In one of the initial scenes in Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, the three protagonists discuss about a superhero for Mumbai. Something like Ra-One, one says. No, it was Jee-one; Ra-one was the villain, the other adds. The film is set in motion; for a country that struggles to recognise a home-made superhero, even after many attempts in trying to make one, this should have been a sincere effort.
If nothing else, Vikramaditya Motwane's attempt to experiment with different genres is sincere. The film follows the adventures of two friends Bhavesh Joshi (Priyanshu Painyuli) and Sikander Khanna (Harshvardhan Kapoor), who, in their effort to be the righteous citizens in a country grappling with corruption, fall headfirst into its dark underbelly.
Bhavesh and Sikander join the 2011 anti-corruption movement as college students. They meet another guy, Rajat (Ashish Verma), and in the process, forge a bond with him. The latter remains an onlooker for the most part, narrating the story of his two friends and their fight against corruption.
Prodded on by the ongoing movement, the two friends decide that change can be brought only by little efforts like stopping people from cutting trees or urinating in public. As they go on with these missions, wearing brown paper bags, sometimes making a buffoon of themselves, they post it on their YouTube channel Insaaf handled by the tech-geek Sikander. The film itself, in one of its scene, talks about the banality in this entire exercise.
And that is why Sikander, five-years down the line and settled in an MNC, decides to fly to Atlanta with an offer to setup a new branch for his company. Rajat, like most, is busy earning a livelihood writing blogs like “13 ways to become Ranveer Singh”. It is only Bhavesh who sticks to his guns in the fight against corruption.
The film leaps forward as Bhavesh discovers a water scam run by a top state politician (Nishikant Kamat), who is aided by top cops and mafia groups. He loses out to them, partly because of his own inability to make the right decision at the right time, and partly because of Sikander, who, in his desperation to opt out of the movement partakes in the prevailing corruption (bribing cops for an early delivery of passport).
Unwittingly, Sikander gets entangled in the situation. He has to carry on the fight. Putting is technical knowledge to best use, he creates a multi-functional mask and a high-speed bike, while he trains to be a “superhero” under a martial arts trainer. Kapoor shines as a vigilante hero, but only while he is behind the mask; otherwise, his character fails to arouse any intense feeling. Painyuli, however, lives up to the character and the mission he believes in.
The story written by Motwane, Anurag Kashyap and Abhay Koranne, has too many ideas and too many influences from the western superhero films—making it chaotic—as they also try to blend in the Indian-ness that they mostly work with. Take the case of a dance-bar scene, with its quirky lyrics and heart-thumping music. It is reminiscent of many such scenes created by Kashyap in most of his films. The long chase scenes in the slums and ghettos of Mumbai, wide use of handheld cameras and a few long single shots, add to the cinematic experience. The film has some really stylised visuals by cinematographer Siddharth Diwan.
But the film invests too much in creating these scenes that, after a point, seem too long, unwinding and repetitive; as does the film at 153 minutes. It tries to make a superhero who is mostly driven by one incident in his life that plays out thrice in the film, twice as flashbacks. The film moves from being Bhavesh Joshi in the beginning to Bhavesh Joshi Superhero as the end credits roll, as it aspires to create an Indian superhero that would live on, but there’s still time for that dream to be realised fully.
Bhavesh Joshi Superhero
Director: Vikramaditya Motwane
Cast: Harshvardhan Kapoor, Priyanshu Painyuli