It's raining superheroes on Bollywood Boulevard

Jun 12, 2006 Priyanka Khanna

New Delhi, June 11 (IANS) A masked superhero who saves the world amidst dancing and singing like a pro, a gifted evil-basher who can make metal bend and a capped superman are all waiting in the wings to lay siege on the Indian marquees.

Starting Friday, these superheroes in varied hues will invade the senses of Hindi-film aficionados. The first will be "Alag", to be followed quickly with "Krrish", the most awaited of them all. The last but not the least will be Hollywood's "Superman Returns" that has been dubbed in three Indian languages.

While relative newcomer Akshay Kapoor will be seen as Tejas Rastogi who emits a frequency that affects metal and electronic items in "Alag", the title for Bollywood's first indigenous Superman-style superhero will go to Hrithik Roshan in "Krrish".

"Krrish" can leap from skyscraper to skyscraper sans a web or a cape and while battling evil he can break into impeccable song and dance routines. "Krrish" is a sequel, a rarity in Bollywood, to the 2003 blockbuster "Koi... Mil Gaya" that was considered Hindi cinema's first major science fiction film.

"Koi...Mil Gaya" had given Bollywood an E.T.-like alien called Jadoo who befriended a mentally challenged Rohit (Hrithik) and transformed him into a hero who beats bad boys, gets the girl and makes his mother (Rekha) very happy.

"Krrish" is the story of Rohit's son, Krishna, who possesses superpowers. Krishna is unaware of his abilities till he saves the life of a television reporter essayed by Priyanka Chopra.

Love blossoms between the two and he follows her to Singapore, where he encounters a psychotic inventor who murdered his parents and is now plotting to create a machine that can see the future.

Krishna becomes Krrish. A leather-suit and a mask replace the lungi or loincloth. Krrish manages to save the world and gets the girl.

Bollywood's A-list director Rakesh Roshan is hoping to be third time lucky in directing Hrithik. The father-son duo had struck gold in 2000 with "Kaho Na Pyaar Hai" that had catapulted Hrithik into unprecedented superstardom. A string of flops later, Rakesh had resurrected Hrithik's career in "Koi... Mil Gaya".

Hitherto, Indians have known only a couple of homegrown superheroes like the animated "Hanuman", the TV series "Shaktimaan" or the comic strip "Chacha Chaudhary". There is hardly any precedent for a Western-style superhero, though Indian mythology is brimming with spectacularly heroic men and women.

For Hindi films, the hero is nothing short of a superhero who can sing, dance and play musical instruments as he single-handedly beats up 50 men. But with urbane city dwellers demanding at least a modicum of realism, Hindi films are repackaging traditional heroes as superheroes.

"Our actors are seen doing heroic acts. But the execution is not good enough to take the stunt to that level of conviction," Rakesh Roshan told a daily. "What makes superheroes is the execution to make their feats look convincing and believable," he added.

In addition, the superheroes like those of "Alag" and "Krrish" go a step ahead of conventional heroes by mitigating the pain of people and animals alike. Apparently, Krrish is depicted as saving animals and Tejas cares for strangers, birds and animals.

But pleasing Indian audiences that have made "Spider-Man" and "Spider-Man 2" the second and third highest grosser after "Titanic" is not going to be easy.

Roshan has tried to address these concerns by roping in Hong Kong-based action choreographer Tony Ching, acclaimed for his work in "House of Flying Daggers" and "Hero", for "Krrish".

Ching's paycheck was at par with that of India's biggest star though reports say he had slashed his fee to fit Bollywood's comparatively smaller budgets. To look the part, Hrithik had trained to put on 15 pounds of muscles, learnt how to wield sticks and swords and adopt the correct postures for the harnesses in Hong Kong.

To perfect the visual effects, Roshan imported two experts from Hollywood, Marc Kolbe and Craig A. Mumma, who worked on "Godzilla" and "Independence Day" (and also on "Koi... Mil Gaya"). The orchestration for the film's background score was done in Prague.

All of which has pushed the budget up to more than Rs.450 million (approximately $10 million). That figure is considered huge in Bollywood, but is small by Hollywood standards.

Warner Brothers movie "Superman Returns", which is set to open a week after "Krrish" (in India, too), cost more than $200 million.

"In Hollywood, 'Superman' was a $300-million film, while we make films in about $10 million. Personally, I have done all I could do, maintaining international standards," Roshan was quoted as saying. He has plans for comic books and an animation film depending on the box-office verdict on "Krrish".

"Krrish" will hit the screens on June 23, avoiding a clash with Hollywood's "Superman Returns" which is scheduled to release on June 30 in all four versions - original (English) and dubbed Hindi, Tamil and Telugu.

The other distinct advantage for "Krrish" will be its singing and dancing Krishna and a strong maternal angle, a must for Bollywood potboilers.

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