Friday, August 26, 2016

A Flying Jatt: From another planet

In a tangential way, A Flying Jatt reminded me of a few portions I have seen of Malegaon Ka Superman, an ultra low-budget spoof film by Shaikh Nasir, the leading filmmaker of the town. The villain there loved “gandagi” (filth) in much the same way as the villain here thrives on pollution. The early parts of A Flying Jatt have a similar touch of the burlesque as Nasir’s video film, especially how the superhero (Tiger Shroff) himself is mocked time and again. So much so that someone even calls him a joker. He is scared of heights so he flies low. Much to his consternation, his pushy mother (Amrita Singh) keeps making him try out weird costumes, insists he should fly out of the window than leave home through the door. She is terribly critical of his landings and even uses his superpowers to clean up the cobwebs high up on the walls. It is in these jokey parts that the film was fun in a childish way and could elicit an indulgent chuckle out of me.
But soon the jokes are sidestepped for some preaching—on religion, nation and pollution. The film stands on twin planks—Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (no wonder CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani has been such a vocal supporter of the film) and Raj Karega Khalsa, the Sikh slogan of sovereignty. At one level it is an out and out propaganda vehicle for the clean India drive and at the same time an ode to the Sikhs as well. There is an entire scene explaining the significance of the turban, the valour of the Sikhs (sawa lakh se ek ladaun—the age old saying has it that one sikh can alone take on 1.25 lakh) and how the sardars have been needlessly ridiculed.
And so we have the hero Aman, who is a cut-surd (as we say in the Delhi parlance), i.e. a Sikh who has cut his hair. He is a martial arts teacher who stays with his mother in this peaceful, unpolluted enclave by a huge old tree. Businessman Malhotra (Kay Kay Menon) wants to grab the land and employs a lethal foreign gunda called Raaka (Nathan Jones) to bring the big tree down. That’s when the tree decides to transmit its supernatural powers through the Khalsa symbol to Aman and soon he takes on Raaka, Malhotra and pollution.
A clunky script, comic book flat characters and a wafer-thin plot are propped up by needless song-n-dance routines, juvenile SFX and innumerable fights and confrontations. The climactic battle in space is hilariously ridiculous, with some unnamed planet, a satellite, rocket and nuclear battery, all thrown in.
There’s a scene in the film where Aman’s mum (Amrita Singh) shows several foreign superhero DVDs to him to light up the spark in him. She then quietly goes on to sit at the sewing machine, just like a good old Hindi film mother would do, to stitch him a Khalsa warrior inspired costume for him. It’s these gawky, desi touches that actually work way better for the film than the obvious nods to the Hollywood superhero genre.
Shroff is light and lithe with dance, action and mild comedy (a highlight is a ‘Baby Doll’ hat tip to Sunny Leone) but hasn’t still been able to find a right balance when it comes to emotions—he either overacts (notice him in the background in an early confrontation scene between Singh and Menon and you know he is trying too hard when the camera isn’t even focused on him) or he is way too dour or he grins too widely and too much. Jacqueline Fernandez is the superhero’s friendly neighbourhood love interest. She has been specialising of late in doing these ditzy-cute roles, I just hope she doesn’t end up doing her masters in them. Menon walks in only to get sidelined by the monster Raaka played growlingly by Nathan Jones. Singh is the likeable, spunky, new age filmi mom.
Postscript: A Flying Jatt ends with a quote: “Everything has an alternative but not Mother Earth”. Guess who is it from? No, not Rumi, but some Remo. Remo who? The musician? Could it be Remo D’Souza? Surely a first from a director.

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