Beneath the Mask, Bhavesh Joshi Superhero Is a Buddy Film at Heart
Beneath the mask, ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’ is also a heart-tugging buddy film.
The Friday that went by was a rare one - not just a clash of the Kapoor siblings - Sonam and Harshvardhan - it was also a clash of genres. Or was it? The former’s film Veere Di Wedding is ‘not a chick flick’ and the latter’s, a vigilante drama. But if you peel the layers, Bhavesh Joshi Superhero is also at heart a buddy film - not the frothy ZNMD (Zindagi Na Milegi Doobara) brand of friendship but an unwavering, messy and transformative bond.
Male friendships can be as complex as female friendships. The central conflict in the film is the rift between the friends that propels the protagonist into action. In fact, the film is not even named after the protagonist, Harshvardhan Kapoor (Sikku), but after his friend, Bhavesh Joshi played earnestly by Priyanshu Painyuli. It’s this friendship that works as the beating heart of the film, lending the vigilante drama, emotional heft.
The film begins with three friends railing against the system. It’s been a while since we have seen buddy conversations in a mainstream film pirouetting around the world we live in. Bhavesh Joshi Superhero does not shy away from politics. The anti-national witch-hunt, the idea of a ‘Swaccha Bhaymukt Bharat’, social media activism and posturing also find their way into the scheme of things. These unkempt Veeres eating breakfast in the modest Satkar restaurant in Mumbai and engaging in banter devoid of trappings of the ‘bro culture’ give the friendship a lived-in feel.
These buddies don’t need a trip to an exotic place to bond. Spurred by the anti-corruption zeitgeist in 2011 (Jan Lokpal Andolan), the naive optimism of this group of friends leads them to feel a sense of triumph in landing in prison over a protest. Egged on by the aspiring graphic novelist friend’s fictional vigilante, Bhavesh and Sikander turn into neighbourhood sentinels. In their world, breaking the friend’s nose is permissible but breaking a signal is like sacrilege.
Armed with a camera, they start stopping people breaking the law. Bound by their tenuous hope, they start Insaaf TV, reminding you of all the times you may have been dewy-eyed and kickstarted innocent neighbourhood initiatives with your friends, that eventually fizzled out.
Later the change of political regime leads to stifling of dissenting voices and a loss of mojo for the jaded Sikandar, who goes on to become a coder. But Bhavesh continues his crusade.
It is their messy friendship that blooms with a shared youthful idealism, and stirs a revolution of sorts - both inward and outward. Popular culture dwells on friendships that stay the same over the years but there’s something to be said about friendships that evolve. Friendships are definitely about road trips, shooting the breeze and bouts of gossip but they can also challenge you, change your world view and yes, inspire activism. Many movements have seen friendships shape sensibilities and fuel activism. In this case, it’s a friend who helps fashion a superhero.
In a turn of events, Sikku takes on the identity of his friend to turn into a masked vigilante. But he’s not the invincible superhero import from the DC or the Marvel world. He’s trying to make good on their shared quest. The dialogue in Deadpool 2 - ‘Kids give us a chance to be better people,’ may as well be true of friendships too. The third wheel, Rajat (Ashish Verma), who harbours lofty writing aspirations but is forced to write listicles like - 21 Ways To Be Ranveer Singh - also finds a sense of purpose, galvanised by the arc of Sikku and Bhavesh. (We hope to see more of him in the franchise).
They say ‘friends help you move but real friends help you move bodies’. We could go a step further and say real friends could just help you start movements.
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