Hero Movie Review: This 'hero' launchpad works well as a comedy too
Sriram Adittya’s Hero might have the DNA of a typical launch vehicle, but the filmmaker keeps coming up with different ways to entertain
First things first, the western opening sequence of Hero has no business to exist. It’s merely an excuse to emblaze lead actor Ashok Galla’s lineage in Telugu cinema. His grandfather Krishna’s Mosagallaku Mosagau is referred to, so is his uncle Mahesh Babu’s Takkari Donga, and there’s no way to escape these recurring references the film keeps inundating us with. One of the most unintentionally funny parts of the film uses the roto technique to make Krishna dance to a remastered version of his ‘Jumabare’ along with Ashok and the film’s female lead, Nidhi Agarwal. SS Rajamouli did a fine job with a similar technique in 2007 with Yama Donga, when Jr NTR matched steps with his grandfather NTR, but here, the idea—to put it politely— doesn’t evoke the effect it intends to. On its own merit, Hero is a fun film that understands the level of theatricality it operates in, and it doesn’t think twice to take a dig at its own rhetorics too, but I wish it stuck to its own attributes, instead of banking on, or say, lifting the burden of serving as a perfect showreel, err, launch vehicle for its lead actor.
Starring: Ashok Galla, Nidhi Agarwal, Jagapathi Babu, Sathya
Directed by: Sriram Adittya
Also, one cannot help but gawk at the irony that Ashok, whose home banner produced this film, plays a struggling actor in the film. There’s an effort to justify this writing choice, though. And that’s what I admired the most about Hero, it keeps on trying to imbibe novelty; the upshots outnumber the failures and the resultant is a surprisingly joyful film that finds different ways to entertain us. Take, for instance, Jagapathi Babu’s character. By now, scores of characters played by the actor have inured us to believe that he will pull off another iteration of his screen self, which we have grown super familiar, (read: tired) with. But Sriram Adittya does something quirky with him too, splintering the archetypal projection of the actor we have created in our minds. Despite running the risk of coming across as silly, when the filmmaker managed to surprise me with what I thought would end up being the most stereotypical aspect, it simply proves that the writing choice worked.
The writing uplifts a rather simplistic plotline too: when Arjun is pulled into a mixup involving a gun, a deadly gangster, and his target, the young lad has to save the target, albeit after flexing his acting chops, dance moves, dialogue delivery skills, fighting skills... you get the idea, right? It has to double up as a hero vehicle with an umpteen number of 'intro shots' while also staying true to its comic nature, and the film, to be honest, doesn’t struggle to splice these two different tones organically. A great example of this is a foot-chase sequence where we keep seeing Arjun only in reflections of different objects—from mirrors to a butcher knife and even a soap bubble. What could have been another regular action sequence is given a refreshing touch; this is where we see Sriram Adittya, the filmmaker. Likewise, the uproarious climax, which takes a dig at Boyapati Sreenu—the personification of over-the-top masala filmmaking—is gloriously meta, and by the time we arrive at the point, you are no longer looking for logic. In fact, we even see two characters argue about the need for cinema to be logical, with one of them declaring that cinema doesn’t need logic. When it’s done as entertainingly as Hero, I wouldn’t expect logic either. Almost all the best parts of Hero are meta in nature—no, not the wanton glorification of film stars in a song and dialogues in the climax, which aim to garner whistles and applause. The scene where a gangster (Mime Gopi) acts as a filmmaker and narrates the story of the film we are witnessing is a wonderful touch.
Hero’s entertaining bits outshine the genericness pervading the early sequences. The love story is barely effective (although Nidhi is named Subadhra; you see the Mahabharata reference?), but even when the narrative segues into a shindig mood with a long song-and-dance sequence in the first half, we are given a reason to justify its existence. It definitely feels nice to see such tiny touches, which nudge us that the filmmaker cares about what we think. But does it trust the audience’s intellect? Not really. When the aforementioned gun—which is crucial to the plot and has an introduction scene of itself—comes into the protagonist’s life, we are once again shown glimpses of the gun being used to kill someone, because otherwise, we wouldn’t recognise it’s the same gun, right? There are some typical choices as such in the film, which otherwise tries to be novel on many levels. Nevertheless, why complain when it frequently bestows you scenes to laugh out loud. Sathya is terrific as the ‘hero’s friend’, and he gives you numerous instances to laugh, especially a scene in a police station. Jagapathi Babu also gets a few moments to tickle his funny bone, and that’s a line I never thought I would write in a review.
Nevertheless, I couldn't help but envision a different, more chaotic version of the film—perhaps, featuring a rather subdued protagonist like a Sri Vishnu or an Anand Devarakonda—where he actually becomes the 'hero' he aspires to be in real life, instead of the receiving the 'heroic' treatment right from the opening shot. That would have been much truer to the essence of what it tries to communicate in the end.
Filmmaker Anil Ravipudi makes a cameo appearance early in the film just so the film can break into visuals of Mahesh Babu standing in front of Kondareddy Buruju in Sarileru Neekevvaru. The filmmaker talks to Arjun about making an out-of-the-box film that breaks every trait possessed by a Telugu mass entertainer: the hero is a poor guy, the heroine is married to another man, and the hero gets beaten black and blue in the interval sequence… Ashok curtly interrupts and hinders the director from narrating the story further, advising the director to stick to making crowd-pleasers featuring stylish heroes and plenty of whistle-worthy moments. Now, this might be another meta-reference to Hero itself, because Ashok debuted in exactly the kind of film his character dreamed of. And thankfully, it’s more than that.