The Hero: Love Story of a Spy

The Hero: Love Story of a Spy is a 2003 Indian Hindi-language spy thriller film directed by Anil Sharma and produced by Time Magnetics. It stars Sunny Deol, Preity Zinta, Priyanka Chopra (in her Bollywood debut), Kabir Bedi and Amrish Puri. Written by Shaktimaan, the film tells the story of an undercover Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) agent who must gather intelligence about cross-border terrorism and stop the terrorist responsible for it and his separation from his fiance.

The Hero: Love Story of a Spy
Herolovestoryofaspy.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAnil Sharma
Produced by
  • Dhirajlal Shah
  • Hasmukh Shah
  • Pravin Shah
Screenplay byShaktimaan
Starring
Narrated bySunny Deol
Music byUttam Singh
CinematographyKabir Lal
Edited bySuresh Urs
Distributed byTime Magnetics (India) Pvt. Ltd.
Release date
  • 11 April 2003 (2003-04-11)
Running time
183 minutes[1]
CountryIndia
LanguageHindi
Budget350 million[2]
Box office451 million[2]

Sharma had long contemplated making a spy film but felt this was not economically viable for the Indian market because Indian films did not have sufficient budgets. He first planned a film about India's spy network set in the early 2000s but made the 2001 film Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, which became the highest-grossing Indian film of all time. Following the record-breaking success of that film, Sharma decided to make The Hero: Love Story of a Spy. The Shah Brothers were engaged to produce the film, which was touted to have a huge budget and scale, unlike previous Bollywood films. Aiming for high production values, a sizeable amount of money was spent on the film. Several large sets were created to give the film a feeling of grandeur and international stunt experts were hired to coordinate action sequences new to Bollywood. Principal photography was done at Indian locations, including Kullu and Manali, and in locations in Canada and Switzerland. Uttam Singh composed the soundtrack with lyrics written by Anand Bakshi and Javed Akhtar.

The film's production cost was very high, with trades suggesting that it was the most expensive Indian film ever made at that point; this was the most talked-about aspect of the film. The Hero: Love Story of a Spy was released on 11 April 2003 to mixed reviews from critics. It grossed over 451 million at the box office against a production and marketing budget of 350 million, becoming the third-highest grossing film of the year. Because of its high production costs, the film's net receipts were below expectations. Chopra won the Stardust Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance.

PlotEdit

Arun Khanna is an army intelligence officer working for the Indian Secret Service agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) who has been sent to the Indo-Pakistan border in Kashmir. Under the identity of Major Batra, he sets up a spy network to obtain information about Pakistani terrorist activities across the border. In a nearby village, Batra meets Reshma, an orphan whose neighbours raised her after her parents were killed in a terrorist attack. Reshma joins the network to help Batra, who trains her to spy and during the process, Reshma falls in love with him. Batra is also attracted to Reshma but because of his duty towards his country, he reluctantly sends her into Pakistan to work as an undercover maidservant in Colonel Hidayatulla's house. Hidayatulla is associated with ISI head Isaq Khan and terrorist Maulana Azhar.

Reshma begins passing information to Batra while working across the border. Isaq Khan, Azhar Mehmood and a group of nuclear scientists meet Hidayatulla's house, where they reveal their plans to make a nuclear bomb and ask Hidayataulla to set up a laboratory. They intend to get parts of the bomb from their friends abroad, who they plan to visit. Reshma, who has been hearing the information, is exposed and her identity as a spy is revealed in front of Khan, Azhar and Hidayatulla. She escapes and is chased by the terrorists but is saved by Batra and returns to India with the information. Batra expresses his love for Reshma and proposes marriage. Their engagement ceremony is cut short when terrorists attack the venue. Reshma goes missing after falling in the river and Batra is presumed dead.

Batra realizes Khan and Azhar are responsible for the attack. He fakes his own death and plans to infiltrate their terrorist network. In disguise, Batra follows Khan and Azir to Canada and discovers they are planning to create a nuclear bomb. Reshma is found to be alive; having being swept along by the water, she is found on the shore in Lahore, Pakistan, where she is rescued by Salman. Reshma becomes paralyzed and looses the ability to walk after learning about the deaths of Batra and her parents. Salman wants to help Reshma recover; she is taken to Canada for treatment under the care of doctor Shaheen Zakaria, who is the daughter of the Muslim fundamentalist Mr. Zakaria, an associate of Isaq Khan. In a shopping mall, Reshma finds a muffler she had knitted for Batra, and realizes he is alive and is in Canada.

