Bhavesh Joshi Superhero movie review: Harshvardhan-starrer has the right intention but is bogged down by slow pace, uneven narrative
The flaw in Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is that it’s trying to say too much and doing so at such a painful pace that much of a good intention is lost in execution.
Superhero and vigilante films lean perforce on certain tropes: A huge motivating factor (usually loss of a loved one), a set of skills and resources, the determination to do good, and a distinctive costume.
Vikramaditya Motwane’s homespun masked crusader checks all these boxes. But in this all-black ensemble with LED lights twinkling in his helmet, Bhavesh Joshi is not Batman, Superman or even Deadpool. He’s closer to American cult character Kick Ass. He gets his butt kicked, he makes rookie mistakes, he operates more from passion and guilt than with a plan. But these are the very characteristics that also connect you to this reluctant hero.
The story of Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is narrated by Rajat (Ashish Verma) who recounts the escapades of his two college besties Bhavesh (Priyanshu Painyuli) and Siku (Harshvardhan Kapoor). Charged up by a ground swell of public protests against corruption, they decide to stop complaining and begin acting.
Bhavesh and Siku set up an underground online channel called Insaaf TV on which, with a paper bag covering their heads, they go about exposing minor – but endemic – violations in Mumbai city. These include illegal tree cutting, urinating in public, burning of garbage in public spaces etc. They are idealistic and righteous, including making a taxi cab back up to the signal because he jumped a red light. Many of us living in Indian metros share Siku and Bhavesh’s rage and exasperation.
Siku describes their unit as the “Indian justice league”, but their only weapon is a video camera. Things get steamy when Bhavesh gets a tip-off about a man-made water shortage and the water mafia. He jumps in, feet first, to expose the corruption and nexus between various civic authorities, public servants and politicians. It’s a web that’s too big and powerful for a lone crusader.
Writers Motwane, Anurag Kashyap and Abhay Koranne have poured in their frustrations with a crumbling civic set-up and a benign law and order system in this script. The screenplay is unhurried in establishing the prologue to Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’s origin. At over 150 minutes, many of the scenes are over told and oversold and the crucial martial arts training scenes, which are part of the birth of Bhavesh Joshi, are uninspiring.
The high points in the film are action scenes at the water tanker yard and a bike chase through skywalks, parking lots and local trains, which are accented by Amit Trivedi’s pulsating background music.
Motwane inserts subtle references to what plagues Mumbai, including using an abandoned hotel emblematic of corruption. In this world, the bad guys are squarely black, in particular corporator Patil and politician Rana (Nishikant Kamat), and the cops appear to have no qualms about being unjust. Look out for a crazy scene in the dance bar with Siku, Patil and the police inspector.
There are, however, some conveniences in the script that are irksome. For instance, don’t these boys have families? How has Siku walked away from a life but not been reported as a missing person? As he wanders around the city without disguise, doesn’t Siku fear being spotted?
The find of the film is Priyanshu Painyuli – tonally correct, emotionally consistent, believable as the realist-patriot you might meet at a protest march at Gateway of India. Ashish Verma provides the binding voice to the narrative. Kapoor is a respectable addition to the troika but its in the solo scenes, in particular when the brooding is replaced by heightened emotions, that the young actor exposes his inexperience. The weakest link is Nishikant Kamat as a sleazy politician. One wonders why the director gets cast in acting roles when his range is clearly limited.
Bhavesh Joshi is not yet a superhero. While Motwane’s blueprint is derivative (you will think Kick Ass and Arrow), his thoughts and setting are localised enough to make this a convincing character within the genre. But the film’s flaw is that it’s trying to say too much and doing so at such a painful pace that much of a good intention is lost in execution.
The Kitchen movie review: Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, Elizabeth Moss' mob drama feels like a gang spoof gone wrong
The Kitchen's simplistic, black-and-white narrative ends up being a feeble attempt at a snazzy female mob film, with the shadow of far better works (The Godfather, anyone?) looming large over it.
Paramapadham Vilayattu movie review: Trisha thriller loses plot to predictability, leaving us to a boring fare
Paramapadham Vilayattu's plot and the politics is excruciatingly stale, making it barely watchable.
Kho Kho stumbles intermittently when it gets too didactic or veers away from its slice-of-life narrative style. Nonetheless, it achieves a charming overall sweetness and positivity.