Saturday, 23 November 2013

I, Me and Movies

In recent times, I have engaged in robust debates with friends on the merits and demerits of movies that I reviewed on my blog, and I have now realised a few things:

- There are no permanent allies or permanent foes where movie tastes are concerned
- It takes all kinds, and there's no accounting for taste
- It's not just other people who are exasperatingly unpredictable in their tastes; I'm myself high-brow in some situations and quite low-brow in others

There are those critics among my friends who resemble The Real Princess of Hans Christian Andersen's fable, because the tiniest flaw in a movie, like a pea beneath the bottommost mattress, can ruin the entire experience for them. Fortunately for me, I think I must come from stolid peasant stock, because those imperfections have to be pretty major to begin to affect my enjoyment. (At times, when these friends rip apart movies that I enjoy, I start to feel like a tasteless boor with very low standards. But then again, I have strong likes and dislikes of my own, so I guess I'm not entirely undiscriminating.) 

There are other friends who have for some unfathomable reason decided that I am a "sophisticated" critic who must have very highly evolved tastes, and who therefore expect me to like only award-winning, "art" movies. In truth, to quote an old friend of mine, I generally find such movies to be "avoid-winning" and I never watch them if I can help it. [I take heart from a report about that intellectual giant Raghuram Rajan, currently the governor of the Reserve Bank of India (and formerly my classmate), who says he enjoys physical sports but not chess!]

I view movies as entertainment, pure and simple. They represent an escapist paradise from the tedium, if not the stress, of everyday day. I'm not a "serious" movie-goer or connoisseur of any sort. Yet I myself find my exact taste in movies very hard to pin down.

Looking over the list of movies I like and don't like, I can begin to understand my criteria.

I tend to like "low stress" movies, humour (clean as well as naughty, but not gross), light romance, catchy music, some action, moderate suspense, glamourised violence, interesting villains (if they must exist at all), science fiction and superheroes.

An interesting premise, a reasonably well-told story and at least the main characters fairly well defined, help a lot. I'm a lot more forgiving than The Real Princess if these aren't quite stellar.

I tend not to like horror, gross-out humour, high emotion/melodrama, high-tension suspense, realistic violence, tales of suffering, struggle and sacrifice, tragic romance, tragedy in general, depictions of poverty, gritty crime, and threats to the well-being of vulnerable women, children and animals. (Does that cover everything?)

You see, I'm trying to escape from the mild unpleasantnesses of the real world for a couple of hours. Do I really need to inflict myself with intense unpleasantness, however vicarious?

A related piece of criticism that I hear about movies that I like is that they are "not realistic". On the contrary, I believe that is the very reason for my enjoyment! If I craved realism that much, I could just open the pages of the daily news or walk down the street and talk to real people. I certainly don't want to buy a ticket to the cinema and find I've paid for the same reality on the screen! Among Indians of my generation, such movies find their zenith (nadir?) in Adoor Gopalakrishnan's much-awarded execration, Elippathayam, in which a character could spend ten minutes examining his face in the mirror, and the audience gets to share every one of those excruciating ten minutes with him. So much for realism in the movies. My arthouse connoisseur friends can have it all.

Then there are some actors I dislike, so I can never warm to their movies. And if I sense movie-makers are pushing political or social messages that I disagree with, there goes their movie in my eyes (Hello, Jon Favreau of Iron Man, the biggest issue with the war in Afghanistan is not that American weapons are being used against American soldiers, although the ever-patriotic home audience would certainly like to be told so! Hello, Karan Johar of that otherwise beautiful movie KANK, there's no such thing as one single "soul mate" out there whom you must marry on pain of living a loveless life!) I've never gone back to see the Iron Man sequels 2 and 3, and Johar remains, yet unforgiven, in the penalty corner of my mind.

I like a fair bit of fantasy and larger-than-life characters and situations. I like mock-scary movies rather than really scary ones, the ones that give you thrills with comfort, like when a child watches a scary movie sitting on the lap of a reassuring adult. An extra scoop of thrills, and hold the realism! In the context of Bollywood, I like seeing beautiful people performing impossible stunts, singing catchy songs and making awful jokes.

