different for the bored audiences.

Arun (Anil Kapoor) adopts orphaned or abandoned children and looks after them in the house that he rents. Calendar (Satish Kaushik) also lives with them as a cook. It is not long before the go-getting journalist Seema (Sridevi) also joins the household. She is enraged at Arun because she had no idea before she moved into his house that he has adopted children (she cannot stand being around children). This starts off a love-hate relationship between the two of them. One day, Arun’s deceased father’s friend (played by Ashok Kumar in a cameo) reveals to Arun that his father had a secret formula that can make any human being become invisible. Arun obtains this formula and uses his invisibility to beat evil gangsters, in particular Mr. Mogambo (Amrish Puri), at their own game. Mr. Mogambo is a nasty rich tycoon who plans to become the ruler of India and indulge his greed. With his access to the invisibility formula, only Arun has the power to stop him… He makes his presence known to other people by calling himself Mr. India and never revealing his real name. Under this pretence, Mr. India bumps into and charms Seema who falls in love with him. Little does she realize that the great and elusive Mr. India is actually the man she is living with…

The charm of this hugely popular film lies in the way that Shekhar Kapoor deftly mixes all the elements of sci-fi, romance and comedy so well. The mixture is so irresistible that the film tempts more than one viewing. A lesser director could have made a very big melodramatic mess out of a film like “Mr. India”. Kapoor’s direction is so assured that he conducts a lot of the scenes with ease. Take, for example, the scene following the song “Hawa Hawaii”. Seema’s disguise as a dancer is rumbled when one of Mogambo’s yes men, Daga (Sharat Saxena), discovers that she is actually a journalist looking for top-secret information about their criminal organization. As he is about to whip a tied-up Seema, the invisible Mr. India makes his entrance into their parlor. He retrieves the whip from Daga and makes him play cat-and-mouse with it. Mr. India makes the whip dance like a snake to the theme tune of Sridevi’s previous super-success star vehicle, “Nagina”. This is a nice in-joke commenting on Sridevi’s star power. The shocked expressions on the faces of the villains are priceless. Instead of making a typical hero-saves-the-heroine scene, Shekhar nicely exploits the scene for comic effect. The camera angle used is commendable. The scene is filmed from Mr. India’s point-of-view, which makes it easier for the audience to be on his side and cheer him on. A nice ending to the scene too as Mr. India proceeds to walk out backwards from the room and the camera trails backwards leaving the audience to just see an excited Seema following him with a pen and a notebook and a view of all the astounded villains stood in the background.

Anil was born to play Mr. India. He is so natural in his role that one cannot help but think how the film could have misfired if a different actor was cast instead. The only other actor who could have done justice to the role is Amitabh Bachchan but he was a tad too old for the role by then. Anil excels in all the comic, action and sentimental scenes. Sridevi brings her larger-than-life persona to this movie. With her comic facial expressions, sensuality in the song “Kaate Nahin Katte” and romantic chemistry with Anil, “Sridevi power” certainly crackles in this film. With her babyish voice and a childish sense of humor, she was a hit with the children who thronged the cinema halls to see this motion picture. A definite feast for Sridevi fans… some who still argue that the movie should have been called “Miss India” instead. Sridevi can be accused of over-acting here but she provides a nice foil to Anil’s spontaneous acting style. Amrish Puri, however, takes the cake by hamming it up in his Hitler-like role as Mogambo. At the time, his booming voice and reptilian eyes gave children nightmares. His phrase “Mogambo khush hua” has become one of the most popular phrases to be uttered by villains in Bollywood history second to, perhaps, Gabbar Singh’s famous line from “Sholay”, “Kitne Aadmi Tay?”. The rest of the cast provide wonderful support. Be it the sidekick villains or the side comedians, they all do their jobs very well. As for the child actors, they provide the cute factor in this Disney-like movie. See if you can spot Karan Nath or Aftaab Shivdasani in the cast of children.

With the amalgamation of so many genres in one film, there are bound to be a few flaws in “Mr. India”. There is a little overdose of too many sentimental scenes between Arun and his adopted children. The death of one of the children is shocking but it seems out of place in a fun family film. It is designed to manipulate tears out of the audience but instead strikes a false note. The melodrama does get a bit preachy when poor characters are seen suffering while the rich villains enjoy their lives to the full. But, thankfully, Shekhar Kapoor tries to keep the melodrama to a minimum. If anything, the few melodramatic scenes help to create the patriotic mood that goes with the story. Salim-Javed have written the story, which may explain why the title character would easily suit Amitabh Bachchan (this writing team have written several blockbusters for the legendary actor). While their “Sholay” was a fine twist on Spaghetti Westerns, “Mr. India” is a similar twist on the Hollywood sci-fi/action epics that invaded the decade. Mogambo recalls the character of Darth Vader (“Star Wars) and several baddies of James Bond movies. The hat that Arun wears throughout the film reminds one of the title characters from Steven Spielberg’s “Indiana Jones” franchise. In addition, Seema seems to be similar to Lois Lane from the “Superman” films.

Laxmikant-Pyarelal provide hummable songs that became huge hits and are still quite popular today. “Zindagi Ki Yehi Reet Hai”, “Karte Hain Hum Pyar Mr. India Se”, “Bijli Ki Rani Main Hoon Aayi, Kehte Hain Mujhko Hawa Hawaii!” and “Kaate Nahin Katte Yeh Din Yeh Raat” are all easy on the ears. The film also features a parody, which has hit songs from other blockbusters such as “Dosti”, “Karz” and “Sargam”. It is a parody in the true sense of the word as the lyrics have been changed to suit the proceedings in the plotline of “Mr. India”. Credit goes to Javed Akhtar for writing very funny lines in the spoof.

People who have been introduced to Shekhar Kapoor through his interesting films, “The Bandit Queen” and “Elizabeth” are sometimes shocked to discover that he directed “Mr. India”. But “Mr. India” deserves more credit than just being an odd Bollywood masala epic on the director’s filmography. It is a well-crafted and hugely entertaining film. The same production team went onto create the instantly forgettable “Roop Ki Rani, Choron Ka Raja” but without Shekhar at the helm. “Roop Ki Rani…” was an attempt at recreating the magic of “Mr. India” by bringing back Anil and Sridevi in an equally daft (but somehow less interesting) plot. The failure of “Roop Ki Rani…” shows that you need a talented director to make a masala epic so watchable. A talented director, Shekhar Kapoor, certainly is and one of the very important reasons behind the big success of “Mr. India”.

Today, “Mr. India” still remains a very entertaining movie suitable for the whole family to watch and enjoy.

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