Bhavesh Joshi Superhero Review: An interesting attempt at not-a-superhero-movie
A realistic take on the superhero genre that at times suffers from being too real at the wrong places
Bhavesh Joshi is not a superhero. The first third of Vikramaditya Motwane's new film is set up too much like a spoof to be taken seriously. We slowly do realize that that is the point. Bhavesh Joshi (Priyanshu Painyuli), Sikandar Khanna (Harshvardhan Kapoor) and Rajat (Ashish Verma) are your typical neighborhood boys who cannot wait to be men. They are troubled by the state of the nation but can only talk about it in the most simplistic terms. Bhavesh is the one with a conscience, it pricks at him constantly to the point that he cannot live with himself if he doesn't do something about it. We have been like Bhavesh before, we have episodes of being Bhavesh every now and then, but it comes and goes and we give up. Sikandar is one such. After a point, he breaks. He can keep at it but he has a breaking point along with his desires and needs. Rajat is another familiar kind. His weapon is his art. He is not cut out for the field, but he is capable of doing just as mightier things with his words and his artistic expression. But he too is stuck in a capitalist set up that will look askance at his work and confine him to listicles. But Bhavesh Joshi will act. He'll create his alter ego, the Insaaf Man, that is comical at first before it all gets too real. Anyone could see what's coming next from a mile away. Sikandar, the one named after the Greek emperor, goes on to assume the alter ego's alter ego. And to Motwane's credit, he always sets them up to fail.
Director: Vikramaditya Motwane
Cast: Harshvardhan Kapoor, PriyanshuPainyuli, NishikantKamat
Motwane's problem here is a curious one. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, at times, suffers from being too real at the wrong places. That the superhero slash one man savior was a doomed exercise in the country's volatile atmosphere today is a given. The writers (Motwane, Anurag Kashyap, Abhay Korrane) and the director make that distinction. The film has a core philosophy but it doesn't reinforce it enough and therefore appears to lack one. It is that alter ego's alter ego. If one man stands up against the system and goes down, then another should stand up. It is an intricate arrangement of dominoes but every participant must be ready to fall. This is the superhero model flipped in its head. The superhero is not going to get a photo finish. So Bhavesh Joshi Superhero's set pieces are accurate, believable and wonderfully shot. There is a whistle worthy moment when Joshi waits at a red signal where you get the payoff of a complete transformation. What Joshi does works while what Sikandar does in the background is too much to buy. He is a coder but he hacks security systems, works with electronic equipment and puts together a motorbike. For a superhero movie that is not a superhero movie, there is a lot of imagination that has gone into the action and its impact. But there is a perceivable lack of thought into other parts - like the throwaway phrases of anti-national, "Pakistani agent" and other misnomers that the vigilante is given, just to give the film a contemporary flavour. Or the way Rajat's day job is designed to be. He is shown making lists of n ways to be like Ranveer Singh or n ways to change your life. Or how did Bhavesh Joshi fool his friends into thinking that he was in America. This is too perfunctory and lazy to be part of a film by VikramadityaMotwane.
The film is wonderfully shot by Siddharth Diwan. There is something to be said about a vigilante whizzing through the streets of Mumbai. And this is not the usual Mumbai of mainstream Bollywood - the town, Gateway, Asiatic Society. This is Malad, Goregaon, Marol. The suburban Mumbai populated by the middle class and beyond, appearing on the ill-fated end of the food chain. The southernmost that Bhavesh Joshi travels is Juhu. Not to a swanky hotel or nightclub but to the rundown Tulip Star, erstwhile Juhu Centaur, ravaged by everything from terrorist attacks to corruption over the years. The symbolism is unmistakable, standing for a country eaten away at every organ and tissue. Bhavesh Joshi tells Rajat that he can use the restroom if he can find the commode. The central plot device is a water supply scam and much of Bhavesh Joshi Superhero happens under pouring rain. A comeuppance too occurs under water soon after the hero named after the Greek king is given a lecture on another legend of Greek mythology, Icarus. Harshvardhan Kapoor plays Sikandar straight, an entitled kid who takes things for granted that probably came easy to Kapoor. Priyanshu Painyuli nails Bhavesh Joshi, as the man who does not know what he is doing.Nor does he know what should be done. He does what he feels is right because the situation around him bothers him and he cannot rest easy and he cannot remain apathetic. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is less of a superhero film and more of a film around the idea of a superhero. Motwane refuses to focus on the crime and the perpetrators because they are immaterial to this treatment. They could be anyone and they don't need a face. This film is more about the three friends, how each one deals with their apathy, the consequence of their actions or inaction, and the realization that the task of setting things right is enormously complex and difficult. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is a bit of a mess, it has the right ideas but the inelegant maze it creates for itself thanks to genre compulsions has no clean exit.