33 Years of Mr. India: A rare film that still feels fresh and fascinating after three decades
After the success of Masoom, a drama about a couple dealing with a failing marriage, people were curious to know what Shekhar Kapur does next as a filmmaker. Four years later, he teamed up with Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar to give Hindi Cinema its first Sci-Fi film, Mr. India. It had Anil Kapoor and Sridevi in lead roles, the two biggest stars of the industry at that time.
The making of this giant of an idea was as complicated as historic its success turned out to be. Kapur mounted the film on an unprecedented scale that was never heard or seen on the Indian celluloid. It was a film about a man who discovers the formula of invisibility. And on the other hand was the antagonist, Mogambo, played by the inimitable Amrish Puri, who wants to wreak havoc in the country with that very same formula. It was your perfect Good v/s Evil battle laced with multiple masala moments one needs to make a film of such scale and narrative work.
But beneath that surface of technological advancements, the real heart of this blockbuster lied elsewhere. Arun, the hero, lives with a bunch of orphaned children and looks after their well-being like a father. He hasn’t paid his house rent and is asked to vacate the same if he fails to do so. Seema, played by Sridevi, becomes his paying guest and the two gradually fall in love. Mr. India, in many ways, is a love story. A love story of Arun and his children, and a love story of Arun and Seema.
The plot of invisibility kicks in only when the despair of Arun reaches its peak, when he discovers his father’s invention and how he becomes the eponymous character after he chances upon this historic discovery. In many ways, he was India’s maiden Superhero. And no Superhero is a Superhero unless he battles a Supervillain. This Supervillain was, of course, Mogambo.
Puri, who was pitied against Kapoor in Meri Jung two years prior to this film, could be seen having the time of his life this time. He may have been the villain, but had a perpetual glee on his face and approached and attacked his unforgettable character with a childlike innocence that immediately became contagious. His menace and evil laid in his smile and the catchphrase, Mogambo Khush Hua, stays alive even in 2020.
A majority of the Superhero films in India overcompensate the lack of emotional connect with extravagant locales, stunning VFX, and gratuitous action set-pieces. Mr. India, especially for the time it was made in, not only managed to create an ambitious canvas but also engrossed the nation with its emotions. It’s also ironic that a film that based its narrative on invisibility still continues to be one of the most visible films from the era that has largely been forgotten!
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