I'm always game for a light "chick flick" in which the worst possible tragedy is a couple splitting up, not the tissue-box variety like Steel Magnolias in which people suffer and die. I like all the movies based on Jane Austen's novels.

And did I mention that I like science-fiction and superhero movies?

However, in spite of the detailed list of my likes and dislikes above, I've often found myself liking or disliking movies that broke these rules.

For example, though I dislike realistic violence and gore, I have been quite happy watching movies about groups of grown men whom I care nothing about taking up arms and slaughtering each other to the accompaniment of stunts and explosions. A whole series of war movies in my collection bears testimony to this. I guess not having any feeling of attachment or identification with the characters makes them expendable in my eyes. Their sufferings aren't real enough for me to empathise with.

I also enjoyed Under Siege, Broken Arrow and Die Hard (especially Die Hard 2). Again, since I had developed no emotional connection with any of the characters, I didn't mind what happened to them, and the most suspenseful situations didn't affect me personally.

In that context, although I abhor scenes of suffering, blood and gore, I confess I love it when villains die shockingly horrible deaths. The treacherous Major Grant being sucked into a jet engine in Die Hard 2 remains one of my favourite villain deaths. In the Bollywood spy thriller Agent Vinod, the villainy of the chillingly unstoppable "colonel" is finally ended by a helicopter's tail rotor. A simple bullet will never do! If I have to put up with scenes of realistic violence and convincing portrayals of innocent people suffering because of a particularly nasty villain, I insist that that villain meet a suitably horrific fate before the movie ends. The Bollywood movie Dabangg, which I sat through with great difficulty, did satisfy me at the end. The villain, who (among other cruelties) caused the hero's asthmatic mother to suffocate to death by denying her her inhaler, gets a tractor's exhaust pipe stuffed into his mouth by the hero, while his brother presses the accelerator. That's a more cheering ending for me than a happy couple getting married. Real-world villains get away with their crimes depressingly often, so I savour every instance of retribution I can find, whether real or imaginary.

Some realistic yet violent movies are still interesting. Bollywood's Madras Café was fascinating to me because I have closely followed the Sri Lankan civil war for as long as it has raged (about thirty years).

The interplay of science fiction (which I like) and horror/heavy suspense (which I dislike), produces interesting and unpredictable results. I disliked Alien, but I didn't mind either Predator or Alien vs Predator. I guess the difference was that Alien had a vulnerable female protagonist whose safety affected me personally, whereas Predator had a commando who could presumably take care of himself, and AVP distanced the characters from me, emotionally speaking.

Also within the Science Fiction/thriller genre, I liked Terminator 2 and the entire Jurassic Park series (where I knew from the start that nothing would happen to the main characters), as well as some putatively B grade movies like Dark Waters (where I didn't care).

I disliked Jaws because of the suspense, the loud, scary music, and the photography that made me feel I was myself in the water and in imminent danger. Yet sharks in general hold a fascination for me, so I quite liked the science fiction thriller Deep Blue Sea, with its mako sharks genetically engineered to be "bigger, faster, smarter and meaner". It also helped that I was watching it at home with the volume turned down. (I'm sure Sharknado is an awful movie, but the premise is so outlandishly fascinating I don't think I can keep from watching it!)

Like Sharknado (which I haven't yet seen) and Snakes on a Plane (which I have), there are some movies I cannot resist watching because of their intriguing basic premise, even though I know in advance that they will be awful. Cowboys and Aliens just had to be seen. Likewise, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

On the other hand, there are some critically acclaimed movies I can't handle. The Godfather was very disturbing, especially in its signature scenes like the man waking up in bed with his favourite horse's head beside him, and the man being garotted to death in a car and breaking the windshield in his death throes. Mad Max still gives me nightmares, with that very disturbing disembodied hand holding a chain, and the woman and child run over. The English Patient featured breathtaking photography, but I wouldn't wish the protagonist's tragedy on my worst enemy. I wouldn't even wish them to sit through the movie. To this day, The English Patient remains my metaphor for a work of beauty that is an absolute horror.

Needless to say, I would not watch Schindler's List unless a Luger were held to my head.

