Hero movie review: Rishab Shetty, Ganavi Laxman are gloriously over-the-top in a riot of comedy, action and romance
It's difficult to summarise the exact story of Hero; but when you leave the theatre, you feel like thanking the makers for giving you a hearty laugh, even if from behind a mask.
You know a film is working when you root for what’s happening on screen despite two intervals, one introduced by the theatre, at a most inopportune moment. This, when even one interval is one too many for a genre-defying film high on life, love, and laughter and action.
This is a film where you’ll come back speaking of the ‘hero’, ‘heroine’, ‘doctor’ and ‘villain’, because no one is ever referred to by name! That the team of Hero had fun making the film is evident as scene after scene unfolds, held together by great performances, smart writing and some out-of-the-world background score by Ajaneesh Loknath. When was the last time the villain (Pramod Shetty doing very effective Pramod Shetty things) was introduced to a deeply addictive classical score?
At its heart, Hero is the love story of a gloriously over-the-top Rishab Shetty and Ganavi Laxman, who plays a dignified woman with a spine of steel caught in an abusive marriage and who still finds a reason to smile — this core has a grand scaffolding of hand-to-hand action (national award-winning stunt choreographer Vikram Mor and Rishab Shetty) and dark humour. A love torn apart by circumstances resurfaces during a very strange night, and the orchestra for those aching glances, tender half-smiles and the quiet understanding are gunfire, bombs being hurled, a chase led by a panting dog, and blood-hungry men out on the prowl. Oh, there’s a pet crocodile with digestive issues too — it refuses to eat, and that makes the villain very, very sad.
His den is the Ashokavana estate, and it’s easy to draw parallels between the villain and Ravana and the heroine and Seetha. Only, here instead of an emissary like Hanuman, the hero himself goes to bring back his love.
The characters have hearts, but are practical. She is upset he did not leave a movie half-way for her. He stayed because he paid extra for a balcony ticket. A veterinarian (Anirudh Mahesh) torn between possible death at the hands of the villains or death by hunger chooses the former, and gets ready to pare open a huge jackfruit, but only after tapping a few to check if one is ripe enough. Even in the end, he’s in character. There are dead people around, a croc on the prowl, but the cook has made biryani. Of course, he stays back for food!
Each character has a quirk that’s celebrated on screen. Kiran Kinna is the cook who seems to know yet not really know. He yearns to keep narrating his not-very-successful attempts at love, even as he lives amid men who don’t hesitate to mow down people or butterflies.
One of the henchmen, a well-built man with the voice of a baby, is all brute power, but if push comes to shove — he’d prefer chasing a wild boar through the forest even when the man he’s tasked to stop is right in front of him.
These people make Hero come alive. Add to this potent mix Rishab, who’s having a dream run on screen. In this movie alone, he’s an angry ex-lover, a tipsy barber, a repentant former boyfriend, someone who can handle being beaten but cannot see his love being injured, and a person who cannot resist a wise-crack, or a bottle or two of liquor.
Ganavi’s eyes and face draw you into her misery — she’s athigae (sister-in-law) to all, but has no one to bat for her who gets beaten black and blue for everything, till she draws strength from a sizzling cooker!
The film has been written by Bharath Raj and Anirudh Mahesh. Rishab Shetty, the lead actor and producer, is one of the co-writers. The verbal punches keep landing, one after the other, and it takes good writing to make you laugh in the middle of a gruesome scene. I’ll just stop with saying this has something to do with the crocodile.
There are very many strands, and each of them is tied neatly to the other. A film can celebrate mad-cap humour, but it needs a neat foundation to build it on, and Hero gets that right. Credit to debut director Bharath Raj for keeping a tight rein on the proceedings. He also does double duty as a henchman. Quite looking forward to his next work.
The past year has been surreal, and Hero is also therapy for the eyes. The place where it was shot during the COVID-19 lockdown — Chikkamagaluru — has been captured in all its misty green glory by cinematographer Arvind S Kashyap. The vast expanse frees you up in so many ways.
If someone asks you what’s the story, it’s difficult to narrate. But, if someone asks you if you had a good time watching Hero, you’d nod vigorously. Right at the beginning, a card reads: ‘Thanks For Coming To The Theatre’. When you leave, you feel like thanking them for giving you a chance to laugh, even if through a mask.
PS: Bharath has ensured you’ll never ever look at a pressure cooker weight the same way again!
PPS: The heroes were also the 50-odd audience in the hall who stayed masked up!
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