Batra changes his identity to that of a nuclear scientist called Wahid, who is working at a Canadian nuclear research organization. To infiltrate Zakaria's group, Wahid pretends to be in love with Shaheen and tells the group he also wants to make a nuclear bomb and liberate Kashmir from India. Wahid wins Zakaria's trust and that of his group, and marries Shaheen. Reshma meets Wahid at the time of his wedding to Shaheen and realizes he is Batra. Wahid is happy to see Reshma alive but knows they cannot be together because he is now married to Shaheen, to whom he plans to be loyal. Reshma is heartbroken and returns to India. Overhearing their conversation, Shaheen learns the truth about Wahid's identity and is heartbroken. Wahid tells Shaheen the truth about her father; she is shocked but does not believe the news about her father's terrorist links.

Zakaria, Khan and their group force Wahid to immediately bring the blueprint of the nuclear bomb and he tricks them into revealing the location of the bomb's parts, which have been kept at a high-altitude facility owned by Zakaria. The group reveals the codes to Wahid, who transmits a signal to the Canadian and Indian governments, who learn the terrorists' plan. Shaheen also learns about the group's plan, exposing them. At the same time, Khan learns about Wahid's true identity and pushes him out of the facility from a high altitude but Wahid survives. As the group try to leave, soldiers in helicopters arrive and surround them, forcing them towards a train station beneath the facility. To escape, the terrorists hijack a train and take its passengers hostage. Batra comes to the rescue. Shaheen, onboard the train, tries to disarm Khan but he kills her. Batra then kills the other terrorists and kills Khan by injecting into him the chemical intended for the nuclear bomb. Batra returns to Kashmir and tells the story to his colleague, and reunites with Reshma.

CastEdit

Credits adapted from Bollywood Hungama.[3]

ProductionEdit

Director Anil Sharma had planned to make The Hero: Love Story of a Spy before the release of his record-breaking film Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001).[4] Sharma said he wanted to make a spy film and had contemplated making something like a James Bond film for a long time but realised Indian films did not have the budget needed to make a film on such a scale.[4] Sharma then thought of making a film based on India's spy network and, unlike his last historical film, set it in the early 2000s. His idea was to make a family film with no sex and violence.[4] After the success of Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, Sharma decided to make The Hero: Love Story of a Spy which Shaktimaan had written.[3][4] As part of his research for the film, Sharma interacted with Army personnel to understand the working methods of its intelligence section.[5]

Sunny Deol (top) and Preity Zinta (bottom) were cast in the lead roles

The Shah brothers of Time Magnetics—Dhirajlal Shah, Hasmukh Shah and Pravin Shah—were engaged to produce the film.[6][7] Aiming for high production values, Sharma mounted the film on a sizable budget and the scale he said was needed for a story of this proportion. He said the film was a risk, especially when the Indian film industry was going through a slump.[4] Sharma defended the budget saying, "But everything is risky; even walking on the street is risky. I knew before I started how much it would cost. I think the two years I gave to the film are more important than the budget. The money may come back, the time won't. Films these days don't work because filmmakers don't give enough time to them."[4]

Sharma had cast Sunny Deol, who starred in Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, in the role of an Indian spy.[7] The director felt that the film differed greatly from their previous collaboration because Deol played a "subtle spy" who did not "scream and shout" (Deol's trademark in his films).[4] Deol streaked his hair blond and wore several disguises in the film, which made him uncomfortable.[4] Preity Zinta was cast in the female lead as a naive Kashmiri village girl, while Priyanka Chopra was cast in the supporting role of a Pakistani-born Canadian doctor.[7][5] Chopra's other 2003 film Andaaz was supposed to be her debut Bollywood film, but The Hero: Love Story of a Spy ended up releasing a month before and thus became the actress' debut Bollywood film.[8][9] Zinta thought that the film had "a terrific script" and she identified with her character thanks to Zinta's Himachal Pradesh roots.[10] Chopra thought the film had "a very emotional subject" and being a part of a big film like this seemed like a good option for her.[11] Kabir Bedi and Amrish Puri completed the cast.[3][7] Simple Kapadia, Abu Jani, Sandeep Khosla, Neeta Lulla and Sheetal India dedsigned the cast's costumes.[12] Sanjay Dhabade was the film's production designer. Several huge sets were constructed, including a massive glass house on water.[5][6] Kabir Lal handled the cinematography.[3]

