Hero Movie Review: The makers of Hero have been promoting the film as a superhero story, but what they have left unsaid (or vaguely indicated) is that the film is also a spiritual sequel to Shankar’s Gentleman. One of film’s principal characters is Sathyamoorthy, played by Arjun, the hero of Gentleman (who was named Krishnamoorthy). And in his back story, we learn that he robbed the rich to build an educational institution that offers free education to everyone. Which is exactly what Krishnamoorthy did in Gentleman. PS Mithran uses this as a stepping stone for his plot – System-a maathuradhuku Gentleman pathaadhu! His Moorthy is someone who has wisened to the fact that free education isn’t enough for progress, especially when the education system is rotten. And so, he is surreptitiously running a school where kids who are deemed failures get a chance to excel in fields where they are good at.
But the entry of Shakti (Sivakarthikeyan, solid as an angry, idealistic youngster, but tentative as an action hero), a youngster who is making a living selling fake certificates, into his life also leads to him being discovered by his nemesis Mahadev (Abhay Deol, who makes up for the one-note characterisation with his presence), an avaricious businessman, who feels threatened by Moorthy’s very idea of education. After all, as he boastfully describes himself, he is “padippa vechu vyabaram panravan illa padikkaravana vechu vyabaram panravan”. So, what brings Shakti to Moorthy, and what makes him take up the latter’s cause? Mithran gives us a story that might feel familiar if you have watched your share of the Gentlemans and Indians and Ramanas. But he narrates this story with earnestness and filmmaking competence (aided by George C William’s polished visuals and Yuvan Shankar Raja’s propulsive score) that keep you involved and makes Hero a fairly good vigilante film. There is an agreeable romantic track between Shakti and Meera (Kalyani Priyadarshan, a somewhat soft debut in a secondary role), and an equally satisfactory emotional sub-plot, featuring Madhi (Ivana, impressive), the unfortunate girl whose cause Shakti takes up.
However, as a superhero film, Hero feels like a middling effort. Mithran gets the myth-making part right. We get a prelude that works both as Shakti’s back story and also builds the myth – a school kid who is inspired by Shaktimaan and wants to be a superhero himself. And in Mahadev, he gives us an antagonist who challenges this very idea of a childhood dream and thrives on crushing the dream and turning free-thinking students into educated labour. But Shakti’s transition into superhero lacks impact. We don’t even get a catchy name; we get an unimaginative Mask as Shakti’s alter-ego. “Suyama sindhikkara ovvorutharum superhero,” Shakti says. But we mostly see him following Moorthy’s ideas. Perhaps Mithran felt that the fact that Shakti making a case for Moorthy’s protégés staying in the country rather than fleeing abroad in itself was enough to turn him into a superhero. As in Mugamoodi, you admire the fact the filmmaker has tried to make his superhero as desi as possible, but at the same time feel underwhelmed of this superhero because the things that he does (beating up the bad guys, driving a bike at high speed amidst traffic, giving the money back to the people, and speechifying) aren’t any different from what our heroes routinely do on screen.