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The Hero Then and Now

Friday, September 11, 2015
By Deepa Gahlot

As the new Hero sets for release, with a barrage of publicity accompanying the newcomers—industry kids Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty— it’s time to also go back to the 1983 Subhash Ghai film that inspired this one, produced by Ghai and Salman Khan and directed by Nikhil Advani.

Subhash Ghai was once the showman who introduced new talent to the industry, he did not simply pick up some star kid and launch him or her.  Jackie Shroff and Meenakshi Seshadri were not exactly discovered by him; he had done a small role in Dev Anand’s Swami Dada and she had done a flop called Painter Babu. Neither expected their careers to take off. Ghai wanted fresh faces for his Hero but also actors who fitted the parts of a rough criminal and a young dance-loving girl. He had to have the kind of charisma that would attract a girl, and she had to have a kind of innocence that belongs to a bygone era. Ghai saw his characters in Jackie Shroff and Meenakshi Seshadri (he changed her name Shashikala) even though they were not overnight successes, and relaunched them. Acting in Hero made their careers, lifting at least Jackie from life in a South Mumbai chawl to instant stardom. Over three decades later, he is still around, though no longer an A-lister. Meenakshi has since retired and moved to the US.

With the backing of Salman Khan, Sooraj and Athiya had a relatively easy time of it; today’s marketing and PR machinery ensures that they have been kept in the news all through the making of the film—his six-pack abs shown off properly; her model-like sleek good looks displayed at every suitable occasion. How their careers proceed from here would depend on many factors—luck being the most important. Many star kids have their faces all over the media and walk ramps at prestigious shows, but their film careers have not blossomed yet, while complete outsiders like Kangana Ranaut have edged past them.At the core of Hero was the redemptive power of love—a goonda kidnaps a cop’s daughter, pretending to be a police officer assigned the job of protecting her. Radha has a happy time with Jaggu and his gang at picturesque locations and they fall in love with each other. Jaggu is inspired to defy his boss, give up the life of crime become an honest man to win Radha’s heart and the acceptance of her family.

The love story was studded with great Laxmikant-Pyarelal songs, which are still hummed. The simple charm of that film cannot be replicated, maybe the new film will add something to the old story. In any case, two star kids are waiting to be seen and judged.

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