Reviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 07/01/06 12:20:55

"A big summer superhero movie - Bollywood style!"
3 stars (Average)

"Krrish" is one of a certain class of sequels that often annoys me - you know, the type that dispenses with the previous film's main characters early on, to focus on a previously unmentioned brother/friend/other substitute. "Happily ever after" may be short-lived in real life, but shouldn't musicals at least have the implication that it lasts? Here, there's not even the excuse that the producers couldn't retain the star; Hrithik Roshan, "Koi... Mil Gaya"'s Rohit Mehra, headlines as that character's son, Krishna Mehra.

We don't learn the details of why Krishna is living with his grandmother Sonia (Rekha) until about halfway through this three-hour movie, but he is, and she packs up and moves to the country so that they can live in isolated anonymity when six-year-old Krishna shows signs of being a spectacularly gifted genius, complete with Thundering Music of Doom as he answers all his teacher's questions. There, she makes sure he hides his physical and mental gifts and never leaves the village, even though he 's entering creepy twenty-year-old (who looks thirty) hanging out with preteens territory, and doesn't even have the excuse of being retarded like his father was at the start of the previous movie. Soon, though, Priya (Priyanka Chopra) literally falls into his life, crashing her hang-glider into a tree while on an adventure vacation. When she and her friend Honey (Maaninee Mishra) return home to Singapore, they hatch a scheme to save their jobs at a local TV station by showing the "Indian Superboy". Still trying to hide his powers, Krishna dons a discarded mask while saving children at a circus fire, and Priya's new assignment is ferreting out the mysterious superhero "Krrish". They don't yet know about Dr. Arya (Naseeruddin Shah), the head of the electronics firm Krishna's father Rohat was working on at the time of his death, who is just now recreating Rohat's work for his own nefarious purposes.

You could get two Hollywood-sized movies out of Krrish without having to make use of very much deleted footage, and you'd come up with two pretty different movies. The first is basically taking the meet-cute and beating it into the ground and then kicking it a few times to make sue it's dead. It is amusing, at first, for Krishna's friend Bahadur (Hemant Pandey) to convince the vacationers that there's a ghost to explain Krishna's mostly out-of-sight activities, but it just goes on and on and on. The way Krishna hides and then jumps out when Priya's alone, freaking her out, is one more example of stalking not actually being romantic. It's also repetitive, hammered home by the constant use of the English phrase "just imagine!" in a way that native English speakers do not generally use it (I expected a "Just Imagine!" musical number, because we really seemed to be due). There'd be an argument for taking all this if time to establish their relationship, but it's not really used well: Stalking and playing childish jokes on someone isn't romantic, and we spend enough time with the pair that the claims in the second half of the movie that Priya is just luring him to Singapore for her own career and doesn't feel anything ring false. We get some very nice shots of the countryside, but I think it's telling that there are only two songs in this first half; it means they're really spreading two narrative beats over an hour and a half.

The second half just has more stuff going on. Krishna comes to the city, makes a friend (and apparently learns martial arts just by observing his demonstration in the square; whatever the aliens did to his father's DNA was amazing), tries to woo Priya while maintaining his hastily assembled secret identity, learns who betrayed his father, and attempts to avenge him. There's not much watch-checking time in this part, and the characters get to act a little smarter. I must admit, though, that this part was also more familiar territory for me - not only did I have an hour and a half to get acclimated to the "Bollywood" style, this part draws on Hollywood and Hong Kong tropes. I get superheroes and wire-fu and islands with caves housing an evil scientist's laboratory, much more than I get mothers wanting to find their daughters suitors or production numbers with two people in wide open spaces.

I suspect that part of the reason that the second half is set in Singapore is that its ethnic makeup allows them to shoot scenes with the Indian cast in Mumbai, while the action scenes feature mainly Chinese players and are at least partially shot in Hong Kong, with Ching Siu-Tung handling the martial arts choreography. Ching is not a household name in the west, but he's staged the action scenes for Zhang Yimou's recent string of martial arts movies (Hero, House of Flying Daggers, Curse of the Golden Flower), several Stephen Chow films, a couple by John Woo, Johnny To's Heroic Trio, and more (admittedly, including Uwe Boll's latest). Although Shyam Kaushal is credited with the stunt coordination in India, the really impressive set pieces, where Krishna takes on several opponents at a time in Singapore, likely belong to Ching. Those scenes have smoother, less obvious wire work, and a lot more motion going on at once. I'm not sure who to assign the scene where Krishna rescues several children from a burning circus tent; it's very good, and if it's Kaushal's, it's his best work in the film (I suspect it was shot in India, just from how it follows directly from a dance sequence).

That musical number is the film's best; it's got a whole circus full of people whirling around, colorful costumes, and uses lots of wire action to work in three dimensions. In contrast, the others looks stiff and sometimes unsynchronized (Roshan and Pandey seldom seem to be on the same page in the second); the fourth looks like it was performed in front of a green screen. Four numbers seems like a low number for a three-hour musical, but the stunt sequences make a fine substitute. That's fine with me, since what they do to the actors' voices when they sing drives me batty, although it may just be par for the course for a Bollywood production; the only other one I've seen is Koi...Mil Gaya (Bride & Prejudice doesn't count), so I don't have a baseline. The continuous glamor shots of Roshan and Chopra (who has roughly fifty costume changes) also take some getting used to. I do like the honest-to-god supervillain's lair that Arya has underneath the island, which is decorated in the classic style, with flat stone floors and sliding doors in the middle of tunnels carved from rock. It's also the one part of the movie that looks futuristic (after all, if Koi...Mil Gaya took place in 2003's present, shouldn't this one take place in roughly 2024?). Nice, simple design on Krrish's mask, too.

The cast is a mixed bag. Hritak Roshan (the son of director Rakesh Roshan) is immensely popular in India, and he makes a convincing action hero. He's a big guy, but surprisingly nimble, and while his performance during the romantic comedy segments is a little hammy, he does intense well. Priyanka Chopra (whose name is one of many that has been linked to Wonder Woman) is just okay; her job is mostly looking beautiful and acting freaked out, and while she handles the former very well indeed, she plays the latter a little broadly. Not nearly so much as Maaninee Mishra as her friend Honey. Naseeruddin Shah is pleasantly reptilian as Arya, although the tic he's given of imitating a newsreader describing the outcome of his plans get silly by the third time its used. Rekha is apparently a Bollywood legend, and does a solid job of tying the story together across several time periods.

I don't know quite how to grade this as a Bollywood movie; I tend to see the ones I stumble across looking for other things. In some ways, I enjoyed the superhero aspect of the movie more than I did "Superman Returns"; it embraces the crazy and has some surprisingly good fight scenes. But it's a bit of a grind to get to that part - I almost found myself wishing for the Weinsteins to get hold of it and cut an hour or so out, especially from that first half.

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