Principal photography took place in Kullu and Manali in India with filming in Lonavala and Film City[13] where half the film was shot. The rest half was filmed at locations in Canada and Switzerland.[13][3][4] Filming in freezing weather in Canada and Switzerland proved to be difficult for the cast who had to be transported to rooms with heaters every five minutes. Sometimes the temperatures fell to −20 °C (−4 °F).[7] Allan Amin designed the action set pieces, and international action experts coordinated the stunts.[3][6] In one of the "heavy duty" action scenes, eight helicopters were used in the filming.[5] The film's producers professional wrestler Big Guido as Bedi's bodyguard for an action sequence.[7] For one scene, Deol had to jump off an 11,000-foot (3,400 m) tall peak, which he felt was difficult.[7] The climax of the film was shot at Jungfrau in temperatures of −16 °C (3 °F).[7] To shoot the scene, Lal propped himself on top of an open helicopter to capture the Jaungfrau Heights from 15,000-foot (4,600 m) in −30 °C (−22 °F). The shot took two hours to film. After landing, he collapsed and was rushed to a hospital immediately.[5] Ganesh Acharya choreographed the songs, and Suresh Urs edited the film.[3]

SoundtrackEdit

The Hero: Love Story of a Spy
Soundtrack album by
Released20 February 2003 (2003-02-20)
GenreFeature film soundtrack
Length33:47
LanguageHindi
LabelTime Music

Uttam Singh composed the soundtrack for The Hero: Love Story of a Spy with lyrics written by Anand Bakshi and Javed Akhtar.[3][14] Initially Bakshi was the sole lyricist on the soundtrack, but during production he fell ill. He wrote the lyrics for a few songs after his recovery, but after his death Akhtar was brought in to write the lyrics for the rest of the songs.[10][14] The film contains six original tracks with vocals provided by Udit Narayan, Alka Yagnik, Jaspinder Narula, Sunidhi Chauhan, Sardool Sikander and Hariharan.[3][14] Times Music released the soundtrack on 20 February 2003.[3][14]

Bollywood Hungama said the soundtrack did not have "anything great or extraordinary to offer" and that the music is below expectations considering the budget and scale of the film.[15] Planet Bollywood rated the album 6 out of 10, calling it "simply passable, nothing spectacular" and saying the music is not what was expected from such a big film.[14] The reviewer said "Dil Main Hai Pyar" is the best song on the album, noting "its enjoyable characteristics" and saying it had "the potential to become very popular".[14]

Track listing[16]
No.TitleLyricsSinger(s)Length
1."Dil Main Hai Pyar"Anand BakshiUdit Narayan, Alka Yagnik, Jaspinder Narula04:37
2."Tere Shehar Ka Kya Hai Naam"Anand BakshiUdit Narayan, Alka Yagnik04:25
3."In Mast Nigahon Se"Javed AkhtarUdit Narayan, Sunidhi Chauhan05:02
4."Mari Koyal Ne Aisi Cook"Anand BakshiSardool Sikander, Jaspinder Narula06:35
5."Tum Bhi Na Mano"Javed AkhtarAlka Yagnik, Hariharan06:11
6."Dil Main Hai Pyar 2"Anand BakshiAlka Yagnik06:57

Budget and trade analysisEdit

After the record-breaking success of Deol's and Sharma's previous collaboration Gadar: Ek Prem Katha, which had become the highest-grossing Indian film of all time at that point, their next collaboration was highly anticipated and a lot was expected from it.[4][6][17] According to Taran Adarsh, there were "gargantuan" expectations for the new film".[18] The Hero: Love Story of a Spy was much talked about for its budget and scale.[4][6] Adarsh said the producers had spared no expense in making it a film of "epic proportions" and "grand production values", writing, "The money spent is visible in every frame, the grand look of the film just cannot be overlooked."[18] The film was also talked about for including stunts that were new to Bollywood cinema.[19]