There are movies that I would not willingly watch (because they're tear-jerkers or too gritty) but which I don't regret watching if I accidentally do watch them. District 9 and In Bruges were movies I watched on a flight out of sheer boredom, and found that I could appreciate them ("Like" would be too strong a word). Lots of Bollywood movies also fall into this category, too numerous to mention by name.

[Speaking of Bollywood, the average level of quality has risen perceptibly in recent years, and I find myself enjoying more of them every year. The highlights of 2013 so far have been Chashme Buddoor, Madras Café and Krrish 3, and barring a major disappointment, will almost certainly include the much-awaited Dhoom 3 in December.]

At the deepest level of self-analysis, therefore, I guess I like movies that engage me but not involve me emotionally (i.e., give me stress, move me to tears or gross me out). In other words, I'm equal parts thrill-seeker and coward.

Friday, 15 November 2013

Plagiarism Or Inspiration? The Curious Case Of Star Wars And Flash Gordon

A common refrain I heard from many people about the Bollywood superhero movie Krrish 3 (which I reviewed here) was about how much of it was plagiarised from Hollywood movies. I could see the specific elements that were borrowed, but I still liked the movie very much. (Personally, I don't mind if a person builds an original Lego sculpture with borrowed Lego blocks. I only draw the line at sculptures borrowed in their entirety.)

Anyway, all those charges of plagiarism reminded me of a similar case I thought I knew of.

For many years now, I have believed that George Lucas stole some of his ideas for Star Wars from Flash Gordon. After all, Flash Gordon dates back to the '50s, while Star Wars was only released in 1977, right?

I'm not so sure now. The tidbits I'm about to share with you are from one particular Flash Gordon comic book called "The Space Invaders", the Indian edition of which you can read online by following the link. On closer examination today, it looks like this issue only appeared in print in 1982, which means the inspiration must have worked in the other direction. I seem to have done George Lucas a grave injustice in my mind for 30 years!

To save you the trouble of reading the entire comic, let me post certain extracts for you.

1. Do you remember the scene where Darth Vader punishes one of his fleet's captains for letting the rebel ship escape?

"Apology accepted, Captain Needa"

Take a look at the relevant section from "The Space Invaders":

Baron Dak Tula of the Skorpi has the very same telekinetic power to kill, and uses it in similar situations

On page 13, Dak Tula refers to Flash Gordon as "the one great knight" who faced him and lived. Was that inspired by the term "Jedi Knight"?

2. How about that telepathic conversation between Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker?

From 9:25 to 9:30 - "Luke"..."Father"..."Son"

The Baron and Flash Gordon can communicate mentally too.
What are these "powers" that Flash has acquired since they last met? And the Baron represents the "dark powers", rather like "the dark side of the Force"

3. Darth Vader escapes the destruction of the Death Star

From 3:10 to 3:20 - Darth Vader's ship is hit and spins out of control, but he escapes the explosion of the Death Star

A minor difference - Baron Dak Tula's ship is not just hit, but destroyed, and he teleports himself to safety

It's fascinating how ideas from works in Science Fiction and Fantasy feed off each other, but I guess we shouldn't be too surprised. The book "The Seven Basic Plots" makes the point that there are very few original ideas for storylines to start with. That's why so many stories and movies leave us with a sense of déjà vu.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

Mars Versus Malnutrition - The False Debate Resumes

It's been my cynical observation that nothing causes an outpouring of concern for India's poor and starving millions like a space mission (or in an earlier age, a nuclear test). [And by the way, this isn't strictly a guns-versus-butter argument, because external critics of India's defence spending are largely silent when their countries' arms industries are the beneficiaries.]

The Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), popularly known as Mangalyaan (Sanskrit/Hindi for Mars craft), was appropriately launched on a Wednesday (which is Mangalvaar, or "Mars-day", in the Indian calendar). 

Whether MOM launched a space probe or not, it certainly launched a barrage of criticism from various quarters, both Indian and foreign. The refrain was familiar. A country with so many poor people/people without toilets/starving children (take your pick) shouldn't be wasting money on space.

