I stumbled upon this movie by accident. I was channel surfing and one of the channels seemed to be playing Deewar. Now, unless Citizen Kane is on another channel, and sometimes even then, if I see Deewar playing on TV, I’ll pause for a minute or three before deciding whether or not to zap on. But then the camera zoomed out slowly and showed the contours of a TV set, and I realized that I was seeing some other movie where someone was watching it.
And then they showed Kunal Khemu’s face. He had a look of rapt concentration on his face as he watched the movie. Worth another thirty seconds, I figured. And then, when Davar tells Vijay that both the police and Samant would be behind him, he responds: Mere peeche sirf meri kismat padi hai Davar saab. And I saw Khemu mouth the dialogue along with the man, with a smile on his face that seemed to say, “Dude, you know what, I feel that way every day.”
That’s pretty much why I ended up watching Superstar, the story of a junior artiste who looks like the son of a major producer and finds that this little coincidence changes his life in ways he could not have imagined. It started out a bit like Singin’ in the Rain (the producer’s son is the hero of a movie but can’t act, so the junior artiste fills in), but took a different turn in the second half. As the movie piled on the complications, I sat there wondering: “How the hell is this movie going to land on its feet after all this?”
By the time it was over, I felt like I had watched a version of Rocky, where Khemu had gone nine rounds against a hopeless script. The script won, but I knew who I was cheering for.
I don’t remember being this charmed by him when he was a child artiste — he seemed pretty much like an average kid in the movies. I wasn’t even so taken by his performance in Kalyug, his debut as an adult. But in this one, he inhabits the screen with the confidence of, well, a star. He seems comfortable playing both roles, never seems to try too hard, and manages to walk away with the movie.
To be fair, he does screw up every once in a while. This isn’t the performance of a lifetime, but if there is a discerning eye somewhere in the filmmaking community, this ought to be his passport to bigger and better things.
The rest of the movie has a few bright spots. Sharat Saxena does a damn good job playing the junior artiste’s dad. Tulip Joshi, extra poundage and all, is appealing. Specific snatches of dialogue manage to break through the cliche wall and ring true. While the plot itself is going bonkers, the most of the individual scenes seem to have been directed and acted by people who thought it made sense and did the best job they could.
But you know what, sometimes you end up liking a movie, bad plot and all. Mostly because something significantly tips the scales in the movie’s favour. In this case, it’s Kunal Khemu.