Bhavesh Joshi and the Conundrum of Superhero films in Bollywood.

This week, John Abraham’s ‘ Satyameva Jayate’ was released on 15th August. Amidst the humongous patriotic fervour that is usually associated with the day, people went to see the film. Despite being cringeworthy, it is still raking moolah at the box office. Some months ago, ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’ had released. The common factor between the two films is the core subject matter. They both talk about corruption that has engulfed the society. In both films, a common man turns vigilante to tackle the enemy. While ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’ had a tighter script, good performances yet no taker, from what is heard, ‘Satyameva Jayate’ is running to packed houses, despite being tacky, over the top and abysmal. 

Which brings us to the burning question of the hour, is the Indian audience ready for a superhero? Are they ready for a subject matter that highlights the common man’s problem and a masked vigilante taking the system head on?

The answer is a resounding no.

The reasons are quite simple. None of the past films that were based upon the concept of a superhero has been made well. Take SRK’s ‘Ra.one’ for that instance. Despite budget and the presence of huge stars, the film tanked. The film had a lousy and childish script. Remo DeSouza’s ‘A Flying Jatt’ was meant for children, but even children were missing from the theatre. Let’s not even bring ‘Krrish’ into the discussion, which is an aberration in filmmaking. Even in the past, there have been films like ‘Shiva Ka Insaaf’, ‘Toofan’ which had the masked vigilante saving the poor and the meek, from the clutches of the oppressor.

While the past films failed miserably, there wasn’t much enthusiasm in this genre, until ‘Iron Man’ came and changed the game. Before ‘Iron Man’, there were plenty of movies on superheroes but none of them impacted the way the Marvel production did. The reason? The star and the timeline. If you remember, ‘Iron Man’ had the opening sequence, set in the contemporary times, where Tony Stark was in Afghanistan to showcase his Jericho missiles. Any story set on the contemporary storylines is always relatable to the audience because they understand the timeline. And having a bankable star. usually negates the risk, if not always. Once people started taking notice of the films, then there were no looking back.

But it wasn’t always hunky dory. At times, Marvel storylines strayed down the path, some movies weren’t as successful as the others. The original ‘Avengers’ still has more takers than ‘Age of Ultron’, in terms of storytelling. So it’s really important to know your audience and their tastes, which keeps varying. In the past, many filmmakers have tried and left midway, while trying to make a movie in the superhero genre. Anurag Kashyap worked with the ‘Doga’ character for many years and eventually left it, citing the project not being viable in contemporary times, in terms of budget and technology constraints. Lately, director Ayan Mukherji is working with Ranbir Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan for his ambitious superhero trilogy ‘Brahmastra’. Let’s hope this does well.

Coming back to ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’, it had the right kind of story to have a superhero’s beginning. Let me clarify that a superhero doesn’t mean someone with superpowers. It is someone who does the dirty job of keeping the streets clean of the scums. ‘Bhavesh Joshi’ has the protagonist take up the mantle of a vigilante after he sees his friend getting killed while fighting against corrupt forces. The film has the protagonist working on his skills, working on his fighting style, before he goes all out on the enemy, which constitutes credibility about the character. The main premise of the film was the stealing of water from the common people and selling it back to them, after creating a faux scare. The story is very relevant in today’s times. But then why did it fail to get attention? Perhaps the audience didn’t like the protagonist. Perhaps they didn’t feel he was committed enough. Perhaps the story didn’t appeal, even if it has fact written all over it. Who knows? After all, when you see another film, made on similar subject getting the audience all thrilled with its over the top buffoonery, in the name of filmmaking, you really start to question yourself. 

Anyway, ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’ will live its life through word of mouth and will find its place in the hall of fame of those films, which could’ve become a game changer. In time, the audience will forget films like ‘Satyameva Jayate’ but will always remember gems like ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’ which dared to break the mould and rise above mediocrity. 

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