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‘Super 30’ movie review: Death by righteousness

Actor Hrithik Roshan in an image from ‘Super 30’. Photo: Twitter/@super30film

Actor Hrithik Roshan in an image from ‘Super 30’. Photo: Twitter/@super30film  

Irony dies a painful death in a seemingly superfluous scene somewhere in the middle of Super 30 when a woman falsely accuses mathematics genius Anand Kumar (Hrithik Roshan) of sexual harassment. Of course, we might be told that it did happen for real, that Kumar had to actually face such a terrible obstacle in his greater cause of educating underprivileged kids for Indian Institute of Technology entrance examinations.

But to me, the sequence felt strategically placed in what is supposedly a fictionalised account of Kumar’s life; as though in one swipe Vikas Bahl was trying to exonerate himself of all the sexual misconduct charges that were heaped on him in the height of the MeToo movement. Treated casually, like a joke, it also felt like a broad attempt to shame and silence women for bringing such issues to light.

As a critic, one is told to separate the art from the artist. It’s an issue I’d be eternally conflicted about. And what of a case so special as this one, in which the artist is planting himself in a passive aggressive way into his work? Does one remain so naive as to not notice, and ignore? Does one buy into it being a mere coincidence?

Super 30
  • Director: Vikas Bahl
  • Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Mrunal Thakur, Virendra Saxena, Pankaj Tripathi, Aditya Srivastava, Vijay Varma, Amit Sadh
  • Run time: 154 minutes
  • Storyline: A biographical film on mathematician Anand Kumar’s educational programme of training 30 underprivileged kids for IIT

There is lot else that is really amusing about Super 30. Like the blue-blooded Roshan, as Kumar, talking of bringing down the hegemony of the privileged. Harping on how king’s son won’t be the king; the one who truly deserves the crown will claim it. Rather than taking it with any modicum of seriousness I could almost hear Kangana Ranaut spouting Bollywood’s much reviled N word—i.e. nepotism--through Roshan/Kumar. That’s because the film itself remains a feel-good, facile, protracted and eminently boring look at class dynamics while barely touching upon the accompanying caste conundrums.

A salutary cause and an inspirational story about the triumph of the underdog doesn’t necessarily make an engaging film. More so when artificiality looms large - be it in the mounting, the dreadful brown-facing of the fair actors or the faux Bihari accents of the urbane fellas. Everything feels rehearsed and consciously righteous. Roshan, in particular, seems to be working too hard at evoking earnestness, ending up being more himself than the character. Lack of spontaneity means a disconnect than empathy for both him and his team of 30. The only one who seems to be improvising is Pankaj Tripathi as the education minister of Bihar but it’s sad to see him getting patronised increasingly as a comedian by the audience than one of India’s finest character actors that he is.

The awakening of Kumar’s consciousness is sudden and not well founded at all. The riddles-based Home Alone like climax is laughable than rousing. Super 30 would have worked well had it stuck to being raw and rooted or been a more whimsical take on the disenfranchised like, say a Lagaan. It prefers wallowing in its mediocrity, using some of the hoariest tropes of story-telling - the breaking of a cycle chain standing for the end of life; an invitation letter from Cambridge getting burnt, signifying the death of dreams or a storm portending upheavals in life.

The rag tag team of a Lagaan might still be alive in people’s minds but there is not a single memorable character in the entire lot of students here. In fact the staging of Sholay in English by the poor students felt uneasy and gratuitous, showcased for our privileged gaze.

There is lot of sensible talk about what’s to be scared of when there is nothing to lose? “Chhalaang Lagana” (to take a long jump) is what the film advocates. Wish it could itself also take a small leap of faith, if not more, cinematically speaking.

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Printable version | Sep 20, 2020 2:48:20 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/super-30-movie-review/article28390714.ece

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