Industry experts and trade analysts declared The Hero: Love Story of a Spy the most expensive Indian film ever made at that point, with some estimating its budget between 50 to 55 million.[6][19][20] According to Box Office India, the film had a budget of 35 million, including production and marketing costs.[2] Sharma refused to confirm the exact budget but agreed it was an expensive film, telling Subhash K. Jha: "The producers have gone on record about the budget. I cannot tell you the exact cost. But yes, it is an expensive film."[4] The director, however, was extremely unhappy with the hype around the film's budget because he did not want to raise audience expectations.[4] Rajesh Thadani said the film should have been made on a lower budget because the economics of film-making had changed and that restraining a film's budget was "the need of the hour".[6] A distributor told Rediff.com making such a costly film in the 2000s was not a viable proposition and that audiences had become extremely unpredictable. He added: "Devdas, with all its hype, barely managed to recover its cost. For The Hero to succeed, it will have to do better than Devdas."[6]

When The Hero: Love Story of a Spy was in production, the Bollywood film Industry's revenues were declining and many were hopeful the film would help to revive the industry.[4][6] The film's trailers and promos created "enormous" to "positive" buzz in the public and the media, but some trade analysts were sceptical about its high budget and its potential box-office earnings.[4][6] An editor of Box Office said the recovery of the cost of a film like this, filmed on "an extra-large canvas", was impossible from the Indian market alone.[6] He said big-budget films like this mostly rely on overseas markets, which was uncertain for this film because it offered nothing new to overseas audiences as a "James Bond type of movie" that had been done several times before.[6] Trade analyst Amod Mehra was more optimistic about the film, saying he hoped it would help revive the Bollywood film industry, which had "virtually gone dead", and that "the public is anticipating something as thrilling and fast-paced as Gadar. If he has kept the pulse of the public in mind, I see no reason why [the film] won't run well."[6]

ReleaseEdit

As The Hero: Love Story of a Spy was nearing its release, the 2003 Bollywood Producers' strike prevented the release of new Hindi films in theaters after 1 April 2003.[21] Deol was displeased about the strike because he felt postponing a big film like this was not an affordable option, saying: "When a producer has spent so much money promoting and publicising a film like The Hero, how is he expected to scrap his campaign, postpone his film and start from scratch?"[21] The Hero: Love Story of a Spy was released on 11 April 2003 on 500 screens despite the ongoing ban on the release of Hindi films.[20]

The film had a good opening at the box office,[22] collecting 22.2 million on its opening day and 63.1 million in its opening weekend in India with worldwide opening-weekend revenue of over 111.5 million.[2] In its first week, the film collected over 107 million at the domestic box office and over 188.2 worldwide.[2] In a report published in Rediff.com, Jha said the strike proved to be beneficial for The Hero: Love Story of a Spy because it had sustained a steady second-week run.[23] During its box office run, the film grossed 414.5 million in India and over 36.8 million in the overseas market, making a worldwide gross of over 451.3 million.[24] It was the third-highest-grossing Indian film of the year,[24] but the film's box-office gross was considered to be below expectations due to high production costs.[2][22]

Time released The Hero: Love Story of a Spy as a single-disc, NTSC-format DVD on 8 July 2003 across all regions.[25][26] A DVD version released by Venus Records contains some bonus features, including a "making-of" documentary and a collection of Deol's songs.[27] A Video CD version was released at the same time.[28] Tip Top Video released the film internationally on an all-regions, PAL-Widescreen format DVD.[26] A VHS version was released on 1 September 2003.[29] Moser Baer later released another version of the DVD across all regions on an NTSC-format single disc.[30]

ReceptionEdit

 
Miss World 2000 Priyanka Chopra made her Bollywood debut with the film, winning the Stardust Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance

The Hero: Love Story of a Spy garnered mixed reviews from critics.[31] Deepa Gumaste of Rediff.com praised the film, calling it a "comicbook spy movie", comparing it to Die Another Day and Mission: Impossible, and writing, "At last an original desi spy who combines the guile and charm of James Bond and the raw appeal of Rambo!" She said the cinematography is a "treat for the eyes with exquisite footage of the picturesque landscapes" and wrote, "For once in a Hindi film, foreign locations have actually been put to good use."[32] Lawrence Van Gelder of New York Times was appreciative of the film, noting its "multiple pleasures" and writing, "Stretching from the snow-capped peaks of Kashmir to the ski slopes of Canada, mingling gunplay, spectacular explosions and chases with songs, dances and romance, this colorful Indian spy adventure constitutes the cinematic equivalent of the delightful and inconsequential escapism of a 700-page summer beach novel."[33]

