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A comicbook spy movie

Deepa Gumaste | April 11, 2003 17:40 IST

Sunny Deol in The Hero

At last an original desi spy who combines the guile and charm of James Bond and the raw appeal of Rambo!

He can survive devastating landslides and treacherous jumps off snow-capped peaks. He can venture into forbidden enemy territory and single-handedly rescue his lady love from the clutches of death. What's more, he has a suitable line for every occasion and the ability to keep his worst enemy spellbound with his patriotic outbursts.

No wonder the eyes of ISI chief Ishaq Khan (Amrish Puri) pop out at the very mention of this chameleon-like RAW agent who goes by several fictitious identities like Ajay Chakraborty, Major Batra and Wahid Khan.

His real name is Arun Khanna (Sunny Deol) and his innumerable disguises remind you of Bruce Willis (of The Jackal) or even Val Kilmer (of The Saint).

But his charisma is second only to Bond. So, when he goes to Kashmir as Major Batra to crack the Pakistani secret service's dangerous plans to seize Kashmir, he also spends time wooing the local villagers and the pretty, young Reshma (Preity Zinta).

Reshma falls in love with the major. While he reciprocates her feelings, he does not hesitate to send her into Pakistan as a spy. Reshma works at the house of a high-ranking military official and smuggles out valuable information about the ISI's activities to the Indian Army.

Meanwhile, Khan, who has been arrested in New York after being exposed by Arun, arrives at the very same house to mastermind the production of a nuclear bomb for Kashmiri insurgents to use against India.

Preity Zinta in The HeroReshma gets caught and her knight in shining armour crosses the Line of Control (without any army back-up, mind you) to save her. But Khan is not done with Arun yet and spoils his engagement party before taking off to Canada to meet co-conspirator Zakaria (Kabir Bedi).

Naturally, Ajay is close on his heels, this time as nuclear scientist (?) Wahid Khan.

So the plot thickens.

Director Anil Sharma, who whipped up a mega storm at the box-office with his jingoistic Gadar -- Ek Prem Katha in 2001, has implanted the same formula on a spy movie with some success. Shaktimaan, the writer of Sharma's earlier hit, comes up with suitably charged lines.

While there is a lot of Pak-bashing, mercifully the writer and director have taken care to distinguish between the destructive forces in Pakistan and its ordinary citizens. Similarly, there is a carefully elucidated difference between Islamic fundamentalists and average Muslims.

Kabir Lal's cinematography is a treat for the eyes with exquisite footage of the picturesque landscapes in Kullu Manali, Canada and Switzerland. For once in a Hindi film, foreign locations have actually been put to good use.

Uttam Singh's music is dominated by the song Dil mein hai pyaar tera, which grows on you, largely because it is played so many times through the film. Suresh Urs's editing is sharp for the most part, but there are times when the pace slackens just a bit.

Priyanka Chopra makes her debut (as Kabir Bedi's daughter) in a relatively small role. We will have to wait for Andaaz to figure out whether she can act.

Rajpal Yadav, who plays Deol's sidekick and provides comic relief, is infinitely better than his sorry presence in Ek Aur Ek Gyarah.

Preity Zinta, Sunny Deol in The HeroKabir Bedi speaks with a stylish accent and looks graceful. Unfortunately for Amrish Puri, his character seems to be modelled more after the caricaturesque Mogambo (in Shekhar Kapur's Mr India) than a menacing and cold-blooded secret service chief. Also, the fact that he has played innumerable such villains only dilutes his effectiveness.

Preity Zinta is wonderfully refreshing to watch. Even in a film that doesn't demand too many emotional histrionics, she comes up with a touching performance.

Sunny Deol, of course, IS the hero. He is obviously at his best bursting out of the screen with his macho walk, trendy clothes, and succinct but hard-hitting dialogues. It is his job to carry this mega-budget film on his shoulders and he does it well.

The Hero is as much a comicbook spy movie as Bond's Die Another Day or Ethan Hunt's Mission Impossible. And if you could accept James Bond strutting into North Korea and bashing up the military ruler's son, you will love watching Arun Khanna make mincemeat of the ISI chief.

Want to see this movie? Check out Rediff Movie Tickets!

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