A superhero in a movie, comic, or graphic novel is meant to be a larger-than-life figure, who has to save the world. In Vikramaditya Motwane’s Bhavesh Joshi Superhero, the masked crusader is a clumsy young man, who starts as a jokey vigilante along with his friends, targeting motorists breaking signals or men peeing on walls.
Bhavesh (Priyanshu Painyuli), Siku (Harshvardhan Kapoor) and Rajat (Ashish Verma), who, as students were inspired by an anti-corruption movement (the reference to AAP is clear), grow up into corporate nerds. Their own little Insaaf channel on YouTube, where they go around with brown paper bag masks smacking minor civic offenders, grows serious when Bhavesh uncovers a water scam (shades of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown) that starts at the municipal ward level and goes up to a corrupt corporator, cops on the take and a minister (Nishikant Kamat).
His friends try to dissuade him, but camera in hand, he embarks on a mission to expose the water mafia, with a fearless zeal, while Siku gets set to pursue his career in the US. Bhavesh’s murder goads Siku into wearing a self-made costume and zoom around on a tinkered-with bike and take on the villains. (A techie is stupid enough to walk around showing his face, not realising that there are CCTV cameras everywhere!
Motwane’s film is sincere, but too long, grim, unoriginal and self serious — it lacks the magic that allows for suspension of belief in a superhero film, the humour that lets the viewer see the futile thrashing of a green-behind-the-ears fellow, who needs constant rescuing, or even a grand scheme that makes the effort worthwhile. But there is an awful item number and a half-baked romance to add masala that the film could do without, and then an unlikely character quoting Greek mythology at length!
It’s not clear what made Harshvardhan Kapoor pick this role; he is not the titular character, and for large parts of the film he either has a bandage on his nose, or a ridiculous mask covering his face. So Priyanshu Painyuli turns out to be the scene stealer, and when he gets off the screen, the film collapses, because Kapoor can’t hold up his end of it.