Krrish, bang, wallop: make way for Bollywood's first superhero
The world may be awaiting the return of Superman, but another superhero is muscling in. He's gifted with incredible strength, speed and intelligence. Wearing a mask to protect his identity, he leaps between skyscrapers and battles a megalomaniacal scientist who wants to unleash destruction on the world. Sound familiar? Well, up to a point. After all, this new kid on the block can also break into a song and dance.
Meet Bollywood's first superhero: Krrish.
The Indian film industry is best known for making musical love stories and comedies. Until now, no one has tackled the superhero genre. 'I think it was mainly a question of budget,' says Krrish director and producer Rakesh Roshan. Krrish cost US$10 million - peanuts compared with the production budget for Superman Returns of more than US$200 million, but high for Bollywood.
While in Singapore two weeks ago for the world premiere of their film, the director and his son, Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan, were quick to point out that their hero is different from archetypal American superheroes.
'Of course, there are bound to be some similarities,' says Rakesh Roshan. 'They all have super-powers, but Superman and Spider-Man were born out of well-established comic strips, whereas we had to conceive our hero from scratch. More importantly, our hero is Indian.'
Krrish was devised as a sequel to the 2003 Hindi blockbuster Koi ... Mil Gaya (I Found Someone) in which an ET-like alien transformed a myopic, good-hearted youth called Rohit (played by Hrithik Roshan) into a hero with superpowers. It's the story of Rohit's son, Krishna, who has inherited his father's abilities.
After growing up in a village without realising his powers, he falls in love with a foreigner (Priyanka Chopra) and follows her home. There, he discovers his powers, dons a mask, saves lives and becomes famous as an anonymous hero.
Hrithik Roshan says the film is essentially a love story in which the central character gradually acquires powers to help save the world. 'Krrish is an attempt to lay the foundation of the superhero concept in Bollywood,' he says. 'The fact that this genre didn't exist in our cinema until now made it even more important for us to make sure the hero was convincingly portrayed and there was space for him to grow.'
The director had the idea for the film while watching The Lord of the Rings trilogy. 'I thought, 'Why can't I make the same?'' Rakesh Roshan says. 'I had made the base in the first film, and I thought, 'Why not extend the story?' So, in this film we're slowly building this up. It's more of the coming of age of a superhero. I'm laying the foundation. Maybe if this film is a success, I can make a sequel where he would only do superhero deeds.'
Hong Kong-based action choreographer Tony Ching Siu-tung, who worked on House of Flying Daggers, Kill Bill and Hero, trained Hrithik Roshan for more than a month in Hong Kong so he could do all his own stunts. Two experts from Hollywood, Marc Kolbe and Craig Mumma (Godzilla and Independence Day) worked on the visual effects.
'I wanted to give Krrish a particular style,' says Hrithik Roshan. 'The physical body language is what makes a superhero - his strength, his identification. Superman has his own way of flying, Spider-Man his own way of jumping. I wanted to develop a particular style for Krrish, which is why I had to do all the stunts on my own.'
Playing an integral part in the film is Singapore, a location Rakesh Roshan chose after being approached by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) in 2004 and enticed by the S$10 million ($48 million) Film in Singapore scheme, which gives financial incentives to filmmakers to shoot locally. He refuses to reveal how much money he got from the STB.
'I knew about half of the film would have to take place in a foreign land,' the director says. 'I needed a modern city with high skyscrapers and wide open space, too. When the tourism officials invited me to film here, it was sheer coincidence. It's a decision that has paid off handsomely. It was a breeze filming in Singapore.'
Shooting took 10 months last year, including 60 days in Singapore. Rakesh Roshan says STB officials pulled out all the stops to make filming easier. 'They closed one of the busiest roads for three weekends in a
row so we could film some action sequences that required a 76-metre-high crane. We were also able to use a helicopter.'
With typical Bollywood song-and-dance scenes shot in several locations, the Singaporean authorities say they hope the film will do wonders for the local tourism industry. The hero and his love interest are seen in nearly every tourism attraction in the island state.