The up side of the stereotype of Hindi movie plots is that you get a giddy whirl of variety, linked together if not by reason than at least by fun and a drive to entertain. The down side of the stereotype is that you can get drama, romance, comedy, social commentary, songs, orphans, and even violence coming at you from out of nowhere at full speed. Krantiveer isn't quite all the way into this latter category, but it's pretty close. It's just too, too much. Broad stereotypes of villains and heroes run amok (sometimes literally - watch the extras zooming back and forth in the big fire scene), violating mother India with their greed and selfishness, and I found the violence cartoony but somehow still emotionally (if not visually) harsh. This is the third movie I've seen in as many months that has rape in it; I've been told that's a fairly stock element of 80s and 90s action movies but I'm getting really sick of it (thought at least in here, unlike in Jigar, the only witnesses to it are chained to the wall and unable to come to the aid of the victim).
The villains in particular don't have much context. I'm assuming the story is some sort of comment on the 1992-3 Mumbai riots but in the world of this film the police, judicial system, politicians, and developers are so grossly corrupt that they're not very interesting. I had also hoped we might get a really good heroine here, but no. Megha, the fearless journalist, is also bland; her outrage at the villains is no more engaging than their badness, and all Dimple Kapadia gets to do is yell. Despite all of these flaws, though, I admire the underlying idea of the movie - that the power-hungry will exploit religious, ethnic, and/or socio-cultural differences, provoking them into turmoil that distracts the citizenry while they grab resources and control. It's a shame it wasn't carried out more subtly, because I think it would have been much more effective that way.
The music...gah. It's very badly integrated into the movie, probably the most jarring background score I have ever noticed in a Hindi film. It's overly dramatic, loud, and synthesized; it has cartoony sound effects; and it just doesn't add in any way to the action or ideas. (It does, however, include a few bars of "Axel F," even though that song is ten years older than the movie.) In all of this, though, there were two songs I liked (and actually the songs were fine overall, although there were three crammed in the first hour and none had anything to do with the primary story). "Love Rap" is ridiculous youthful fun (at least it seemed to be - it wasn't subtitled), has some great snippets of fun English ("We don't want bungalows, we don't want cars, we don't want much...we just want pyaar!"), and pairs Nana Patekar with an amorous Bindu (who is looking a bit like a drag queen here, though I guess the line between that and vamp is very fine).
If anyone can find the lyrics to this online, please let me know; I looked for a half hour to no avail. Later we see Atul Agnihotri and Mamta Kulkarni frolicking to eerie music in a waterfall adorned with statues evocative of ancient Hindu temples, and some of the choreography alludes to poses in the sculptures (with a heavy emphasis on her curves and gestures).
This is a really neat idea, visually, and I'm surprised I've never seen it before. The scene would have been even better if the costume department had put Atul in clothing that echoed the sculptures, like Mamta's did; he s out of place in his chinos and loud shirts, while she was exquisite in bangles and flowing, draping fabrics.
I realize I'm running the risk of sounding like I'm exoticizing, but consciously, anyway, most of what I'm saying has to do with visual harmony between actor and set. I also want to acknowledge that both the sculpture and the dance might be "-esque" rather than authentic, and while I'm not knowledgeable enough to tell the difference I certainly respect the frustration of people who are and find the whole thing theme-park-y and fake. Also, as Briyanshu pointed out, I don't like it when people grope art, filmi or not.
The bright spot is definitely Nana Patekar, who is angry and engaged and soulful as required, and in the movie's lighter moments, he seems to be having fun. He seems committed to his role, but he winks through it and never overdoes it, which the other actors are tempted to do (understandably, given what they had to work with). The writing should be credited for providing him with a much more developed character. Though he becomes a hero, a lot of what he does seems individual and local for most of the story - he's got a context and a setting that make sense.
Krantiveer is not awful, and its underlying message of keeping an eye on the authorities and trying to make a difference is admirable enough. It's also patriotic without involving the military - apparently I must prefer my conflict local and personal (Yuva), rather than international and nuclear (I'd name one but I tend to avoid-yaar such movies) - which given on the number of movies that deal with "a neighboring country" is refreshing enough. Although to be honest if you want that you should watch Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani because it's all-around more fun (sorry, Nana). I haven't seen enough of Nana to know if you can find similar performances elsewhere; if so, there's no need to bother with Krantiveer.
Aside: Atul's character (name? Atul, of course) has posters in his bedroom of Sanjay Dutt,
Michael Jackson (the guy in red in the other poster is familiar too - who is he?),
and the New Kids on the Block.
As a grown man does in 1994.