The superhero genre has been under much discussion in recent times, with each camp divided over the same. In India, this genre is difficult to establish due to the followings 1) Our Heroes can literally do everything right from dance to fights 2) Most of our superheros are just blessed with divine powers.
Hero the recent Tamil movie features popular star Sivakarthikeyan in a lead role who has so far found success playing the common man. Shaktimaan was a low budget T.V. series for India’s national channel which captured an entire generation’s imagination especially for those who were not exposed to American comics. The craze for Shaktimaan was unprecedented and no other superhero has received such warmth from Indians. The only genuine superhero films perhaps that we have made so far I feel are Enthiran and 2.0 which had a Robot as a superhero created by a scientist.
Education in India is a complicated but one of the assured ways for the lower and middle class to move up the ladder. Shankar’s debut film Gentleman harnessed on the fact of how students can miss out on good opportunities due to high caption fees and limited seats. Hero in a way is a nod to the vigilante film (Gentleman), but asks a bigger question, is our way of schooling and the education system beneficial for all of us.
Hero begins with a episode where our hero is chided by teacher for a lie. If you look at it from a child’s point of view it is not a lie. It is myth making or story telling but then does the system care about unconventional storytelling when all it wants are disciplined robots.
Who is a hero? Is he someone without flaws, without ego, without desire who never commits a mistake or errs, like most of our Indian film heroes or is it someone who realises his ways are wrong and trying to reform. This is where Hero succeeds and gives us an alternative unlike Krrish who is too Mr. goody.
We get a backstory on how a once promising student is now a fraudster. The makers steer clear from making him a victim or justifying his actions unlike Shankar’s Gentleman. They are more interested in the bigger question, what matters more, skills or certificates of a person. I guess it is an interesting topic which needs to be discussed in India with a young population. Do we need every child to pursue conventional academic courses?
While Gentleman focused on higher education and had Brahmin characters, Hero takes a step backward and showcases what happens if talented students from underprivileged community do not get an opportunity even to showcase their skills.
Another interesting fact of Hero, is that you get a character who is not really heroic and is a fraudster. And when he gets his chance to fight, he is helped by students who build him metaphorically and literally with all the gadgets that they develp.
The film steers clears of milking emotion, I don’t know if it is the right way, but it worked for me. Look at the scene when Shakthi’s name is changed from the certificate,, it is not backed by usual melodrama. Instead it is just treated as a casual thing, a nod to collateral damage to millions of Indians who do not have access to their basic right.
Overall I was impressed by Hero as an origin story and how it plays out, it is better than most Indian superhero films we have created. In the end, it gives a sense of poetic justice and leaves us with questions which we need to introspect. After all who’s a hero if does not have a fall annd make us introspect..