Movie Leftovers: Bhavesh Joshi Superhero.
We haven’t forgotten Bollywood when it comes to catching up on 2018’s forgotten films!
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we empty our fridge of Movie Leftovers – films we missed reviewing before they left theaters. The end of the year fast approaches, and Thanksgiving has come and gone. Having stocked up on recent movies, we decided it was time to clear our plates. This month we’re going to devote to all of the films of 2018 that caught our eye – for good or ill – but that we didn’t get a chance to review during their theatrical runs. Since we’ll soon be picking the best and worst films of the year, it’s high time we checked off some of the entries on our Most and Least anticipated films of the year lists.
Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is a social-drama/vigilante action film out of India from director Vikramaditya Motwane, who won indie cred for his film Udaan and big Bollywood fame for his period piece Lootera. At the heart is the story of two friends sick of the corruption surrounding them, but it morphs about three-quarters of the way through into a Sin City style action film. It’s a shame as the film really lives and breathes when it’s being realistic but over-reaches for the final act.
Bhavesh Joshi Superhero (2018)
Bhavesh and Siku are two idealistic youth who are inspired by comic books and You Tube to create a social movement. After trying and failing to get anything done through popular protests, they decide to create Insaaf (Justice) TV, where the two dressed in paper-bag masks go out and combat petty crime. It’s initially a viral hit, but never does more than hastle small time violators like people breaking traffic rules.
As they grow, Siku becomes a corporate cog while Bhavesh tries to realize his goals for Insaaf. Despite being a local joke, one desperate man approaches the channel with big news: local water companies are siphoning off public water and selling it back to the people they stole it from. Bhavesh investigates, infuriating Siku. The two fall out, but when Bhavesh is beaten by the local cops for investigating, Siku is forced to rejoin Insaaf to get justice for his friend.
The first two acts of the film are slow but rewarding. Bhavesh (Priyanshu Painyuli) and Siku (Harshvardhan Kapoor) have a brotherly relationship that is engaging. As young punks, its fun to watch their earnest but boneheaded attempts. They confront people who aren’t actually breaking the law, get beat up by the traffic violators they try to stop, and take karate classes to be like their comic book heroes.
As they grow, the tension between ideals and reality is realized in each character: Bhavesh the laughingstock purist and Siku the jaded conformist. The simplistic story of growing out of idealism, for good and ill, works because the characters are believable. The tragedy that ends the second act, Bhavesh’s increasingly dangerous run ins with the powers that be, feel like a capstone on a call-to-action social drama that is powerful.
…Then the film keeps going!
The final act of Bhavesh Joshi Superhero feels out of place. The grounded, realistic drama becomes a stylized action flick that cheapens the hard won gravity of the piece. Watching Siku become an actual street-level vigilante superhero stretches credulity. Bhavesh was a bit of a fool, but at least he kept up with his karate lessons! Siku worked in an office, but suddenly he’s driving a badass motorcycle and beating ass. It doesn’t add up. It also betrays the purity of Bhavesh’s quest and cheapens his message.
Know When to Stop.
The first scene of the film is a Sin City-esque bit where our Insaaf hero, in black mask and slick costume, fights the shadowy forces of corruption but is overwhelmed. It’s revealed that that is the storyboard for a comic Siku and Bhavesh’s friend is working on that helps to inspire the Insaaf TV persona they adopt. It made me think this film was going to be smart enough to contrast the simplistic views of justice comic’s protray versus real meaningful justice work. For 2/3rds of the film, I was right. It’s a shame the final bit forgets its own lessons and cashes in. You know, the same thing the film lambastes Siku for doing!