By Movie Talkies, 25 October 2008
In his latest film, Samir Karnik ensures that he hits the bull's eye. Heroes turns out to be inspired from quite a few coming of age films made in Bollywood over the last few years. There are traces of these influences which can be felt quite strongly in his latest offering. However, the film works at quite a simplistic level. But what Karnik does manage to do is extract some very good performances from his actors and also wring out some genuine emotion from his script.
The film's story is about two very typical urban youngsters, Saand (Sohail Khan) and Nawab (Vatsal Seth), who set out on their motorbikes on a journey across North India and discovers the true meaning of valour and awakens, to a sense of self realization about their shallow lives steeped with shallow concerns. The director spend enough time establishing the two characters whose only motive is to make their graduation film so they can get to the US and get on with their lives. They set out to make a film on the Indian Army. With three missives in hand, they set out to deliver them to the families of three dead soldiers. The first family they meet is in Punjab. It is the family of the late Balkar Singh (Salman Khan), whose widow Kuljeet (Preity Zinta), is carrying on her life with dignity and courage. Their next stop is the house of Vikram Shergill (Sunny Deol) and the late Dhananjay Shergill, his brother (Bobby Deol) in Himachal Pradesh. Their final stop is Leh, where they meet the family of Sahil Naqvi (Dino Morea).
The episodes that are really well done are the first two encounters. Salman and Preity excel in their roles and their story best brings out the theme of valour, duty and love for country. Even though he has a small role, Salman excels as the brave Sardar. Preity Zinta proves to be perfect in the role of the widow and she invests her role with a certain amount of grace and dignity which is very moving and endearing. This is probably the best episode in the entire film. The second one deals with a Vikram, an airforce pilot who has lost his legs and is confined to a wheelchair. But that has not dampened his spirit in any way. He has lost his beloved brother in the war as well. The third episode takes place in Leh, where a Naqvi, a doctor still finds it difficult to accept his son's death.
Of the three episodes, the first one has been written the best as it has a certain amount of restrain and subtlety about it which works really well. Both Salman and Preity are quite impressive. The second and third episodes do not seem so natural, but look more contrived. However, Sunny Deol acquits himself well. He fits the role and his fight sequence should delight his fans. One should be seeing more of this actor. The last episode featuring Mithun is the least impressive and unfortunately, the veteran actor is unable to turn on the histrionics.
The biggest problem with the film is the casting of Sohail and Vatsal. Firstly, Salman's brother is a little too old to be playing this role. It should have gone to a younger looking actor. And what's with the skin show? Sohail and Vatsal are the weakest links in the film. Not the strongest of actors, they are unable to hook the audiences into the story and hence their coming of age lacks any kind of poignancy. It is left to Salman, Preity and Sunny to accomplish that, and they do it with ease.
The locations where the film has been shot are quite lovely. The resulting cinematography is excellent and is one of the film's highlights. But the music of the film is just about passable. The film could have had a stronger impact and really rung true, if more attention had been paid to the script.
At the end of the day, Karnik's Heroes eulogises our dead soldiers, and the great cause that they have given up their life for. Patriotism is the theme running through the film. But one feels that theme could have done with a more holistic, deeper approach. There is hardly any subtext in the film, everything is geared for effects it is all external. In that sense, the film conforms to the clichés we have been used to seeing and does not break any new ground. But the armed forces should be happy.