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The Hero

AFTER HIS much talked about "Gadar", Anil Sharma plays it safe. Too safe, as it turns out. After the provocative "Gadar", he tries to strike a balance here.

Hence we have a Muslim soldier in the Army of three taking on Pakistan, now sneaking away the secrets of a nuclear bomb to Kashmir militants and a Muslim couple bringing up a Hindu girl orphaned in a militant strike. Not to forget the long drawn out sequences on the meaning of Jehad, the true believer and the like. But in doing so, Sharma forgets that "The Hero" is not another harangue against Pakistan. It is supposed to be "the love story of a spy".

By the time, he comes back to the original storyline, too many bombs would have burst, and the dialogue catering to the frontbenchers pedalled as pulp patriotism. And too many people's patience tested. If "Gadar" was almost xenophobic in its jingoism, "The Hero" has no such problems. Its patriotism is simply Pakistan-bashing. Apparently it is not a sentiment, which comes to the fore in pacific times.

The film starts off with Sunny Deol in an ugly disguise of Chakarvarty taming the ISI head, like one would swat a fly. Soon, he becomes a Major posted in Sopore, predictably meets a girl — perky Preity Zinta as Reshma — and takes a message of humanity to local residents.

Sharma, however, keeps some footage for his hero to show off his muscles. Later, the fight extends to Canada where the enemy is assembling the wherewithal to manufacture a nuclear bomb. In steps Priyanka as the new lady love, the first one being conveniently considered dead in a Pakistan strike. But she is alive, and in Canada! And we have a regulation love triangle with the `Hate Pakistan' angle thrown in.

It is a three-hour-long film with at least an hour too many. Its editing is poor, its script shoddy, its pace too slow to challenge a snail. Beyond one song, Uttam Singh, who did such a fine job in "Gadar", disappoints. As does Sharma, who seems just keen to cash in on the "Gadar" fever. If he actually made this film for Rs 65 crores, he has got great penchant for wasting money or using a hundred where a penny can do.

As for Sunny, well he is more restrained than ever before. But when he growls, he growls. And scared cinemagoers move towards the exit, even if Priyanka looks graceful and glamorous in her debut and Amrish Puri almost a Pakistani as an ISI chief.

"The Hero" may not be the villain of the piece but it is no hero material. Far from it. The film may just draw in the crowds in the first few days but it is unlikely to deliver Bollywood from its gloomy phase. In short, "The Hero" fails to deliver.

ZIYA US SALAM

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