Supermen of Malegaon: Movie Review

Director: Faiza Khan

Cast and Crew: Faiza Khan, Sneha Khanwalkar and Hitesh Sonik, Shweta Venkat, Gargey Trivedi, Niraj Gera.

Synopsis: Malegaon,a small town tucked away near the heart of India geographically, is fraught with communal tension and under economic depression.To escape the harsh reality of their world, its people seek refuge in the fantastical world of cinema.

This passion for cinema has spurred a group of cinema enthusiasts to make their own films-quirky, low budget,socially aware and notoriously funny spoofs of Bollywood films. Their ambition has grown and now they are ready to take on Hollywood and Superman.

We follow them on this journey which is at times funny, tragic, contemplative and always warm and engaging. As the film begins to take shape, through schemes and approaches that are sublimely ingenious, simply bizarre and purely hysterical, we also slowly discover Malegaon itself. The film is a tribute to a spirit that can never be vanquished, the spirit that enables the Supermen of Malegaon to make Malegaon’s Superman.

Review: Supermen of Malegaon, “Why’d I wanna watch that?” Yup, that’s pretty much the average Indian’s attitude to parallel films and documentaries. This film may not star an agile blonde sticking to towering skyscrapers, depict his growing pains or feature a pretty lass. But it features supermen who despite all odds filmed this and hats off to the director for showing us another facet of a small town in India. 

Malegaon’s occupants have few or no alternatives but to work in the textile mills of the region which play an integral role in India’s powerloom industry. Supermen of Malegaon trails the journey of film buffs residing in this industrial village who in order to either pursue an alternate living or to add meaning to their lives, decide to film Malegaon Ka Superman. Their film revolves around the villian (Akram Khan) who is trying to setup the injurious to health gutka factory while their Superman (Shafique) wants it to shut it down. He climbs lamp posts and saves children from drowning. He fears contracting asthma in the polluted air he flies in and preaches to the kids in his town to thus spit!

Through their film’s comic sequences, Faiza Khan gives us a peek into the work conditions of these filmmakers. She depicts the director of Malegaon Ka Superman, Shaikh Nasir competing with other scriptwriters in his town (who also want to make a film on Superman) and his quest for a reasonable software (the answer to making his movie in chroma). Their passion for films is evident and any filmmaker can identify with the hurdles they face. In one scene, for instance, Nasir shoots top-angle scenes on a horse cart and even from a telephone tower!

Scenes of the crew of Malegaon Ka Superman lifting their Superman on a bike as he tries to zoom into an autorickshaw to rescue a stranger may seem hysterical initially. But it is through such scenes that Faiza shows her prowess in sensitively portraying the conditions in which they work. We also learn later that most of them cannot consider working in powerlooms which gives them a meagre Rs. 400-600 weekly, as there are frequent 8-10 hour power cuts. Since, approximately 70% of Malegaon’s population are Muslims, their films scarcely have any actresses and actors play the women’s roles. They yet continue because more than employment, it gives them something to look forward to and a remote sense of being celebrities. 

If these aspects were a little more stressed on, for instance, how working without actresses proves to be a hurdle, the fact that there are very few job opportunities there, etc. the film could have been far better. This is because in it’s current state, the masses may miss the film’s message as it has plenty of candid sequences, which could make them overlook the point this film is trying to make.

Needless to say, parallel and documentary filmmakers can heave a sigh of relief and hope that such films will pave the way for documentaries and make the Indian viewer more receptive to varied films. Hopefully, the average Indian will soon realize that there’s more to films than it’s music, a feel good plot and drama, which even the most realistic feature films contain.

Documentaries, not only do they succeed in making us feel priveleged but they also open our minds to the world’s around us. Why solely rely on imagination when reality itself has so many untold stories.

This film may make it as it’s humorous but one can only hope that films like Jai Bhim Comrade by Anand Patwardhan which was a film on the Dalit community too get an equally good response. That day is not far, thanks to filmmakers who believe that India isn’t shining, but has the potential to.

Verdict: This film succeeds in busting the myth that documentaries can’t be entertaining! Here’s to more such ventures.

Kanika Rajani

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