Reliance Entertainment, HRX Films, Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment & Phantom Films present “Super 30”
Produced by: Sajid Nadiadwala
Directed by: Vikas Bahl
Written by: Sanjeev Dutta
Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Mrunal Thakur, Nandish Singh, Virendra Saxena, Aditya Shrivastav, Pankaj Tripathi, Manav Gohil, Karishma Sharma, Vijay Verma, Amit Sadh, Sushil Pandey, Rajesh Sharma, Sadhana Singh Shahabadi, Deepali Gautam & others
It takes guts to accept such a real, still living, idealistic character and make him come alive on screen. It takes great talent to break through the shackles of your image and play a de-glam role of a poor son of a postmaster from Bihar who is a genius at Mathematics. It takes a lot of courage to take up such a subject for a superstar. Hrithik Roshan may take several bows!
So we wonder why the filmmakers (and writer Sanjeev Dutta) lost the same courage midway through the script!
Make no mistake: the film’s first half is absolutely riveting and has liberal flashes of humor as the character of Anand Kumar (Hrithik Roshan), and his genius is established. He calls his father by his first name, Ishwar (Virendra Saxena). The man is a poor but larger-than-life character living happily with his family of wife (Sadhana Singh Shahabadi) and younger son Pranav (Nandish Singh).
When Anand solves a Maths problem that no one else in the world of mathematics is able to, and his dad collects money to mail the solution to the University of Cambridge, he is invited to join the university. The family cannot rustle up money for him to go. His father is more despondent than him and dies, and a broken Anand ekes out a living selling ‘papad.’
A businessman named Lallan Singh (Aditya Shrivastav), who was witness to Anand winning a Gold Medal in college earlier, spots him and gives him a job in his coaching classes. For Lallan, education is a business, and he cashes in on Anand’s reputation and enhances it.
Soon, Anand finds that other poor but deserving students cannot afford such high fees and leaves his lucrative job. He starts a free coaching class and “Super 30” is the story of his struggles.
The film has its heart obviously in the right place, and many lines spoken by Anand are inspirational. But like so many great-in-the-first-half misadventures, the script goes woefully wrong in the second half. Already a length affair (2.34 hours), it makes short shrift of many important things (like explaining how Anand and family survive economically against the odds and how the students are clothed, fed and housed) and takes recourse to many “filmi” tropes and clichés. The way the students tackle the attack on the hospital where Anand is admitted seems very fake, and if such an incident actually happened (without obviously the exaggerations!) it should have been more convincingly depicted.
Vikas Bahl’s direction goes with the script. It is terrific in the pre-interval portions, a lot of sequences reminding us of the crispness and trenchant wit of his “Queen.” Though the transition from fun to seriousness is a shade abrupt, it is alright because most of it (when not dramatized, that is) actually happened. But Bahl flounders along with the script in the second half: the drama sequence, for example, sucks and so do the very “filmi” exchanges between Lallan and the self-seeking politician (Pankaj Tripathi). Both these actors end up as classic caricature villains who will stop at nothing.
Technically fine, the background score is extraordinary in the best part of the film – the first hour. The songs (also like the BGM by Ajay-Atul) are just alright, with “Geographia” standing out for its melody and “Basanti No Dance” for its imaginativeness. But in all the score, it is Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics that stand out much more than the music.
A fine actor like Rajesh Sharma is wasted criminally in just two tepid scenes. Vijay Verma shines as the grown-up Fuga, to etch another great turn, albeit brief, after “Gully Boy.” Saxena, as we said, is excellent, and Sadhana Singh, small-fry heroine of the 1970s and early 1980s, as his wife is very good. Pankaj Tripathi is brilliant earlier but turns stereotypical baddie later. The students are alright.
Coming up trumps is Mrunal Thakur as Anand’s love Ritu, whom he loses to his idealism. She delivers a fine portrayal in a short role. But it is Hrithik Roshan who carries the film in his best portrayal since “Koi…Mil Gaya” (2003). Breaking away from the groove of his last few films, he looks and plays his character with dedication and yet a rare aplomb that is so endearing. Behind his ever-grimy appearance, we see a man of immense strength, sans complexes, and without any bitterness.
Wish the film had commensurate strength and no complex about getting accepted without banalities. It has clearly not acknowledged an audience that has changed since 2017, ironically the year in which this movie began production! “Super 30” does make a punchy point, but at a superficial level, instead of becoming the expose on our education system that it could have become.