Heroes is a melodramatic film; a tear jerker and an exaggeration of the genre (melodrama), and since exaggeration of anything is bad, be it porn or melodrama, it falls on the same platter. Sameer Karnik’s third venture as a director after Kyun! Ho Gaya Na... (2004) and Nanhe Jaisalmer (2007) is a film that tries to blend two important things in the narrative. First a coming-of-age tale is layered as the foundation, supposedly on which three different stories are pasted in order to bring out the patriotisms of the characters within the film rather realization for them, and from the audience itself.
Every student in a film institute realizes the importance of his final graduation film, because it’s this film that is their window to the world. Similarly, in Heroes, two youths ( Sohail Khan and Vatsal Seth), students of a film institute decide to make a movie on ‘Why One Shouldn’t Join The Army’, a noble topic, after all, for once a war is over who really cares for a person who has given his life in the army - not the media neither the citizen of the nation. However, such an important topic within the film or its relevance outside the film never actually materializes into the journey it could have been and the realities and truth it could have shown. The film, like many other movies coming out from Bollywood, dies a noble death, because an idea is not important, it’s the execution with a well laid out form that makes the ‘ idea’ into a serious work of a ‘ craftsman or an ‘artist, and Sameer Karnik is neither.
The first sign of the film seriously moving into the melodramatic platter comes when the youth are enlisted to deliver the last letters of three martyred soldiers to their respective families. People who are to be celebrated are forgotten, and people who are to be forgotten have become demi-gods; this is clearly the first sign of flaw and irony of fate in the film. The people who are carrying the letters are exactly the same people in real life whom the ‘media’ and ‘citizen’ should stop celebrating. The film is concerned with evoking emotions and tears - the soul purpose of the film, as the three letters are intended for three families – the first based in Punjab, second in Manali, and the third in Leh. Each of the families and their respective tales are woven with ample amount of emotions rather than perhaps a more effective show of restraint.
If the director seriously was concerned about capturing the pain, grief, and the ‘realities’ of losing someone who would never return, he could have easily achieved his goal by simply switching on the camera, and the actors just feeling the suffering of such men and women who have lost their dear ones. One does not need manipulative emotions to see through the heart of such people; all one needs to be is in touch with life. Here the moment the journey of the youths start moving through the respected families, its tears, tears and tears, all the way. These tears are used to evoke false emotion in us through a form that is manipulated to say the least, an emotion, that last just those seconds till the manipulation of cinematic forms persist.
The first story about the Balkar family is the only saving grace of the film. It’s simply because of the character Kuljeet (Preity Zinta, who in the last one or two years has shifted from doing mindless acting roles to actually bringing a weightage behind the character she portrays), that the first story becomes watchable and moving. Her acting must be commended in the film, as it’s a peek-a-boo into the ‘actor’ that is slowly coming out in her, and her gesture of holding and crying with her husband’s uniform is the only place in the film where the the film is genuinely poignant. However, there is no change in the way Salman Khan (Balkar Singh) talks or walks irrespective of the fact what character or setting he is put in thus neutralizing her fine effort.
Each journey is supposed to help our two would-be filmmakers into realizing things they could never have done in their own lives and if Sameer Karnik expected that the audience would get more involved heas the story goes along, he couldn't be more wrong as hereafter it’s a serious downslide into the rabbit hole. The second story of Dhannjay Shergill (Bobby Deol) is most outrageous in the film, the reason being the director cares more about representing Sunny Deol’s (Vikram Shergill) mannerisms much like Balkar Singh (Salman Khan) in the first story rather than actually expanding and building the blocks of emotions and grief. Further, the story feels straight out of the 1980s rather than a todays film, which is supposed to be contemplative.
The final leg of our filmmakers journey into the home of Sahil Naqvi (Dino Morea) and his father Mithun (Dr Naqvi) reminds one not of this movie, but the honest portrayal and representation of resentment between the father character played by Mithun in Kaalpurush (Dir: Buddadeb Dasgupta) and his son (Rahul Bose). Therein lies the difference between showing and highlighting memories, nostalgia and bitterness. To make things worse, Mithun is nowhere near his best and Dino Morea is best forgotten.
Every film which evokes emotion is not a great film. Every movie which ‘attempts’ something different is not a great film, and every film which has flashes of something ‘new’ does not reach the pedestal of greatness. Samir Karnik as a director does not exist. His mise-en-scene is non-existent. The cinematography of Binod Pradhan is beautiful, though not a great effort and the inclusion of pointless songs and routine structures does not make this into a life changing road journey. And by the time the film ends it becomes hard to digest and take in and the patriotism it evokes dies immediately once the projector stops beaming at 24 fps second and the movie hall slowly fades in to brightness.