It's a different matter that the cessation of funding for space research isn't going to end poverty, and in fact, might cause it to drag on longer. The argument in favour of space research has been very effectively made by Dr Ernst Stuhlinger in his letter to a nun.

In fact, the "poor people" argument is ironically the most potent in favour of India's space program. The 1999 cyclone that hit India, like typhoon Haiyan that hit the Philippines this week, killed 10,000 people. But the cyclone Phailin, which hit India last month, only claimed 10 lives. The difference between 1999 and 2013 was that three Indian satellites - INSAT-3A, INSAT-3D and KALPANA - provided early warning and real-time monitoring of the storm, enabling the evacuation of over a million people out of harm's way. All three satellites were developed and launched indigenously, at a cost far below comparable services that could have been purchased from abroad. Critics should talk to the "poor people" who were saved about the benefit of the Indian space program.

In the 1960s, about 10-15% of the US population was considered "poor". Should the US have abandoned its man-on-the-moon mission until there were no more poor? Should the US even now refrain from spending money on probes like the Mars rover Curiosity until the American people enjoy universal health care?

Some of the posturing is so transparent, the insecurities of the author/editors shine through. India Mars Mission to Launch Amidst Overwhelming Poverty, reads the Las Vegas Guardian's shrill headline.

Indian critics are not to be left behind. Social activist Harsh Mander thought the Mars mission showed "a remarkable indifference to the dignity of the poor".

Some Indians were more specific in their criticism of this particular mission rather than with the idea of India's space efforts in general. One blogger believes the mission is a waste of resources because it will bring back no new data of value.

Even critics like him miss the point entirely.

To be blunt, the objective of the Mars Orbiter Mission is not to study Mars or to bring back useful data about the red planet! It has had several other objectives. Even if the orbiter dies after a single orbit of Mars, it would have achieved the following:

Prestige: It is undeniable that people around the world are now looking at India with new-found respect. If India succeeds where China and Japan have failed, it will be a significant achievement in the eyes of the world. The stage-wise approach of raising the craft's orbit in increments before breaking free of the earth's gravity, is an example of the Indian ability to improvise ("jugaad") in the face of constraints (namely the lack of a more powerful rocket like the GSLV).

The bulk of the complex mission still lies ahead, but on paper at least, the plan seems simultaneously ingenious and workable

Inspiration: Countless numbers of young Indians have been energised by the mission. The glamour of being a space scientist is already inspiring large numbers of students to opt for the hard sciences - the study of Mathematics, Physics and Aerospace Engineering. Engineering enrolments are likely to see a boost in the years to come.

Cyberspace - another frontier conquered by ISRO

For a government-owned entity, ISRO has surprised watchers not only with its frugality but also with its transparency. Every stage of the mission's progress was reported on social media, and an eager band of followers (over 200,000 strong) hung on to every word, staying up till the wee hours and posting encouraging messages.

Marketing: India has subtly advertised to the world that (1) its commercial launch capabilities are extremely economical, (2) its workhorse rocket, the PSLV, is highly reliable, and (3) its mission control specialists are skilled, experienced and capable of tackling problems that arise during a mission. A lot more business should flow ISRO's way in the months ahead.

Skills and Employment: As a wag put it, India's investment of $75 million on this mission has not been stuffed in the form of banknotes into the rocket and sent off into space. It has been spent in India, providing employment and experience to thousands of professionals, including those in ancillary industries such as Walchandnagar Industries Limited, which precision-manufactured the parts of the rocket and orbiter. It's an investment that will provide continuing returns.

In short, I think critics should shut up and get with the (space) program.

Update 16/11/2013: A very clear explanation of what MOM will and will not achieve can be heard in this 10-minute clip of an interview with D Raghunandan of the Delhi Science Forum.

Update 24/09/2014: MOM has reached Mars and entered orbit around the planet after almost 10 months in space.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Sterling Values Sold For Thirty Pieces

The news of Mahatma Gandhi's spinning wheel (charkha) being sold for 110,000 pounds at a Shropshire auction should not shock us. It is a sign of the times we live in. We are capable of putting a price tag on simplicity itself if it appeals to people, because clearly, there's a market for it.