Sify gave The Hero: Love Story of a Spy film three out of five, writing, "The central theme gets more spice with a love story giving much role to play for Preity and Priyanka. The action sequences are well shot and Sunny essays his role with skill as usual."[34] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times called the film "straightforward escapist fare" with the sensibility of an "old-fashioned comic-book", and said it "may be corny" and "unintentionally amusing at times" but it is also "a lot of fun" and has "all the classic elements of a Bollywood blockbuster taken to a spectacular level".[35] The BBC's Manish Gajjar called the film "great escapist" cinema and praised the performances, writing that, "the role of Ravi Khanna was tailor-made for Sunny Deol. He got a chance to exhibit the various looks of a secret agent ... Preity Zinta is radiantly refreshing throughout the film whilst ex-Miss World, Priyanka Chopra appears natural considering that this is her debut film."[36]

Derek Elley of Variety said The Hero: Love Story of a Spy is "wildly over-the-top" but "undeniably entertaining". Praising the performances, Elley wrote, "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 making a solid screen debut as a modern urban miss."[37] Anupama Chopra of India Today said the narrative has flair, noting the love story, including the courtship and consequent separation that has "emotional vigour" works to some extent but the spying part is a problem. She wrote: "The leads try hard—Deol appears suavely sincere and Zinta vulnerable—but Shaktiman's script doesn't hold. The incendiary dialogue got whistles but the comic-book discussions on nuclear bombs were a sleeping pill."[38] Taran Adarsh of Bollywood Hungama criticised the "superficial" writing but praised the technical aspects of the film, such as the "terrific" visuals and "awe-inspiring" action sequences, and said it "lacks the soul to make you cry and make your heart go out for the on-screen characters ... [the film] has gloss and hype as its trumpcards, but ... lacks in emotions, music and a taut screenplay".[18]

AccoladesEdit

Award Date[a] Category Recipient(s) and nominee(s) Result Ref.
IIFA Awards 22 May 2004 Best Performance in a Negative Role Amrish Puri Nominated [39]
Screen Awards 16 January 2004 Best Action Allan Amin Nominated [40]
Stardust Awards 2004 Best Supporting Actress Priyanka Chopra Won [41]
Zee Cine Awards 26 February 2004 Best Performance in a Negative Role Amrish Puri Nominated [42]
Best Female Debut Priyanka Chopra[b] Nominated
Best Action Allan Amin Nominated
Best Visual Effects The Hero: Love Story of a Spy Nominated

NotesEdit

  1. ^ Linked to the article about the awards held that year, wherever possible.
  2. ^ Also for Andaaz.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "The Hero – Love Story of a Spy (2003)". British Board of Film Classification. Archived from the original on 24 April 2020. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
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  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Jha, Subhash K. (9 April 2003). "'The Hero is not an Indian James Bond'". Rediff.com. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  5. ^ a b c d e Verma, Sukanya. "Spy Games". Rediff.com. Archived from the original on 28 August 2004. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
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  12. ^ The Hero: Love Story of a Spy: The Movie Disc. Event occurs at approximately 20:52
  13. ^ a b The Hero: Love Story of a Spy: The Movie Disc. Event occurs at approximately 03:02:11
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  29. ^ "The Hero – Love Story of a Spy [VHS]". Amazon. Archived from the original on 17 August 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
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  38. ^ Chopra, Anupama (18 April 2003). "Film review: 'Hero: The Love Story of a Spy' starring Sunny Deol, Preity Zinta". India Today. Archived from the original on 24 April 2020. Retrieved 24 April 2020.
  39. ^ Kay, Jeremy (2 April 2004). "Kal Ho Naa Ho leads IIFA nominees". Screen Daily. Archived from the original on 7 January 2018. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
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  41. ^ "Hrithik, Preity conquer 2003 awards". Rediff.com. Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 21 April 2020.
  42. ^ "Zee Cine Awards 2004". Zee Cine Awards. 26 March 2004. Zee TV.

External linksEdit