Superheroes – Kal, Aaj aur Kal

We Indians are colorful. A little dramatic yet very emotional. And we sing and dance a lot. Same goes with our superheroes.Here we a have a legion of Gods and Goddess. They are our first superheroes. No arguments please. Be it the indomitable Durga, the lovable Ganpati Bappa or the forever cool Lord Shiva. We just adore our deities.The concept of Superheroes is believed to have been imported from the overseas, but in a territory engulfed by mythologies, superstitions and a belief that there are probably 33 crore Gods, each devoted to different facet of nature, the concept of superheroes was always churning within. Initially, we did not have a masked superhero but superheroes did exist, all had a unique power and an unusual prowess. We believed that they were the reincarnations of the Almighty, the humane Gods.

Ever since the technology of films/motion pictures have found space in the dictionary of our common sense, films have depicted superheroes. The masked heroes. Saving lives. Giving lessons in morals. Romancing pretty women and also shaking a leg here and there. From TV shows to movies, these superheroes are all over our screen. We had Raja Harishchandra to start off with. When Television became an affordable commodity, Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana created history. Arun Govil was praised in his role as Ram and gained a huge fan-following. Many would offer respect to Govil by touching his feet. With the “moving pictures” on Doordarshan, the sagas of Chandrakanta, Vikram aur Betaal and Shaktimaan occupied our minds and being, irrespective of which age group one belonged to.

Shaktimaan was a breakthrough in the superhero domain. India had a real superhero who would dress up like one and belonged to the contemporary times. Gangadhar was a simple man, with a close resemblence to the common man of R.K. Laxman. But when he’d come across some social evil, he’d take the form of Shaktimaan to fight evil. It was lesser violence and more moral value that Shaktimaan gave us. Every Indian child of the ’90s remembers hearing, “Sorry, Shaktimaan” because Shaktimaan was also moral science teacher, as he would give a moral lesson at the end of each episode.

Post-Shaktimaan, however, Indian television has seen many superheroes. Star Plus’s evening slot was dedicated to them. Zorro was one such superhero. And Hungama Television too, had a superhero who was mentally-unsound and was given his powers by Goddess Durga. The title track of the show would say, “Hero ki kya baat hai, Maa Durga uske sath hai". And the tagline of the show read “Bhakti hi shakti hai” (*sigh*). Then there was yet another serial on a certain Monkey-Man who had come from another time and period (he was one from Hanuman’s Vanarsena). This Monkey-Man was called Loomba and the serial was named after the character. He had superpowers and although, he was not a superhero (of sorts) but would help the chillar party. Indian television also had its ghostbusters “Vikraal aur Gabraal”. The serial which started off as a horror serial factionalised into two – one, where there would ghosts hovering all over the screen and two, where the ghostbusters would shoo these ghosts away. Superhero concept appeases children and so there was again a surge in such serials at the turn of the century. A magical pencil made Sanju, a child-superhero (and gave us the latest Southern Siren, Hansika Motwani) while Son Pari made Fruity a Superwoman (if we can call her that). Post the nanhe superhero phase, we also saw the rise of Zokkomon (starring Darsheel Safary). These days children are engaged in the “Baal-Veer” tales.

On 70mm too has given us superheroes. The animation film Hanuman, proved that He is the ultimate superhero but we’ve seen the Angry Young Man donning a cloak (to imply that he is a super human being) in films like Toofan, Ajooba and Drona (2008). But sadly, these Indian superheroes aren’t very sought-after, like their American counterparts. Do you know there is a 1960-Superman movie titled, "Return of the Superman"? Dadasaheb Phalke Award-winner Paidi Jairaj, starred in it. You can also watch a tackier version of the 1987 Superman, where our hero fights for truth, justice and love in a very Indian way admist musical numbers. However, movies like Hrithik Roshan’s Krrish, Anil Kapoor’s Mr. India, not to forget Rajinikanth’s Robot, interestingly, have quite a fan following.

Recently, a computer graphics ajooba, Ra.One too came out as a superhero film of the contemporary times. Many wouldn’t want to watch a sequel to this (albeit it has a fan following of Krrish, Mr. India and Robot likes), but the filmmakers do not mind going ahead to make one, as the audience they cater to consists of the innocent mind who can be fed with magnanimous lies.We are crazy fans of American superheroes. Batman, Ironman  Superman, Wolverine… we love them all. Forget the superheroes, we love the the super villains too! The Joker, Bane, Dr. Octopus… and the list goes on. But earlier this year, when the dates of Krrish 3 were announced, we weren’t very excited. Most of us were like "Not again".
Reasons why we don’t like our Indian superhero movies: Lack of originality … lack of originality, and lack of originality. And the superhero dances more than necessary. We really don’t need silly romantic songs in a superhero movie. The movies are good enough for the kids, but not for today’s generation of youth who can anatomize the whole movie.

Stan Lee recently announced his plans about creating an Indian superhero  Chakra: The Invincible. It is about a young boy, Raju. With the help of his mentor he develops a technology that activates the mystical Chakras found in the body. With this superpower, Raju protects people from evil intentions of the super villains. Should we be excited? With the predecessors of the likes of Shaktimaan, Krrish and the upcoming Krrish 3, will certainly feed toddlers with a super-dose of entertainment, but how far will these alien alleviated powers give a kick to the aam-junta is the question that will be answered with the film’s fate at the Box Office. Are you ready for another superhero movie?

By Siddhi Palande & Tanaya Ramyani

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