Hero: Not exactly the regular Superhero film

Whenever a superhero film is announced in India, we’re usually skeptical. The concern isn’t without reason, given that it isn’t a genre that’s been aced on a consistent basis. There has been a stereotypical approach to scripting of such films, almost as if the writers want to stick to a certain formula, bringing on visual fatigue. So, when Siva Karthikeyan, Tamil cinema’s rising star announced a superhero film, it evoked mixed reactions.

During his childhood, Sakthi (Siva Karthikeyan) was a huge fan of the TV series Shaktiman and saw himself as a superhero. When all other kids had the typical ambitions of being a doctor, engineer or a pilot, Sakthi’s aim was to be a Shaktiman. Cut to the present and he is an education broker whose modus operandi is to arrange seats in schools or colleges on a commission basis. He also does a business of providing fake certificates for students in his locality.

A chance interaction with Meera (Kalyani) makes Sakthi rethink his priorities. Murthy (Arjun) is a teacher who runs an unorthodox school for the poor-but-gifted students who have been degraded by society. His aim is to uplift these supremely-talented students so that they can come up in life. The obstacle comes in the form of Mahadev (Abhay Deol), a kingmaker with interests in the education sector. What happens when the paths of Sakthi, Murthy and Mahadev intersect?

Unlike the pre-release hype, Hero isn’t a full-fledged superhero flick. So, don’t expect those high-octane action sequences, chases with the protagonist showing off his special powers. Director P S Mithran takes up the ever-relevant theme of India’s flawed education system as a core plot and marries it with the superhero concept. There is a mask that should give you memories of some films of the genre but its use is limited to a few sequences only. To be specific, the superhero angle is more of a crutch to the core plot.

Mithran’s directorial debut Irumbu Thirai had won accolades for its taut scripting, brisk narration, thrills and above all, the meticulous research. Hero ticks all the boxes as Mithran (who has co-written the script with three others) and as a result, what is an innovative idea on paper is converted into a crisp script which is fresh and engaging.

Siva Karthikeyan does a good job, although his voice modulation for the drama sequences is still a work-in-progress. Abhay Deol in his Kollywood debut is razor sharp as the antagonist and despite his limited screen time, creates an impact. Arjun is also in his elements and puts in a rousing performance in what is a meaty character. To Mithran’s credit, his writing team has given ample scope to all the three lead characters to shine. Ace director Priyadarshan and former actor Lissy’s daughter Kalyani, in her Tamil debut, does her part with grace.

The film doesn’t get everything right though and that’s largely due to the climax portions. While Mithran seems to be in control of the proceedings for the major part, the final 10-15 minutes do seem a bit melodramatic. But Mithran can be forgiven for that, considering the amount of freshness that he has managed to infuse into a storyline that sends out a powerful message.

We’ve had some iconic films that have spoken about the education system like Aamir Khan-starrers Three Idiots and Taare Zameen Par. Here Hero takes the education theme and marries it with the superhero concept quite neatly. Unless you expected a full-on superhero film, you are unlikely to be disappointed.

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