When it comes down to a Sunny Deol film, I am biased. I love watching the Jatt scream, I love his illogical action sequences, and most of all, I love his raw patriotism. In the past I have never had expectations from a Deol flick. Today I made the mistake of walking into the theater expecting to watch a hi-tech blockbuster espionage-action thrill ride only to walk out disappointed having watched a love story with a few explosions and a hazy lesson on building and smuggling a nuclear bomb.
Indiaâ€™s premier intelligence officer Arjun Khanna (Sunny Deol) can pose as anyone from Ajay Chakravarthy (businessman) to Major Ravi Batra or Wahid Khan (scientist). Amazingly enough, despite having photographs of the Indian spy in his numerous avatars, ISI chief Ishaq Khan (Amrish Puri) or any of his cohorts are unable to recognize him when he dons the least effective of his so-called disguises (Being the forgiving audience that we Indians are, such details can be overlooked). Pakistani extremists have been given permission by their own authorities to steal their nuclear bomb and smuggle it out of the country. The bomb is to be rebuilt in its entirety in Canada with the help of a wealthy business tycoon Zakaria (Kabir Bedi) who owns a cancer radiation research facility that houses resources where the bomb can be assembled. Confused? So was I.
While the Jatt set out to stop Ishaq Khan and co., I found myself asking the same questions over and over again â€“ â€śWhere is the action? Why are the songs so long? And why is Sunny Deol so quiet?â€ť With all due credit to writer Shaktimaan, he actually had a very good story in hand and for once, the love story actually fits well within the framework of the film. Unfortunately he fails to translate it into an engaging screenplay. The first half moves at breakneck speed with a good exposition. The second half slows down thanks to excessive dialogue and insipid music from Uttam Singh. Director Anil Sharma has paid more attention to the details of RAW and ISI operations than creating thrills. There are definitely a few good action sequences such as the avalanche scene, the explosion at the engagement party, and Sunnyâ€™s jump of a mountain peak. Sorry Mr. Sharma but that is simply not enough for action buffs like me who make up such a large portion of your target audience. If I wanted to know the details of nuclear formulas, I would pick up a nuclear physics textbook instead of watching your film.
Performances were missing for the most part in â€śThe Hero.â€ť Sunny Deol is too quiet and underplaying his character simply makes him look uninterested. To cast him in a patriotic fare and not have him scream is as ludicrous as walking into the cage of a starving tiger and expecting it not to eat you. Amrish Puri portrays Ishaq Khan as a baffoon rather than the menacing ISI chief he is supposed to be. Kabir Bedi too comes across as laughable with his put on accent that goes amusingly haywire at times. Priyanka Chopra with her uninspiring lines and the Pakistani nuclear scientist with his incomprehensible technical mumbo jumbo compete with each other to see who can slow the movie down further. Preity Zinta is the movieâ€™s saving grace with her spontaneous interpretation of a character that starts off well-defined but is later left undeveloped.
â€śThe Heroâ€ť also disappoints on the technical front despite having a very impressive crew. Cinematographer Kabir Lal (â€śPardes,â€ť â€śTaalâ€ť) creates a very slick look fluctuating between warm and cold lighting schemes, using impressive camera moves, and at times even cranking up the shutter speed to accentuate the details of certain shots. Allan Amin does a fine job of destroying Sanjay Dhabadeâ€™s sets as well as staging the exterior stunts the few times that he is given the opportunity to do so. However, ignorant editing from Suresh Urs mars all their work. Urs, arguably one of Indiaâ€™s finest editors who has cut great films such as â€śRojaâ€ť, â€śBombayâ€ť and â€śDil Se,â€ť shockingly uses out of focus takes on a number of occasions. He seems to have lost all sense of pacing and also pays very little attention to creating meaningful transitions. Either the director was not bothered about pushing Urs to make a better cut or Sharmaâ€™s direction was so bad that this was the best Urs could do with the dailies he was given.
For being touted as the most expensive Indian film ever made, â€śThe Heroâ€ť doesnâ€™t do justice to that claim. Some of the post-production visual effects used look like they were done for a paltry sum. The few action sequences that exist just donâ€™t warrant the kind of money mentioned. With the potential that Shaktimaanâ€™s story has, all Sharma really had to do was throw in more Deol, more action, and take out the unnecessary talking. Had he done so, like most of his target audience, I too would have walked out of the theater very satisfied. With Sunny Deol, the formula to successfully entertain is quite simple. It is very surprising that it would not be employed on such a high-risk venture.