An ineffective remake of a 1983 box office hit mislabelled as a classic, Hero is yet another instance of the resilience of the ancient Indian tradition of nepotism. Like Bobby Deol and Twinkle Khanna in Barsaat, Kareena Kapoor and Abhishek Bachchan in Refugee and Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor in Saawariya, the main draw of Nikhil Advani’s retooling of Subhash Ghai’s 1983 movie is the pairing of Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty. 

The gender roles are reversed here – Aditya Pancholi, the striking-looking actor with a talent for drama, has spawned a son who is closer to the lumbering Suniel Shetty in terms of his acting abilities and the mass of his torso. Suniel Shetty’s daughter Athiya, meanwhile, doesn’t have much meat on her body but she does try to flesh out her character in Hero with something resembling histrionics.

The changes between the original saga of the clash of generations, classes and morals and the remake are cosmetic. The current Hero is slicker and relatively tighter, the convoluted sub-plots are crammed into the last half of the third act, and the leading man’s buddies look like his friends rather than extras yanked off the streets. Ghai’s usual device of naming his characters after Hindu gods and goddesses and throwing in religious symbols to elevate his formulaic films to the status of legendary epics is also absent, though there is a strange song sequence set in a discotheque with stained glass panels that seem to have been borrowed from a nearby church.

It is in this holy discotheque that Sooraj (Sooraj Pancholi), the leading henchman and foster son of gangster Pasha (Aditya Pancholi), first sets his eyes on Radha (Shetty), the daughter of the permanently unshaven Inspector General of Police Mathur (Tigmanshu Dhulia). Radha is a mildly spoilt lass who is tamed after a few dance moves by Sooraj. The thresholds for falling in love are low in this movie: Sooraj isn’t much of a dancer, but Radha, who is apparently a trained one, is smitten anyway.

Pasha has ordered Radha’s abduction to pressure Mathur into getting him off the hook in a criminal case. Sooraj pretends to be part of Radha’s security detail and spirits her away to a snow-bound cottage where something resembling love blossoms between the star-crossed pair. Technology, which has radically progressed since the early 1980s, gives Sooraj’s location away and also inspires one of the movie’s corniest attempts to keep step with the youth demographic. Radha suggests to Sooraj that he should “control alt delete” – wipe out his past omissions and walk hand in hand with her into a new respectable future.

Sharad Kelkar, in the part of the supportive brother played by Sanjeev Kumar in the original, tries to protect Radha from their intransigent father, while Vivan Bhatena, stepping into the Shakti Kapoor role, briefly shows up to stretch the running time some more.

The only draws of Ghai’s Hero were its male lead, Jackie Shroff, who has never needed to take off his shirt to prove his virility, and Laxmikant-Pyarelal’s hit score. Sooraj Pancholi sheds his upper garments often enough to elicit a squeal from Radha, and Bhatena too makes his gym trainer proud.

The bare-chested gimmick is no surprise, considering that this movie has been co-produced by Salman Khan Films. But even the Boss of the Beefcake has shown greater on-screen passion than the raw leads, whose youth and inexperience show up painfully in the many scenes of tender romance. Slow motion, soft light and molar-dislodging action fail to make Sooraj Pancholi a convincing action hero or give Athiya Shetty a serious shot at joining the list of actresses who dominate the screen. The next time round, try a little ardour?