Monday 12 March 2007

Hero Hiralal (1988)

In the opening montage, a cartoon heart pump-pumps against a background of stars. The heart morphs into a red handkerchief which ties itself around squishy yellow letters proclaiming the title of the film: HERO HIRALAL. The handkerchief is Hero's trademark fashion statement and a not-so-subtle symbol of his character.

You want good flick? I give you good flick, yaar!

Yes, Hero literally wears his heart on his sleeve. He also snaps it in villain's faces, hears voices, and pens love letters to his movie crush using his blood as ink. A few short of a full deck? No comment. Apparently having learned his social skills from the School of Swashbuckle (imagine lots of laughing while jumping off things), Hero Hiralal is a fragile, lunatic puppy dog with an obsessional devotion to Bollywood. This outrageous movie follows his exploits as he attempts, for the first time, to get a girlfriend. In the meantime, Bollywood, India, and - dare I say - Naseeruddin himself engage in many a self-conscious satire.

Lip-synching in the rain.

On the surface, we get some cringe-worthy (in the bad way) 1980s cheese as well as some genuinely funny moments. Scratch a little, and you have a very strange, sad story. Proof by example: There's a moment when Hero and his crush are sitting in a boat. As the sun glitters on the waters of the river Musi, Hero confesses (well, drops the bomb) that his parents were killed in riots when he was child.

Hero: I ran and hid in a movie hall. So I was saved. That was the first time I had seen a movie screen. From that day til now, I love the screen.

Hero is by now an expert at extreme escapism, and it is only with a cringe (in a good way) that we watch him gallavant after an up-and-coming starlet, Rupa. Don't do it, Hero! You're doomed! There's a reason you've never had a girlfriend! In fact, there are many, many reasons!

Reasons #1, #34, and #107 can be identified in this picture.

'Holy shit' is right.

Indeed any woman with half a brain would have cut her ties with Hero as soon as he threatened to drown himself for love, but Rupa is, despite her glittering good intentions and pouty innocence, pretty crap at handling the situation. And so watch as Hero crosses the subcontinent in a rickshaw, chasing Rupa back to her Bombay movie set where (dum duuum) all is not well. When they reunite, Rupa decides that the most tactful way to reject Hero would be on a stage somewhere, preferably under a spotlight and with microphones attached. Is anyone shocked? Hero apparently is. Dejected, he decides that the only way he can cope with the situation is by committing suicide. Rupa's manager decides that the only way to rectify the situation is by selling tickets to the event. The climactic question is: will Hero kill himself on TV or just do it quietly in his room?

Shades of Warhol!

As is no doubt clear by now, the movie is very bizarre. It combines scenes of painful slapstick, groan-worthy cliche, and OHMYGODfashion with brief sparks of tragicomedy and satirical chutzpah. Is Hero the Cyrano de Hyderabad? It's happily ever after... or is it? My favorite moments were those teasing fellow Bollywoodiana: the stuntman falls several hundred feet into the bushes and the film star appears a second later in front of the camera, "Ha ha!" When the policeman in Bombay refuses a character's bribe, the character goes, "What is this man doing in India?"

Visit Hyderabad Today!

OK, this scene was actually fascinating. Help, my boyfriend's stuck in an oversized bottle!

For the Shah-fro, this is about as far from Masoom as you can get. In fact, if Masoom was Earth, Hero Hiralal would be Geidi Prime. If Monsoon Wedding was Leonardo da Vinci, Hero Hiralal would be... Hero Hiralal.

That said, we at the PPCC do identify with Hero very much, and so we forgive him his cheese. Just like Hero, we too can't swim very well. The Aficionada is secretly convinced she has an overbite much like Hero's. And if we could choose our mode of transportation, a pimped out rickshaw would most definitely be our top choice.


Stream the soundtrack.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is an awesome commentary on the escapism inherent in Bollywood. Nagarajuna once rightly remarked that those who watch the movies have something broken inside of them. Or as Hero Hiralal himself said, "Is it my fault that films are more beautiful than reality" ;0