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Monday, December 11, 2023

LIFF 2021 Review: Mara Pappa Superhero

Dr Darshan Ashwin Trivedi’s directorial Mara Pappa Superhero celebrates its European Premiere at London Indian Film Festival.

Sharing a few words on the Gujarati movie, Trivedi says: “This is my second film after Mrugtrushna which has enjoyed its share in the festival circuit. Mara Pappa Superhero is a special film to me as it has practically taken birth during our lunch breaks at MICA.

I am indebted to MICA for providing such a conducive environment to think creatively. The film is getting noticed, which makes me happy.”

This sweet and charming family film tells the story of a little Gujarati girl’s quest to prove her street vendor father is secretly a superhero. Kanku (Bhavya Sirohi) is a happy-go-lucky kid who is able to find joy and happiness with the small things in life.

One day while playing with her rich friend Kiara (Jaanushi Oza), she hears Kiara refer to her father, as a superhero.

Eager to understand, Kanku asks Kiara questions, the answers which lead her to believe her street vendor dad Bhavlo (Abhinay Banker) is also a superhero. She sets out at any cost to convince everyone of this fact.

Interestingly, like Darshan’s first movie, Mrugtrushna, this also tells a very heartfelt simple story through a child’s lens. Both films share the common theme of hope and dreams, with mentally challenged characters playing the strength of the protagonists.

Mara Pappa Superhero, however, is a more relatable and real story. At the beginning of the film, we see a subtle yet stark class division… However, the story is not a pessimistic take on this at all. In fact, this aspect becomes pivotal in establishing the larger message of humanity and human relationships.

Even though Kanku’s family face financial struggles, their poverty is never glorified or romanticised. During times of crisis, we see how they unite and try to find solutions.

One can appreciate such a progressive adaptation in which all three actors Abhinay Banker, Shraddha Dangar and Bhavya Sirohi deliver a compelling/organic performance. Interesting how Shraddha performed to the Dhol in Hellaro and here, she becomes the dhol player. But for me, Bhavya – especially is brilliant, a show-stealer perhaps.

Although the ‘superhero’ word carries a very larger-than-life and stereotypically ‘heroic’ connotation, here it is used as a metaphor and almost an alter-ego, which is symbolic of conquering the human spirit. The cycle seems to be used as an instrumental character which implies how an economically challenged family continue their life journey – despite all the hardships. Ironically, the doll also foreshadows what is to entail in the narrative.

If there are any flaws that could be improved, as a viewer, then that is the smoothness in editing. At one point, the background score gets abruptly cut as it transitions to the next scene. For me, improvements in these small cinematic technicalities would drive the movie to perfection.

Given that Indian cinema has over time showed us the negative implications of fathers and patriarchy, this movie is an empowering tribute to all dads. Recently, in Gujarati cinema, this dynamic seems to be changing especially through movies like Chaal Jeevi Laiye.

But via the film, we understand the extent parents… Especially fathers go through in order to make life and our dreams come true. Plus, given that we are currently fighting a perilous pandemic, Mara Pappa Superhero poses as a poignant reminder that not all heroes wear capes.

⭐⭐⭐.5 (3.5/5 stars)

London Indian Film Festival (LIFF) runs from 17th June to 2nd July at cinemas in London, Birmingham, and Manchester, or at home, via the digital site www.LoveLIFFatHome.com. Head over to https://londonindianfilmfestival.co.uk/ for more on their programme. 

For screenings in Manchester and Birmingham, go to: https://birminghamindianfilmfestival.co.uk/ and https://manchesterindianfilmfestival.co.uk/.

Anuj Radia
Journalist and film enthusiast.

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