Made Overseas: Krrish (2006)

In a way, I started this column because of a fascination with international iterations of the superhero formula. I’d done a few open threads looking at Filipino superheroes, which have a pedigree that extends way back to the 1950’s. I half-heartedly promised myself I would stop doing “Made Overseas” the minute I saw the new Darna movie. I probably wouldn’t, though. I tried watching a few Filipino superhero movies for this piece, then in a sudden bout of nationalistic pride I decided I didn’t want to hurt the home country that way.

Seriously, ABS-CBN Film Productions, you need to step up your game. Everyone in the Philippines watches American superhero films. They know what a good one looks like. We get all our advance film reviews from friends and relatives. I was IN the Philippines when Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice was coming out. Movie promotions were everywhere! You couldn’t escape the steely gazes of Henry Cavill and Ben Affleck, peering at you from the local convenience store! And it’s not impossible to make a good looking movie. A lot of recent Filipino movies have looked really nice! Mars Ravelo deserves better!

Some of my most anticipated viewings for this series were for GuardiansSliver Hawk and Black Mask. Sure, they were cheesy. But unlike ABS-CBN they at least have decent budgets and, in the case of the Hong Kong movies, recognizable celebrities. I didn’t feel like I was punching down.

So today… India’s entry into my ongoing quest to catalogue international superheroes of all shapes and sizes.

Krrish seems to be fairly popular, as the series is one of the top grossing movie series in India.  The franchise is not confined by the movie’s.  Cartoon Network India featured a 2013 animated movie series called Kid Krrish.  The show features a hero in a black trench coat that’s paired with a mask straight from wrestler Gregory “The Hurricane” Helms.  So where did Krrish come from?

Weirdly enough, his origins trace back to the Indian E.T. rip-off I reviewed almost a year ago.

At the end of Koi … Mil Gaya, our mentally challenged protagonist Rohit (Hrithik Roshan) has his mental faculties restored by his tiny blue alien friend, Jadoo. I’d thought that meant he was back to somewhat average intelligence.  This movie assumes, though, that the aliens didn’t just restore his brain. Like Captain Marvel getting superpowers from a dying Mar-Vell, Rohit is blessed by aliens with some sort of superbrain. He is now such a brainy genius that he’s a very much in-demand inventor who, at one point, drafts up plans for a machine that can show the user the future.

Dabbling in God’s domain is rarely ever a good thing to do in a superhero narrative.  It’s not long before Rohit is lost in an explosion, and we the audience immediately suspect his boss. This is mainly because whenever Dr. Siddhant Arya (Naseeruddin Shah) shows up on the screen, he’s accompanied by a minor key musical cue. He also has this habit of monologuing directly to the camera, which is something good guys rarely do and that supervillains do a lot.

The movie centers around Rohit’s son, Krishna (also played by Hrithik Roshan). Unlike his father, Krishna excels in school and has super-strength, speed, animal empathy, and invulnerability from birth. In short, he’s a mutant. His grandmother, though, has relocated to a remote village to keep Krishna away from the prying eyes of society. The death of her son (and her daughter-in-law) has made her very paranoid about what might happen if anyone discovered Krishna’s secrets.

Krishna’s world is flipped and turned upside down when a group of tourists from Singapore show up in his little rural village.  Some scenes feel like a travel ad for Manali, the high-altitude Himalayan resort town where the early part of the movie was filmed.  The camera lingers on the snow-capped mountains, the forests, and the rivers while highlighting a lot of fun activities in and about town.  Incidentally, one of the charming things about Indian movies is how overt the advertising and product placement is.  I gave Koi… Mil Gaya a hard time for how Pepsi is plastered everywhere and takes the place of the Reese’s Pieces as the extra-terrestrial’s flavor of choice.  This time around, it’s Lay’s Potato Chips time to shine.  Thrill as a bag of chips is distractingly placed square in the middle of a scene!

Among the tourists is Priya (Priyanka Chopra), a pretty young woman that Krishna takes a fancy to.  Krishna flirts with her by gas-lighting her and driving her close to insanity by pretending he’s a ghost.  Later, he uses his supersede to stretch out his goodbyes to uncomfortable levels.  I suspect we’re supposed to find this charming and not cringey.

