You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Hero: Love Story of a Spy

Thesp Sunny Deol goes the whole nine yards as an Indian patriot in "The Hero: Love Story of a Spy," a wildly over-the-top, stridently nationalistic but undeniably entertaining slice of hokum. Story of a secret agent foiling a bunch of Pakistani fundamentalists trying to build a nuclear bomb could prove an aud pleaser at less arty fests.

With: Sunny Deol, Preity Zinta, Priyanka Chopra, Kabir Bedi, Amrish Puri, Arif Zakaria, Rajpal Yadav. (Hindi dialogue.)

Popular middle-aged thesp Sunny Deol goes the whole nine yards, and several more, as an Indian patriot in “The Hero: Love Story of a Spy,” a wildly over-the-top, stridently nationalistic but undeniably entertaining slice of hokum for auds who like their action and romance well-cooked. Touted as the most expensive Indian pic to date — at a claimed 550 million rupees ($11.5 million), exceeding even last year’s “Devdas” — and shot in India, North America and Switzerland, story of a Hindu secret agent foiling a bunch of nasty Pakistani fundamentalists trying to build a nuclear bomb could prove a no-brain audience pleaser at less arty fests.

Films set in and around the disputed Kashmir region constitute a sub-genre in Hindi cinema, from trashier fare like “Mission Kashmir” to classier dramas like J.P. Dutta’s “Refugee.” Current opus is by the team that produced 2001 hit “Gadar: ek prem katha,” another nationalist epic also starring Deol. Bowing April 11, “Hero” has so far done gangbusters biz around Bombay and New Delhi, easily beating out “Daredevil”; but its quieter reception in other parts of the country makes “Hero” unlikely to top “Gadar” in the long run.

In a 20-minute pre-credit sequence that’s almost a self-contained movie, intelligence offer Arjun Khanna (Deol) accepts an award for bravery from the Canadian government and on the flight back home recalls his spying exploits of the past two years. A master of disguise, Khanna had thwarted a plan by maniacal ISI chief Ishaq Khan (vet Amrish Puri) for some pro-Kashmir Islamic extremists to steal one of Pakistan’s nuclear bombs. After fooling Khan in New York, and having him sent to a Pakistani jail, Khanna is sent on a new mission, posing as Major Ravi Batra on the Kashmir frontier. Cue main titles.

Settling into his job, Khanna meets sparky shepherd girl Reshma (Preity Zinta). Discovering she’s actually adopted by her Muslim parents and was born a Hindu, Khanna asks her to go on a mission across the border, posing as a maid in a Pakistani colonel’s house.

Who should turn up at the house but Khan, who’s been secretly released from jail. Reshma barely escapes alive with the info, but back across the border she and Khanna celebrate by becoming engaged at a splashy party in a giant riverside rotunda. Halfway through the proceedings, however, Khan dynamites the gathering, and Reshma is swept down river. Intermission.

Where Part One is more military in mode, and largely set in Kashmir, Part Two is more desi 007, set in Toronto and snowy Canadian mountains (actually the Swiss Alps). The time spent on detailing Khanna and Reshma’s relationship in the first half pays dividends in the second as, in a typically Bollywood maneuver, their paths keep almost crossing as Khanna becomes entangled with Shaheen (stunning newcomer Priyanka Chopra). There’s all kinds of misunderstandings and emotional tangles before the finale on a mountain peak and tourist train.

Though all the money is up on the screen in a variety of set pieces, “The Hero” could have been a much better movie — even on its own pulp level — if more care had been taken with the tech side. Lensing ranges from the excellent to the shabby, and color processing likewise; editing by Suresh Urs (“Bombay,” “Dil se”) also runs the gamut; and the background score is as hysterical as the performances by the villains.

However, the staging and lensing of the musical numbers are excellent, and show considerable thought in integrating them with the plot. The final musical set piece, set at Khanna and Shaheen’s wedding with all the cast present, brilliantly pulls all the emotional and dramatic threads of the preceding 2½ hours together to knockout effect, prior to the extended action finale.

Deol makes a solid, rather than exciting hero, better in military duds than his increasingly outre disguises, and Puri overacts wildly as the villain. Femme leads are much more engaging, with Zinta typically sparky and likable, and mega-looker Chopra (Miss World 2000) making a solid screen debut as a modern urban miss.