The author of a literally homespun revolution is now a hot collector's item

It reminds me of that other anti-capitalist icon who has become the ultimate chic consumerist commodity - Che Guevara. He has done so much for capitalists since he died, since his face adorns millions of t-shirts sold around the world.

A most revolutionary idea in fashion

When Open Source software began to be known to the average IT person around the year 2000, many people were puzzled by the phenomenon. "How can anyone make money from it?" was the question. I wrote two articles ("Open Source-onomics" and "The Capitalist View of Open Source") to address these misconceptions.

There was a time when a movie's popularity used to be measured by how many weeks it ran in the theatres. No longer. Today, the measurement of popularity is money. In recent personal experience, I was saddened to see that most on-line news and reader commentary about a movie I liked (Krrish 3) was about how much money it had been able to gross (and how quickly) rather than how good it was.

As a society, we seem to be at that classic stage where we know "the price of everything and the value of nothing".

Monday, 4 November 2013

Cultural Shorthand

When looking at a friend's Facebook photos, I came across one that was pretty striking - a lone man surrounded by women at a table, making a peculiar gesture with his hands. What was that all about?

(Faces partially pixellated for privacy, while preserving expressions)

I knew only one of the people in the photo. I had no idea what the occasion for the get-together was or who the other people in the photo were. Yet I "got" the reference immediately, and then I realised it was highly culture-specific. I had to marvel then at human civilisation. We have evolved into so many highly differentiated cultures with unique and specific situational themes that we can convey humour with a single word or gesture. We are masters of cultural shorthand.

The reference was of course to the Hindu god Krishna, traditionally shown as a cowherd playing a flute and surrounded by women of his village called gopis. There is even a special name for Krishna in that situation - Gopikrishna.

Krishna and the gopis - a popular Hindu motif

With one simple, eloquent gesture, the man in the photo conveyed enough to raise a chuckle among viewers like myself, who knew nothing at all about their group.

Obviously, one cannot imagine this being transplanted to another culture. A joke, to be effective, has to be a symbol drawn from the appropriate cultural repertoire.

"The only thorn among the roses!"

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Movie Review - Krrish 3

(Warning - plot spoilers ahead)
(Further warning - this positive review is apparently leading to disappointment when people actually see the movie. Please scale down your expectations before watching :-) )

When a movie lies at the confluence of three genres (Science Fiction, Superhero and Bollywood), it becomes trivially easy to enjoy (or to dislike) but makes it very difficult to write a truly insightful review.

I'm going to try, anyway.

I saw Krrish 3 on its opening night in Sydney (Oct 31), a day before it screened in its home market of India :-). [I like watching Bollywood movies in Australia and Hollywood movies in India, because I like to have English subtitles all the time to avoid missing any part of the dialogues!]

I'd seen the two prequels ("Koi...Mil Gaya" and "Krrish"), and while there was improvement between the first and second films, I was still preparing to be disappointed by the third, because - and all Indians will know this feeling, - every time an Indian or a group of Indians (like the national cricket team) manages to get within reach of some international benchmark, they inevitably fail, disappointing their fans and well-wishers. Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory seems to be in the national character, and we Indians have been let down far too often by our heroes. [The only real Indian achievers at the international level are the quiet ones in research, academia and technical-professional careers.] Would an Indian film-maker be able to hold his own against his formidable counterparts in Hollywood when venturing into their home territory of the Science Fiction/Superhero genre? Or, more likely, would his film drown in an embarrassing excess of maudlin sentimentality and shoddy production, to universal ridicule?

I confess I felt vicarious trepidation.

Nothing wrong with the poster - so far, so good

As it turned out, director-producer Rakesh Roshan acquitted himself very creditably. Dare I say this is a Hollywood-class superhero movie?

I've read some rather churlish reviews of Krrish 3 after I saw the movie. I think some critics believe their job title obliges them to criticise rather than critique. They have to show off their superior taste and artistic nous, and to do so by tearing down other people's work with a display of fine language. Rarely have I seen such reluctance to praise unconditionally ("Great effects, but too much emotional drama", "ambitious but flawed", "rubbish but a sure hit", "entertains but lacks originality"). Perhaps these critics are trying to reconcile their own tendency to be negative with the obvious fact that this is such a polished product that it's sure to be a blockbuster. Their whole attitude reminds me of the old story of The Jealous Courtiers.