However, I won’t put it out of the realm of possibility of director Rakesh Roshan didn’t find Krishna’s behavior a little bit off-putting as well.  After all, Priya doesn’t immediately fall in love with him.  In fact, she manipulates his affection as a convenient excuse to save her own career.  She makes up a lie that if Krrish doesn’t show up to meet her mother in Singapore, then she will be forced into marriage. In reality, she wants to catch Krishna’s abilities on film so that she won’t be fired by her hard-nosed boss at the studio where she works for taking too many vacation days.

Unfortunately for Priya’s career aspirations, Krishna is a good boy. He promised his grandmother that he wouldn’t reveal his powers to anyone, lest he meet the same fate as his father. This means that it’s roughly going to be two whole hours before Krishna puts on his costume and does some superhero stuff. If you were hoping for displays of might feats while wearing a superhero outfit, you’re going to have to sit through an awful lot of a super cheesy romantic comedy.

Will Krrish find out his girlfriend has been deceiving him? Will Priya fall in love with this simple hayseed from the mountains? And what lies are Priya going to have to make up when, say, her mom calls?

Some of you might have been carrying this wish on seeing a dance number featuring a superhero in full outfit. Sadly, the movie gets most of the singing and dancing out of the way before the superhero stuff. Never in costume, though. You will, though, get to see Hrithik Roshan dressed up as a clown… and surrounded by other clowns that look distressingly like blackface.

As you might expect, this dance number takes place in the middle of what seems like it’s an adorable date. Just like the other dance numbers.

However, it’s this Bollywood dance number that is Krrish’s origin story. Toward the end, a stray fire-breather accidentally sets some explosives on fire. Who knew that a sketchy organization called the Great Bombay Circus wasn’t up to health code standards?  (Despite the name, all the performers seem to be Singaporeans.)

Krishna puts on a disguise that I thought was fairly imaginative. It looks a little like a superhero outfit an eight-year-old would make up after seeing The Matrix. (I guess this was 2006, before the MCU took off and when Blade and X-Men was still hot stuff. I guess it tracks.)

Setting the action in the middle of a circus, though? Damn. That’s a fun superhero touch that The Cape would be proud of. He probably should’ve picked a better superhero name than “Krrish”, though, considering that’s basically his real name already. Priya almost susses it out immediately, which leads to some classic Silver Age Clark Kent gaslighting.

His mask, by the way, may have been a smashed up blackface clown mask. It could’ve been something else, I guess. Krishna picks it up off the ground during the circus chaos, so I guess it could have been fun circus mercy. The clown mask, though, is the closest fit to what we’d seen previously.

I’m conflicted.

Siu-Tung Ching is on hand to do the stunt coordination. His illustrious resume includes stints as a stunt coordinator on Spider-Man and with Zhang Yimou on Hero and Curse of the Golden Flower. The stunt work generally looks good, especially when Krrish is leaping tall buildings in a single bound. Sadly, his work sometimes gets obscured by some of the visual choices. At one point Krrish uses superspeed to beat a dozen baddies. We see him badly composited over a blurry background.

Another issue is that a lot of the action scenes are shot in full daylight.  The CGI effects don’t look very good here.  The trail of dust that follows Krrish as he goes super-speed look more at home in a Looney Tunes short.  Worse, it tends to make Singapore look strangely empty.  For a guy who’s supposed to be a hero to all children, he only attracts the most minor of attention when he’s, say, running through traffic.

I cannot in good conscience recommend this movie. I have tried watching this four times over the last year. I’m finishing it now because Krrish will be departing Netflix at the end of this month. The meet-cute portion was interminable, and I kept looking at the clock to see how much of the runtime had been eaten up already. The movie picks up a little once we move to Singapore (at roughly the one hour mark) and we’re finally introduced to our movie’s villain. Hey, this movie might be going somewhere after all!

But that said, in the days when Baahubali is in spirit a better done and far more colorful superhero epic, it’s baffling why anyone would want to revisit Krrish. It would be like watching the Fantastic Four movies that came around the same time. You’re not going to have as much fun, and you spend an awful lot of time with the heroes doing non-heroic things. That’s not what I want to watch when I pull up a superhero movie! Maybe it’s best to let this franchise lie?

Krrish 4 is scheduled to come out in 2020.

NOTE: I have put together a Letterboxd list of all movies reviewed thus far! If you want to check out something that looks like a DVD shelf fulla foreign movies, you can!