Ghai’s Hero released in 1983 and launched the careers of Jackie Shroff and Meenakshi Seshadri. It was a huge hit then, though by today’s standards it’s a difficult watch. It’s easy to make fun of a film which ends with a scene that has Shroff fighting in a pink motorcycle helmet after saving Seshadri’s honour. But have things improved for our commercial film-making in 32 years? Nikhil Advani’s Hero—a remake produced by Ghai and Salman Khan—suggests that we still can’t string together a half-decent action scene. We’re still stuck with fathers slapping their daughters, and the recipients of those slaps forgiving the perpetrators too easily. And we still have young lovers in the heat of passion kissing each other on the eyelids (I counted four of those).

Apart from a few tweaks, the story of Advani’s Hero is much the same as the earlier film. Sooraj (Sooraj Pancholi) is a hoodlum with a heart—he beats up people for a living but is generous with the money he’s paid for doing that. He meets Radha (Athiya Shetty) at a club, and does what male leads in Bollywood are supposed to: dance with her, teach her a small lesson in manners and beat up her ex. They part ways, but are thrown together when he’s sent to kidnap the inspector general’s daughter, who turns out to be Radha.

Though Sooraj initially convinces Radha that he’s a policeman who has spirited her away because there’s a threat to her life, she eventually finds out what he does. But they’re in love, so she decides to stick with him. However, her father (Tigmanshu Dhulia) is understandably opposed to their union. So Sooraj decides to turn himself in, just as his criminal mentor and father figure Pasha (played by Sooraj’s real-life father, Aditya Pancholi) escapes the police’s clutches. Things get really weird thereafter. Sooraj goes to prison, Radha to Paris. She invents a fiancé at random to appease her father; that man turns out to be another gangster. Pasha employs Radha’s fiancé to kill Sooraj, who has been released from jail and has opened a gym, and so on.

It’s unlikely anyone in this day and age could have made a totally convincing film with material like this, but Hero is dragged down further by pedestrian writing, unremarkable music and patchy direction. Its two leads are second-generation Bollywood—Athiya is Suniel Shetty’s daughter—and neither make much of a case for star kids being awarded debut vehicles. Sooraj Pancholi is earnest but hardly commanding. He’s a good dancer, is soulful and has a fairly handy way with dialogue, but you still wouldn’t pick him out in a crowd. Athiya Shetty rarely seems at ease on screen; Advani should have noticed that she gets squeaky and that she has evident trouble with many of her lines (to be fair, she has to say rubbish like “dork face muppet").

Ghai may no longer be relevant to today’s film-making scene, but there was one thing he was undeniably good at—spotting talent in young actors and taking a chance on them. It’s what made the original Hero and so many of his other films exciting for audiences at the time. Modern-day Bollywood, packed to the gills with star sons and daughters, may have to adopt some of his pioneer spirit if it wants a fresh set of idols to replace the Khans.

Hero released in theatres on Friday.

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