The two most frequently aired complaints about this movie are that it is "boring" and is "unoriginal/plagiarised". Both of these complaints are just plain wrong.

Krrish 3 is anything but boring! Interesting things keep happening throughout the film. There are no moments that drag (if you discount the song sequences - the Bollywood cognoscenti know enough to switch mental gears and pause their pursuit of the storyline to enjoy the songs when they appear).

The charge of plagiarism is only valid at a superficial level. The story is completely original (at least, I haven't seen it anywhere else). Yes, there are specific elements and motifs that a viewer would have encountered earlier. For example, if you arrest Rakesh Roshan and shake out his bags for stolen goods, you might find the following:
  • A wheelchair belonging to Professor Xavier of the X-Men
  • A repurposed sonic screwdriver belonging to The Doctor
  • A bunch of mutants poached from the X-Men universe, including one with a prehensile tongue like Toad and another with chameleon-like capability like Mystique
  • A villain with magnetic powers like Magneto (but in a confusing amalgam with telekinesis)
  • A fortress at the top of an icy mountain, which some say resembles the one in Inception (I didn't think so - it was more like the palace in Mirror Mirror)
  • A rescue of a plane in danger of crashing, like in Superman Returns
  • Some leaping between buildings à la Spider-man, but more parkour style
  • And of course the superhero's standard secret identity as a harmless civilian

I think the charge of plagiarism would stick better if all that copying was badly done. The effects were excellent, and the story was independent, so it's more a derivative work than a copy. In other words, you're only a thief in my book if you're bad at it! [I didn't know the mere knowledge that an idea was borrowed from elsewhere could ruin an experience for people. The Magnificent Seven, being a rip-off of Seven Samurai, must have been a terrible viewing experience, no?]

I thought this movie was intelligently made because it didn't assault my sensibilities with a shoddy storyline. The reasoning hung together quite nicely, and the events clicked together well too. There were no loose ends, either in terms of "how could he/she have known about this", or "how could all this have taken place in such a short time", questions that tend to nag one after watching badly-made movies. In a word, the movie was slick.

A new superhero is born - If the original movie "Krrish" didn't establish him in the hearts of millions of fans, this one should do it

On to the characters, then. Hrithik Roshan is a truly great actor. He's likeable as well as believable in all his roles. The difference in persona between Krrish and his secret identity Krishna is dramatic but expected. Besides, the two never share the screen at the same time, for obvious reasons. The more incredible switch comes from the double role that he plays as father Rohit Mehra and son Krishna. The father is naive and nerdy, with a flabby physique and shabby attire, and a childlike intonation that harks back to his history in the first prequel as an initially mentally disabled person. The son is smart and neat, with a confident voice. When the two characters appear on screen together, their interaction is so natural, it's as if they were played by two different actors.

A scene of seamless double-acting

Father and son are both do-gooders, each in his own way. The son is the action hero who carries out the dramatic rescues. The father is the thinker back at the laboratory, working out the solutions to the world's problems, one bit at a time. When they work together, as in this film, they're an amazing team.

Superheroes are at their best when they project vulnerability rather than strength. One of the most moving scenes in "Superman - The Movie" was at the funeral of Jonathan Kent, Clark's adoptive father. Young Clark's pain is evident in his words, "All those powers - I couldn't even save him!"

That sentiment finds an echo here when Krishna expresses his despair to his father at his inability to save people dying of a virus ("What is the use of my being Krrish?"). That's one of the film's finest moments. You see, it's not enough to have super-powers. You must desperately want to help people. That's what makes a superhero. And Hrithik pulls off both action and emotion with equal ease.

The one aspect in which Krrish 3 has beaten even Hollywood is in the physique of the hero. Except for Henry Cavill (Man of Steel), no actor who played a Hollywood superhero can match Hrithik Roshan's muscles. This man has worked really hard at the gym to deserve the role of a superhero! [Also, it just wouldn't be a Hrithik Roshan movie if it didn't feature a dance sequence in which he gets to show off his liquid moves. This one is no exception.]

