In a not-particularly-significant moment in Heropanti, the film’s leading lady is transfixed to her television set watching Maine Pyar Kiya. Ironically that love story from 1989, also featuring newcomers, still feels fresher and more sincere than many films made today, including this one.
 
Directed by Kambakht Ishq’s Sabbir Khan, Heropanti is a remake of the Telugu hit Parugu, and is modeled as a throwback to those old-fashioned films of the 80s in which a tough-as-nails hero could vanquish a dozen enemies without breaking a sweat. There’s a damsel in distress, a selfish control-freak father, and a never-ending supply of menacing uncles who exist only to keep the hero and heroine apart. The film ticks all the usual boxes, but to be fair Khan occasionally puts an interesting spin on rusty formulas, delivering what is at best a frustratingly inconsistent film.
 
Babloo (debutant Tiger Shroff) is picked up from the city with his two friends and locked away in a shed when a Haryanvi crime lord’s daughter elopes with their best buddy on her wedding day. The bulging-eyed village don, Chaudhary (Prakash Raj) won’t let the boys go till they’ve revealed the couple’s whereabouts. Inevitably, Babloo falls for Chaudhary’s younger daughter Dimpy (Kriti Sanon), complicating matters further.
 
This plot is sandwiched between numerous scenes of action, in which Tiger takes on multiple armed bullies, kicking, punching, whacking them into pulp even as he displays a whole range of impressive flips, cartwheels, splits, and somersaults. The same flexibility comes in good use for the film’s many dance numbers, but it’s in the dramatic bits that his rawness is exposed. There’s a little too much posturing and not enough genuine feeling when Tiger delivers the film’s clunky lines, almost always followed by an eager smile on those pink lips, as if awaiting a pat on the back for not fumbling his words. Still, Tiger is likeable and earnest, and deserved a better debut than this.
 
For Heropanti, with its regressive themes, sexist humor, and stock villains wears you out early on during its 2 hours 26 minute running time. As a constant reminder that Tiger is Jackie Shroff’s son, the signature tune from Shroff Sr’s own debut film Hero pops up in the background every five minutes. There is the odd scene of inspired humor – like one outside a court where Prakash Raj, on a desperate hunt for his runaway daughter, encounters another young couple that has eloped – but for the most part, the comedy here is unintentional. An otherwise fine actor, Prakash Raj sticks to hamming through his scenes in this film, particularly in the later portions where he reveals his insecurities to Tiger, and at one point asks him in all earnestness: “Tum mein aisa kya hai jo meri beti ko dikhta hai lekin mujhe nahin dikhta?
 
Culminating in a Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge-inspired climax, the film’s conflict is quickly resolved, but not before someone conveniently rips the shirt off Tiger’s back for a glimpse of his rock-hard abs. Subtlety is not this film’s strength. Newcomer Kriti Sanon looks lovely and makes an impression despite her harebrained role. We’ll just have to see both these kids in better films to give them a fair chance.
 
I’m going with two out of five for Heropanti. We’ve been there, seen that, and bought the T-shirt already!

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