A Flying Jatt

How do you recognize a desi superhero?  He’s the guy whose costume is stitched by his mom. And at some point, he flies to the local sabzi mandi because mom needs lauki. These were my two favourite moments in A Flying Jatt, in which director and co-writer Remo D’Souza presents, what is probably, the world’s first Sikh superhero in cinema.

It’s a terrific idea and who better to play the superhero and his bebe than Tiger Shroff and Amrita Singh.  He combines an astonishing agility with a guileless demeanor and is entirely convincing as an invincible do-gooder who saves the world.  And she has a defined strength of character, which sadly too few filmmakers have put to good use. A Flying Jatt could have been a fun entertainer with mum as the moral center.  Instead, it’s just exhausting.

Some of the blame can be placed on the oversized shoulders of WWE wrestler Nathan Jones who plays the baddie Raka.  Raka, as the name suggests, is an old-school villain. He has a distinctly 80s vibe – you know back when villains had names like Raka and Teja. Like those guys, he keeps laughing maniacally.  He also spends so much time grunting and growling before he actually attacks his opponents that I wondered why they just don’t run away.  Raka is powered by pollution so the more we pollute, the stronger he gets.  Yes, A Flying Jatt is also an eco-fable.  The film ends with a quote – Everything has an alternative.  Except Mother Earth.  Who said this? Remo.  Be wary of directors who quote themselves.  It suggests a singularly unique hubris.

The first half of A Flying Jatt has moments of fun – I loved that despite being a superhero, he has a fear of heights so he flies very close to the ground.  But post-interval, laughter takes a back seat.  The film trips on the feeble love story between the Jatt and Kriti, a giggling school-teacher, played by Jacqueline Fernandez.  I recently interviewed Jacqueline.  She said that she was actively scouting for roles with meat.  Forget about meat – this character doesn’t even have a skeleton. Jacqueline’s most challenging moment here is an item song called Beat Pe Booty, which required her to perform callisthenic dance moves. The only thing I noticed about Kriti was that when the plot got grim, she started wearing salwar kameezes instead of Western clothes – adding a touch of gravitas perhaps! There’s also Kay Kay Menon, an otherwise excellent actor reduced to hamming wildly.  I also wondered why he was wearing a supremely awkward curly hair-do and shiny, plastic ties.

Of course, A Flying Jatt doesn’t aim to be anything more than an entertaining cartoon. That’s not a problem. But even cartoons need to be compelling and have a basic coherence.  Here the narrative alternates between elaborate fights with tacky digitized backdrops and randomly tacked on sermons about pollution and even the Sikh faith.  At one point Raka growls and declares: I have a black soul, rooh meri kali hai.  I wanted to say: Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

I’m going with one and a half stars.

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