Hrithik Roshan - Credible emoting, incredible physique

As we cross over to the dark side, Vivek Oberoi was quite effective as the villain Kaal. [Kaal is the Sanskrit word for Time, and it was amusing that whenever he referred to time in his dialogues, he would use the Urdu word Waqt instead.]

The reason for his disability, why no one else could develop the virus that he did (or the antidote to it), why Rohit and his family were immune to it, all these were satisfactorily explained.

Of all of the villain's minions, the best was the mutant chameleon-woman named Kaya, played superbly by Kangana Ranaut (in spite of a name that sounds like she would be embarrassingly bad at cricket). In fact, she was so good, she upstaged the film's leading lady Priyanka Chopra, who played Krishna's wife Priya. [Priyanka Chopra has gone on record to assert that she (Priyanka) is the film's heroine, and the insecurity behind that statement underlines Kangana Ranaut's powerful performance.]

Chameleon-woman Kaya, the way she looks when she isn't looking like someone else

Priyanka Chopra should in fact be happy with her role. In the previous Krrish movie, she had only ornamental value. She has a vastly expanded role in this one, and she does justice to it. Too bad her character isn't required to exhibit superpowers or perform daredevil stunts.

Priyanka Chopra doesn't look half bad, and one is reminded that she's a former Miss World, after all

By the way, super-villains should heed this advice: When going up against a good-looking super-hero with a vulnerable innocence, keep your female minions well away from him. They might just go sweet on him at the wrong time and betray you. [The Phantom: Slam Evil, Superman - The Movie, Superman Returns, Krrish 3]

I may be a female super-villain, but I can dream, can't I?

Whatever the critics may say, I predict Krrish 3 is going to smash a number of records and become a super-hit like very few others. It's now even a computer game, and a player can choose to be one of four characters - Krrish, Kaal, Kaya or the mutant frog-man.

Krrish versus Kaya - The game is afoot

Is there anything that I think is bad about this movie? Nothing really bad, but there were a few things that could have been done better.

The songs are strictly mediocre. It may not mean much in the Superhero genre, but it's a pretty grave shortcoming in the Bollywood genre.

On a related, er, note, theme music is very important when building a franchise, and the Krrish theme (a very nice one in my opinion) isn't played or emphasised enough.

I wish the movie had been about 20 minutes longer just to give more screen time to some of the other interesting mutants. Other than Kaya and the frog-man (and a few seconds of the cheetah-woman), we didn't really get a good look at any of them. The scorpion-woman, in particular, with her poisonous ponytail, was very intriguing. A longer battle between her and Kaya would have been exciting, I thought.

Bollywood films in general could do with a better understanding of what is considered a child-friendly movie in other countries. The "masala" (spice-mix) nature of Indian films, where there's something for everyone, often results in portions of inappropriate content for younger audiences. In all three movies of the Krrish franchise, there were elements that might be unsuitable for children (disturbing scenes of violence and bullying in Koi...Mil Gaya, the death by impalement of the villain in Krrish, and the many scenes of disfigurement and death by a virus epidemic in Krrish 3, not to speak of the much higher level of violence in the third movie).

Krrish 3 is easier to understand if we look at it as a film aimed at children (with the qualifier in the above paragraph). That doesn't mean it's too childish for adults to enjoy or that it has flaws that only children will forgive. On the contrary, it's pretty close to flawless, and enjoyable by potentially anybody. It just means we need to take ourselves back to a stage in our lives when we enjoyed experiences without the blinkers and baggage we acquired on our way to jaded adulthood. When we leave our cynicism at the door, Krrish 3 becomes the beautiful cinematic experience it is meant to be. Good triumphs over evil, the world is safe, and we can go to bed at night with a peaceful smile on our face.

This is a film that's better than "Man of Steel" or "Green Lantern", about as good as "The Avengers", and just slightly below "The Amazing Spider-man", "Star Trek: Into Darkness" and the Dark Knight (Batman) trilogy. I give it 4.5 stars out of 5.