Though it’s made clear in the latter stages that the Indians’ battle is not against the Pakistani people or Islam per se, only rotten elements in both, the pic’s politics don’t even bear thinking about.

The Hero: Love Story of a Spy


Production: A Nanjibhai Shah presentation of a Time Movies production. Produced by Dhirajlal Shah, Pravin Shah, Hasmukh Shah. Executive producer, Asif Shaikh. Co-producer, Manu Shah. Directed by Anil Sharma. Associate director, A. Shiral J. Screenplay, Shaktimaan.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Kabir Lal; associate camera, Amir Lal; editor, Suresh Urs; background music, Gurmeet; song music, Uttam Singh; lyrics, Anand Bakshi, Javed Akhtar; art director, Sanjay Dhabade; associate art director, Rahguveer Bhist; costume designer, Simple Kapadia; sound (Dolby Digital), Kiran Ramsay; choreographer, Ganesh Acharya; action director, Allan Amin; visual effects, Rajtoru Videosonic; assistant director, Chitra Shah. Reviewed at Cineworld Feltham 5, London, April 16, 2003. Running time: 183 MIN. (I: 88 MIN.; II: 95 MIN.).

With: With: Sunny Deol, Preity Zinta, Priyanka Chopra, Kabir Bedi, Amrish Puri, Arif Zakaria, Rajpal Yadav. (Hindi dialogue.)

More Film

  • Macon Blair27th Annual Gotham Independent Film

    Macon Blair to Direct and Write 'Toxic Avenger' Reboot for Legendary (EXCLUSIVE)

    Macon Blair has been tapped to write and direct Legendary’s reboot of the cult classic “The Toxic Avenger,” sources tell Variety. Legendary acquired the feature film rights in December and have quickly made the project a high priority at the studio. Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz of Troma Entertainment will serve as producers with Alex [...]

  • Danny Boyle Bond 25

    Danny Boyle Calls His Exit From 'Bond 25' a 'Great Shame'

    Director Danny Boyle has finally spoken out after leaving the upcoming 25th James Bond movie over creative differences. After splitting from the new 007 flick last August, Boyle told Empire in a story published on Thursday that the script he penned with his “Trainspotting” co-writer John Hodge “wasn’t finished, but it could have been really [...]

  • Film Review: 'Everybody's Everything'

    Film Review: 'Everybody's Everything'

    An elegiac documentary exploring the brief life of rapper Lil Peep, “Everybody’s Everything” certainly doesn’t lack for perspectives. Interviewing virtually everyone who knew the musician (born Gustav Ahr), directors Sebastian Jones and Ramez Silyan cover the waterfront, from Peep’s family to his girlfriends, his innumerable collaborators, his managers and his fans, trying to distill exactly [...]

  • A Brinks armored truck pulls into

    Layoffs Hit Fox After Disney Completes Deal

    Layoffs have hit Fox following the entertainment company’s sale to Disney. The staff cuts are hitting employees at the SVP, EVP, and president level. Senior staff is expected to be among the first to be impacted. However, the cuts will be deep, with the ax falling hardest of Fox’s film team. There could be as [...]

  • Emily Blunt in Talks for Inspirational

    Emily Blunt in Talks to Star in Annapurna Drama 'Not Fade Away'

    Emily Blunt is in negotiations to star in Annapurna’s inspirational drama “Not Fade Away” with David O. Russell and John Krasinski producing. The project is based on Rebecca Alexander’s 2015 memoir “Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found.” Alexander was born with a rare genetic mutation called Usher syndrome type III and [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    Alfonso Cuaron's 'Roma' Nabs Nine Nominations for 6th Premios Platino

    As was widely anticipated, Alfonso Cuaron’s triple Oscar-winning “Roma” dominated the 6th Premios Platino nominations, unveiled Thursday at Hollywood’s legendary Roosevelt Hotel, the site of the very first Oscars. It snagged a total of nine nominations, including best film, director, art direction, cinematography, and acting for its two Oscar-nominated actresses, Yalitza Aparicio and Marina de [...]

  • Stephen Bruno

    Stephen Bruno Exits Netflix for Top Marketing Job at MGM

    Netflix global marketing chief Stephen Bruno has exited his post for MGM, where he has been named chief marketing officer. His departure follows that of Netflix CMO Kelly Bennett and marks a major shake-up for the streaming giant. Bruno had been with the streamer since 2014, and is known as an innovator. He joins MGM [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content