Vikramaditya Motwane’s Bhavesh Joshi Superhero contains a large amount of rage, much of it is against the system that renders the commoners helpless. This rage in the post-internet era is the crystallization of both Amitabh Bachchan’s angry young man, and the helplessness of Anupam Kher’s BV Pradhan. Motwane pitches two young actors to shoulder this rage, Priyanshu Painyuli’s Bhavesh Joshi, and Harshvardhan Kapoor’s Sikander Khanna.
Both Sikander and Bhavesh are roommates, and have no familial obligations to boast of. Their family probably died in the climax of Rang De Basanti. But these young boys take it from there, and with Anna Hazare’s nation-sweeping agitation against corruption, they find their calling.
But even Hazare failed fighting the corrupts. Why don’t the kids give up? They take it upon themselves to fight injustice, and different forms of corruption, by donning paper masks and wringing editing software to make insaaf (justice) videos.
Though pitched to be a superhero origin story, Bhavesh Joshi is more interested in a tale of friendship, clashing ideals, and a large corrupt mechanism overpowering all. Motwane is not concerned with the world coming to an end, a fear that plagues most American superhero films, because he is driven by cold logic.
As a result of which he strips the film of superhero fantasies, and the narrative relies on a sense of idealism that turns a friendship over, and when it trips, it kills one, and changes the other.
In the pitching, Bhavesh Joshi toplines star kid Harshvardhan Kapoor as the leading man. But the titular character is not played by Anil Kapoor junior, rather a non-star kid named Priyanshu Painyuli.
Perhaps we have taken time to arrive at this, but this is a piece in praise of a new talent, ie Mr. Painyuli.
Bhavesh is the foundation on which Motwane’s rests the purpose of the film. The character is bereft of romantic or familial ties. He doesn’t let us know why he remains a low-cost cross-breed between a vigilante and an investigative journalist while his friends move on from their idealist days of being wild to make career and money. There is a lot left to be looked-for.
And yet, you care for Bhavesh because Painyuli anchors the character with such emotional integrity.
Painyuli takes us along with his fight against corruption. We breathe with difficulty when he risks his life investigating a water mafia, and we are a little heartbroken when his best friend Sikku tells him why he is a loser.
Despite wondering about the motivation behind his relentless fight against injustice, Bhavesh holds us because Painyuli breathes life into him as if he has lived in this body for as long as he can remember. We understand the loopholes in the plot, but care for this character because an actor has cared enough for him not to play it as a tourist from the exterior, like most of our Hindi film heroes.
He is so earnest in his performance that he gives the film a sense of tenacity, the footing on which Harshvardhan Kapoor can construct the journey of his Sikku. Kapoor though sincere has a long way to polish and prosper, but his character’s blank face keeps deriving the strength from Painyuli’s absent Bhavesh.
This is the kind of talent that speaks volumes about great casting astuteness, because if you populate films with such capable actors, they can sail a film through even if the foremost faces have little spark.
As credit rolls at the end of Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, you solely take away Painyuli’s face, for he is the Abhimanyu/Patroclus rolled into one that steers the wheels ahead for another hero.
A little enquiry revealed that Painyuli is a regular in the theatre scene, and he has appeared in short films, web series and films such as Rock On!! 2 and High Jack. I recently saw Painyuli in Yaman, a short film where he played a married man coming out of the closet and consequently a futile marriage. The film unfortunately held him back, his faculty never erupted because everything was so restrained that his vulnerability never became tangible. In effect, I wasn’t aware of his gift after watching the film.
But in Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, he’s been given full-blooded surroundings to breathe in and out of, and I was surprised how he made me swim along despite having an underwritten character.
As a new breed of actors is emerging each year in Bollywood to take notice, it is Priyanshu Painyuli who is going to benefit the most from Bhavesh Joshi Superhero. The film might disappoint at the ticket counter, but the talent hunters, always searching fresh blood have better wisdom.
So, I am looking forward to a near future, when Painyuli would be popping up in films to light them up. Supporting characters are surely coming, but with his sculpted face, and flowing locks, it is not impossible to imagine him as the leading man.
(The writer is a journalist, a screenwriter, and a content developer who believes in the insanity of words, in print or otherwise. He tweets @RanjibMazumder).
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