When you exaggerate the extraordinary, it looks ordinary. Mathematics whiz and educator Anand Kumar has led a remarkable life, coaching hundreds of underprivileged children past the rigours of the Indian Institute of Technology entrance exams. His story deserves attention, but director Vikas Bahl confoundingly embellishes it into typical filmi fare in Super 30. For some reason, Kumar’s actual triumph wasn’t enough — therefore the filmmakers added clichéd adversity. The odds may have challenged Kumar, but the Hrithik Roshan version features armed hitmen, evil politicians and moustached villains.
Hrithik Roshan isn’t bad, though his problematic brown face-paint is inconsistent to the point of distraction. The actor plays guilelessness with charm in Super 30 as a Patna boy hungry for the most advanced mathematical equations he can lay his hands on, a boy who hides a smile about a girl shyly behind a gamchha. His eyes gleam only when discussing numbers and talking to students, but Super 30 pushes Roshan into awkward directions — like a nutty Paisa-Paisa song where he’s briefly corrupted by money and tight shirts — and hands him too much melodrama. And, as we all know by now, whenever Roshan needs to dial it up a notch, he lets his nostrils do the emoting.
Super 30 movie review: Even in Super 30, whenever Hrithik Roshan needs to dial it up a notch, he lets his nostrils do the emoting.
Still, there is less of that here — at least at the start. I loved the opening gambit, featuring this young man wanting to get published in an academic journal not for prestige but because contributors get a lifetime subscription. The scene where he’s obsessively solving a groundbreaking equation on his walls is reminiscent of Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting, where a janitor was a math genius.
Kumar wins the subscription and gets admission to Cambridge University, but can’t raise the funds for travel, even as his father (played by the reliably excellent Virendra Saxena) overextends himself. He falls back to selling paapad made by his mother, when a coaching institute tycoon called Lallan starts leveraging him into a brand for his institutes.
Super 30 movie review: Unlike what is shown in Super 30, Anand Kumar didn’t open his own, entirely free institute for 30 kids.
In the film, Kumar opens his own, entirely free institute for 30 kids, which is noble but untrue. In reality, Kumar founded a successful institute which allowed him to support his famed ‘Super 30’ programme. Here the drama comes from poor kids forced to share rice. Set to the operatic background score of an Old Spice commercial, all the emotional manipulation gets in the way of inspiration.
The cast is solid, particularly Aditya Shrivastava as Lallan, who appears to have something up his sleeve even when his character doesn’t. The kids Roshan guides have fun in smartly depicted scenes about math. Then, the genre flips: Kumar is shot in the stomach, and the film turns into ‘Home Alone: Physics Edition.’ Super 30 couldn’t possibly have been written by one of Kumar’s students. It doesn’t add up.