A colleague at work often, and with great feeling, talks about the perils of parenthood. About the overpriced clothes and toys that last six months at best. About the purging of sleep from the daily schedule. About the immense networking efforts necessary today in order for your kid to get into a decent school years later. (It’s all worth it, of course.) As a 22-year-old who looks the way I do (see picture), I doubt it is a joy I shall experience firsthand anytime soon — I’ll probably die alone taking notes during Krrish And Chhota Bheem’s Day Out 32 — but if Krrish 3 is anything to go by, I’m not sure I ever want children.
There is great cruelty in bringing a child into a world that sees them only as the first line of defence against the onslaught of consumerism. Now, this isn’t a rant against consumerism — we’ve been conditioned to immediately assume that a rant against consumerism is a rant against progress — but one against the idea that entertainment for children must necessarily be a vehicle to sell merchandise to a demographic whose ability to throw tantrums gives them great purchasing power. Against the idea that children are too dumb to expect anything resembling a story or logic as long as enough bad guys get beaten up by their superhero.
Krrish 3 begins with a trailer for Krrish 3 the mobile game; you can already imagine the snotty eight-year-olds in the audience tugging their dad’s sleeve asking for his smartphone. A substantial portion of the film’s runtime is devoted to handing out Krrish 3 BoyScout Bracelets™, or whatever they’re called, to deserving citizens who help each other; you can imagine the same snotty eight-year-old rolling on the floor, in tears, because his parents won’t buy him the damned things even though everyone in school has one. As for what passes off for a storyline in what is undoubtedly India’s first superhero franchise (in the sense that it looks and sounds like one produced by Hollywood), only the most ardent fanboy wouldn’t be outraged at the sheer number of holes in this Swiss cheese of a plot. Consider this, for example. Immediately after the interval, we see a felicitation ceremony for Rohit Mehra (Hrithik Roshan), who saved Mumbai by coming up with the antidote to a deadly virus and having his son Krrish (also Roshan) disperse it into the atmosphere. Rohit unveils a statue of Krrish, leading to a musical number resembling some pagan ritual with people dancing around the statue. Leading the dancers, of course, is Krishna (Krrish’s alter-ego) himself. Nobody notices the similarities between the two, not even when they know that Rohit must have known Krrish in order to give him the antidote. The clever disguise — just a mask; not even some Clarke Kent meekness to hide his identity — even fools Kaya (Kangna Ranaut), the shapeshifting ‘maanvar’ (mutant) who takes the place of Krishna’s wife and falls in love with him, but doesn’t realise that Krishna and Krrish are the same person until the very end.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for the complexities of plot to overshadow the spectacle of two guys beating the crap out of each other. (I watch professional wrestling, for God’s sake.) But I was (very recently) a child myself, and a significant portion of my childhood was spent planted in front of the television. I was entertained by, and learned from, the endless hours of cartoons and shows for children and adults that I watched with an almost religious zeal. Television and films were then about storytelling, a replacement for grandma. Sure, the kids at school had Fred Flintstone pencil boxes, but it wasn’t why we watched The Flintstones. The indigenisation of children’s entertainment was supposed to tell them stories that they could relate to better, but it’s become a slick mechanism to get them to buy things. And sadly, perhaps inevitably, the stories have ceased to matter.