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by Laya Maheshwari
November 11, 2013 10:28 AM
6 Comments
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The Biggest Movie Franchise You've Never Heard Of: How 'Krrish' Won the Indian Box Office

"Krrish 3."

During a recent visit to India for the Mumbai Film Festival, filmmaker Asghar Farhadi was asked for his thoughts on Indian films. He praised the country's cinema, deeming it "beautiful and unique," but lamented its growing similarity to Hollywood. "This looming loss of identity is a sad prospect," he said.

The latest Bollywood blockbuster,"Krrish 3," proves Farhadi may have been on to something. The third installment in a series that began in 2003, "Krrish 3" is one of the most expensive Indian films ever made, with a budget in excess of  $15 million. The film has broken box-office records upon its release on the lucrative Diwali weekend in more than 4000 screens worldwide (including several in the U.S.).

Such news cements the status of the "Krrish" series as India’s biggest movie franchise. Not only has each entry been wildly successful at the box office, but the series has also been a trailblazer in India when it comes to ancillary sales. Toys and other merchandise invade the Indian marketplace along with each film's release. My screening of "Krrish 3" was preceded by a trailer for "Krrish 3: The Game."

By all indications, "Krrish 3" has the same identity as a Hollywood blockbuster. And therein lies the rub. It seems like a backhanded compliment that the tallest achievement of Bollywood's biggest franchise is the hope that it might, from afar, be mistaken as not being from Bollywood at all.

By all indications, "Krrish 3" has the same identity as a Hollywood blockbuster. And therein lies the rub.

This sense of anonymity is certainly not helped by the franchise itself. "Koi…Mil Gaya," the first installment, is a shameless "E.T." rip-off. Like Steven Spielberg's classic, it too is about an alien spacecraft that visits the Earth but mistakenly leaves one member behind. This stranded extraterrestrial befriends a boy and they work together to help the alien go back home.

An unexpected benefit to the series’ penchant for plagiarism is its fluid identity; each film pilfers from a different source, leading to starkly varying installments. For example, "Krrish 3" does not overtly resemble "Koi…Mil Gaya" in look and feel, seeing as the former is a sprawling superhero saga and the latter is a more intimate tale of friendship. "Krrish 3" borrows characters, plot elements and even imagery wholesale from various Hollywood superhero films. The villain -- a wheelchair-ridden telekinetic named Kaal -- is a cross between Professor X and Magneto from "X-Men." This is until he undergoes a transformation in a scene wherein the staging brings to mind "Iron Man," if Iron Man were made of scrap. The X-Men similarities continue: Kaal's henchmen are mutants and include Kaya, a female shapeshifter, and Frog Man, who possesses an inordinately long tongue.

There is one area in which this film does leave Hollywood behind, and that is in the blatancy of its product placement. Rakesh Roshan, director and producer of every installment in the franchise, has long been a firm advocate of product placement in movies. But with "Krrish 3," the positioning of brands in the frame has become such an important factor that they, not the actors, end up being the star of the scene. As Lisa Tsering points out in The Hollywood Reporter, in one scene "the hero and heroine hold an entire conversation leaning on a Tata sedan parked in front of a Tata dealership festooned with a huge Tata logo." The film is such a slave to its sponsors that its mise en scène becomes fascinatingly repulsive. For example, the climactic fight takes place largely in front of a banner promoting the film's media partner, standing tall amidst a city reduced to rubble.

"Krrish 3" could soon become the highest-grossing Bollywood film of all time, having recouped its budget within 4 days. Further films in the series are all but guaranteed. Its last shot, which implies that Krrish’s superpowers have passed on to his child, leaves no doubt about the same. One can only hope that the next installment isn't so obsessed with playing catch-up with Hollywood.


6 Comments

  • AO HAS BO | November 19, 2013 12:15 AMReply

    AO - you are full of shit - hence my moniker "AO HAS BO". I am an Indian too, in the sense I was briefly brought up in India and culturally identify myself as an Indian. I know there are many positives to India and what it brings to the world. Our classical arts, our soft skills and other cultural exports are very much our strengths. Bollywood, however, brings massive shame to Indians world-wide for the most part, especially films like Krrish 3 (seriously, how asinine is it that there is no Krrish 2, because you know, Koi Mil Gaya was the first film... no seriously...Rakesh Roshan should be deemed clinically senile for this decision alone.).

    Firstly AO, you replied to your own comment instead of replying to the post that countered your comment. This gives us some indication of your logic and reasoning capabilities. Yes AO, compared to Krrish 3's obviously plagiarized crap, Hollywood films ARE totally original. The makers of the X-Men films bought the film rights to the comic book franchise and worked hard to create superhero films that had far superior plots, acting and visual effects almost 15 YEARS before this Krrish 3 garbage. The villainous characters from Krrish 3 were blatantly ripped off from X-Men characters and Koi Mil Gaya was a shameless rip-off of E.T. The fact that you would defend such awful STEALING of copyrighted works makes me point at you as a criminal too. I am ashamed that the Roshans would so something like this, that Indians would support it by watching their tripe - I am honestly ashamed that this is India.

