One doesn't expect much from Samir Karnik's HEROES. For starters, Karnik's past two films (Kyon...Ho Gaya Na! and Nanhe Jaiselmer) have been utter failures. Secondly, the promos portray yet another dreary patriotic war film. If there's one thing that the film has on its side it's an interesting cast which boasts of such recognized names as Salman Khan, Sunny Deol, Preity Zinta, Bobby Deol, Mithun Chakraborty, and Sohail Khan.
However, let me first make an important clarification to my misguided readers. Those seemingly war-filled promos that you've been watching mislead you to believe that HEROES is a piece of cinema that borders jingoism and warfare. Not true. HEROES can be summed up in one word - Pride. The film deals with the families of soldiers that have sacrificed their lives on the battlegrounds to fight for the protection and honor of their nation. It is NOT a war film. It also touches on the lives of two young film students on a mission to dissuade their generation from joining the army...a journey that teaches them all about the power of pride.
Right off the bat I'll tell you that HEROES is a superior film when compared to Karnik's past debacles. That in itself is a personal victory for the emerging filmmaker/writer. Unfortunately, the screenplay is unable to break out of its mold to leave a lasting impact. Let's get the major minus out of the way first. The script has basically been separated into three sections: 1) Salman-Preity, 2) Sunny-Bobby, and 3) Mithun-Dino. Although each story has been narrated decently, one wishes that writers Aseem Arora and Samir Karnik didn't waste valuable screen time by flashbacking to the lives of the deceased soldiers. Karnik should have realized that the emotional impact would be much greater if the viewer was given only as much character background as was needed to see each character as a representation of the entire force. The moment the script flashbacked into their personal lives, this intended effect disappears. Besides, it was pointless and boring.
The next major flaw lies in the gaps between the three sub-stories. Editor Sanjay Sankla would have been wise to advise Karnik to cut these portions, as they only distract the script and highlight the lack of chemistry between the lead characters of Nawaab (Vatsal Sheth) and Sammy (Sohail Khan). Finally, the film never truly answers the question is set out to. Is in fact pride greater than life itself? The lead characters have their epiphanies and realize that there is nothing greater than pride. But the script does not back this up. These three stories (of which only the Dino-Mithun track is fully satisfying) aren't scripted well enough to persuade us into believing what the characters feel and think. This discord between character and viewer is a rift that hampers the film's final impact.
Fortunately, Karnik's directorial execution skills far exceed his writing abilities. There are numerous scenes that highlight Karnik's sensibility and grace as a filmmaker, capable of capturing the gentlest of moments with gut-wrenching emotion and fervor. A few examples include: Preity Zinta's pain-staking silence as she listens to Sammy read the final letter of her deceased husband (Salman Khan); Nawab and Sammy's encounter with the truck-driver carrying a load of casualties; the climactic sequence where Sammy picks a fish out of the water with his bare hands; the scene where Nawab and Ali unknowingly hit the Indian-Pakistan border; and arguably the most gracious and heart-pulling of them all is the scene where Sahil's mother, Sammy, and Nawab are listening to Sahil's (Dino Morea) final audio recording the night he was killed. All these depict a director who is coming of age in HEROES.
Performances weren't the strongest hinges of HEROES. The leads of Sohail Khan and Vatsal Sheth are strictly average in their attempt to portray the awakening of a younger generation. Sunny Deol makes his presence felt after a long while with an emotional portrayal of an ex-army pilot left as a paraplegic. Mithun Chakraborty is his usual best as the emotionally drained father unable to cope with the loss of his son. Salman Khan's presence is too limited to make any lasting impression, as is Bobby Deol.
It is Preity Zinta, as the widowed Kuljeet Kaur, who outshines everyone else. It's her silenced sorrow, which seeps through her articulate facial expressions that get to you as a viewer. Zinta has come a long way in her career. Kuljeet Kaur goes to show that she is amongst the brightest stars in the industry today.
Overall, HEROES has its ups and its downs. Samir Karnik does a fine job in executing some emotionally driven sequences. However, it's his script that leaves much to be desired. HEROES is mildly satisfying during the moments of the film's viewing, but will not stay with you long after. Go check it out if you need to reaffirm your loyalty to the men in uniform and to realize the power of one's pride.
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