Film Review: Krrish
One of the biggest box office hits of 2006 that you've probably never seen or even heard of is Krrish, an action-adventure/romance/sci-fi extravaganza courtesy of India, home of the world's most prolific film industry. Released in late June, Krrish was produced on a $10 million budget (lavish by Bollywood standards) and has grossed anywhere from $30 to $60 million dollars, depending on which figures you believe.
The movie is actually sequel to the 2003 hit Koi... Mil Gaya (I've Found Someone), which was directed by Rakesh Roshan and stars his son, Hrithik Roshan, as Rohit Mehra, a developmentally disabled young man who is visited by E.T.-looking aliens that imbue him with superhero-esque physical and intellectual powers. The father and son Roshan duo have reunited to make Krrish, which is set 20 years after the events of Koi... Mil Gaya.
When we catch up with the Mehra family, Rohit and his wife are long dead and their 20-year-old son, Krishna (played by Hrithik Roshan, who looks like a more muscular version of Balki Bartokomous) is a humble boy living with his overprotective grandmother in a rural village. He spends his days scaling mountainsides at lightning speed, plucking fish from rivers with his bare hands and racing stallions through the pastoral countryside. Krishna knows nothing of the outside world or his father's legacy.
One day Krishna rescues a hang-glider caught in a tree. Removing the hang-glider's helmet, he discovers Priya (former Miss World 2000, Priyanka Chopra), a beautiful but simpering young woman on a 10-day adventure camp. In the romantic comedy tradition of people-who-make-their-problems-worse, Krishna spends several tedious scenes pretending to be a ghost before revealing his identity to Priya. Soon enough, birds and butterflies join Krishna as he proclaims his love for Priya in song.
Priya returns to Singapore where she and her best friend, Honey, hatch a plot to exploit Krishna's talents on television. Priya convinces Krishna to join her by lying that she is in love with him, and Granny reluctantly agrees to let Krishna go, but only after revealing the secret of his father's death and making Krishna promise never to expose his powers.
The world, and Priya, constantly test Krishna, and he must choose between keeping his abilities under wraps or rescuing a group of children from a burning circus tent. Turning his grey raincoat, which vaguely recalls the Waffen SS uniform, inside-out and donning a black mask, Krishna becomes Krrish.
While the city is abuzz with this masked superhero's daring rescue, megalomaniacal evil scientist (is there any other kind?) Dr. Siddhant Arya spends his days in a cavernous underground laboratory apparently designed by John Woo, working on a machine that will see into the future. In an already crowded field, Dr. Arya (played by Naseeruddin Shah, who American viewers might recognize from Monsoon Wedding or The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen) wins the award for weirdest device in the film, occasionally turning to the camera and announcing, "Breaking news!" before declaring his intentions. If you guessed that only one man can stop Dr. Arya's destructive dreams and that man is Krrish, you guessed right.
The movie is entertaining on the level of spectacle, but at three hours long it begged for severe trimming. Fortunately, if you watch Krrish at the Naz 8 Cinemas in Artesia as I did, there's an intermission that conveniently allows viewers to purchase more ridiculously addictive samosas at the concessions counter (two for $2.99!).*
Back to the spectacle. Krrish is the brightest movie I have EVER seen, so bright it makes sitcoms look like film noir. I suspect the movie also underwent heavy processing during post-production, not just for greenscreen work (many of the backgrounds are obviously faked) and wire removal (there's a whole lot of unsubtle flying and wire-fighting), but also for heavy-duty color processing. The colors in Krrish are incredibly vivid (lots of piercing yellows and magentas) in a way that may give American audiences a shock. When it comes to color, Krrish turns the dial up to 11.
But this is just one of the conventions -- along with bad lip-syncing and the way every female character is perfectly coiffed and made-up no matter the situation -- that viewers have to accept if they want to enjoy a Bollywood film. I don't know to what extent Krrish reflects the Indian film industry as a whole, but as Bjorn pointed out, Bollywood films seem perma-locked in a style that recalls the sickly sweet Hollywood musicals of the 1940s and 50s.
With a score composed by the director's brother, Rajesh Roshan, the standout musical number in Krrish features traditional Hindu dancing melded with hip-hop and disco as an entire circus helps perform a song that's loosely translated as, "If you've never taken a heart you haven't done anything." Oddly enough however, Krrish lacks the kind of large-scale musical finale that brings together all the characters and generally ends films like these.
Never fear. If you liked the characters in Krrish, you'll have a chance to see them again. Krrish 2 is already in the works, making Krrish not the first but probably the most successful Indian superhero franchise.
*If you go to the Naz 8 in Artesia BRING CASH! We found out the hard way when we showed up with only a credit card that the theater A) doesn't take credit cards and B) the ATM in the theater lobby is broken.