    And ET is a copy of Satyajit Ray's "Alien"? That's funny, I don't see a film of his called "Alien" listed on IMDb. There is a rumor that Spielberg may have borrowed some elements of his film from an un-filmed Ray screenplay - but where is the proof? ET was much loved and heralded across the world when it was released, as many of Spielberg's films rightfully are. Name one Satyajit Ray film that had a tiny fraction of the reach that the least popular Spielberg film has had. Look obviously Ray was a decent filmmaker, he is well-respected in certain artsy-fartsy circles - but that's all he is. Don't delude yourself into thinking India brought a gift called Satyajit Ray to this world - beyond his artsy-fartsy mates, he has had very little impact directly on the world at large. I wish - I wish India had such a filmmaker. Our films just don't have that global reach - they are too insular, too focused on our own cultures, rhythms, traditions and people. We also need films with universal themes, that reach across cultural and geographic gulfs to arrest audiences. Look at Oldboy from South Korea or The Gods Must Be Crazy from South Africa. Watch Pour Elle from France.

    Let's come to your points about how Krrish is clearly not a Hollywood rip-off. The cinematic genius that you are (I am being very sarcastic), you feel the melodrama, the songs and repetition of 'Krrish is in all of us' make this film uniquely Indian. Wow. These are exactly the reasons why this film is all the more shit, just like you AO. Melodrama can be ok, don't get me wrong. A little bit of melodrama can go a long way, especially in a superhero film. But songs? And that too, by Rajesh Roshan? The songs were a bad idea to begin with - they just don't fit in a superhero film. If you had to put them in, at least get a decent composer. There are only 3 or 4 of them in India: A.R. Rahman, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and occasionally Amit Trivedi and Sandeep Chowtha. I'm not even sure why we are still talking about this....

    The fact is AO, real Indians, true Indians, are angry at films like Krrish 3 because we know filmmakers can and should do so much better. The extremely derivative plot and characters make us a laughing-stock in front of the world. More importantly, it inures the audiences to horrible entertainment. The mental wavelengths of those in India, especially young, impressionable minds, get used to accepting sub-par fare. This, in turn, creates another generation of artists and creatives whose inspiration are films like the bilge called Krrish 3.

    You might ask what is the solution - I can tell you right now that if nothing, I can be the solution. I know that I could write a script much better and far more original than Krrish 3. I am not alone - any highly educated and self-respecting Indian will be able to do the same. Here is the thing AO - you are not one of them.

  • krish 3 toys | November 15, 2013 6:24 AMReply

    it is a awesome movie and now you can buy krish 3 toys and game from the market and online also....

  • Rohan | November 11, 2013 11:48 AMReply

    Bollywood (Indian Film Industry) is the largest film field in the world. What here is saddening is the fact that people behind it lacks talent. In fact, even some of Bollywood's biggest stars. - Bollywood films, and the very movie stars in them, are only on point when it comes to showing talent is when their films are family drama driven films, such as, boy meets girl. Marriage and even sometimes films that focuses on political issues of the country. - Though, Bollywood lacks, really, when it comes to originality. And often their films, especially the action films, such as Ra.One; Dhoom franchise and Krissh franchise shows it to the world very clearly. They spend their time on stealing from Hollywood films, and what's even sad in my opinion is that they execute the same action sequences in a very dull and juvenile manner. - Dhoom 3, starring Bollywood's biggest film star, Amir Khan. By looking at its trailer, it clearly shows the juvenile steps that the film-makers has taken, even Amir Khan himself. - Bollywood, unfortunately, remains backwards when it comes to technology, execution of cinematography and today, unfortunately, even performances, which means, acting.

  • AO | November 11, 2013 10:56 AMReply

    ...and ET is a copy of Satyajit Ray's 'Alien'.

    There are quite a few superheroes with a metal armour. Are they all copied from 'Iron Man'? There are also superhero films with mutants...are they all copied from X-Men?

  • AO | November 12, 2013 9:31 PM

    That's fine if you didn't like the film, or the 'Dhoom' franchise for that matter. My problem is that the author is going on and on about the plagiarism, as if Hollywood movies are totally original. K3 has inspirations, like all Hollywood films. None of the foreign critics that have reviewed the film have even mentioned possible rip-offs, yet everyone in our own country just loves to point out what they believe is plagiarism. Also, the author mentions that the film has the same identity as a Hollywood film. Really? Does the melodrama, the songs, and the constant references to "Krrish being in all of us..." really make the film appear to be like a Hollywood film? Plus, the majority of these points have already been repeated by our pseudo-critics in India. Plagiarism much? No surprise since she is Indian herself, and extremely biased. Give us another perspective.

    Now lets come to you. I hope you know that many films in Bollywood are well-made and intelligent, so there is really no reason for you to babble on and on that all Bollywood films are shit. Just as Bollywood has a Krrish or a Dhoom that sets the cash register ringing, Hollywood has Transformers and Twilight to take the top spot in the highest grossing films of the year. Yes, lets hope us "indigenous" people not mimic these types of "entertainment". I don't know about you, but I don't watch films to see people have sexual contact. I suggest you head to your closest video store if you want to see us "indigenous" people have sexual contact.

  • all bollywood films are shit | November 11, 2013 12:41 PM

    What is with Westerners and Bollywood? Is it anything more than a patronizing pleasure? Is it the gaze of cultural colonists watching the indigenous peoples badly mimic their entertainment?

    Cinematically, everyone knows Dhoom is shit. Sexual contact in Bollywood is hypocritically missing. It's like a sterilized Hollywood. Bollywood is cesspool - stop defending it, unless you think its kitsch to watch extended, weirdly bad knockoffs.