Superheroes in Desi movies? Old Hat

[Original word-limited version was published in DNA Sunday. Sans these pictures]

Can someone tell me what all this hullabaloo is about? Krrish and Enthiran and Ra-One—-a new wave of Indian superhero movies, the so-called next level, reflective of the recently acquired international taste of the Indian audience?

What? Superheroes new  to Indian cinema? I beg to disagree.

All our action heroes, for decades, have been superheroes. Spiderman and the Green Lantern can just stuff it.

Sure our Indian superheroes did not wear Tron-and-Ironman inspired suits (Ra-One) or  Zorro and Shiva (played by Jackie Shroff)-like masks and capes (Krrish). They did not need to, being comfortable in their own skins. They also had enough fashion sense not be caught wearing a underwear over their trousers or over-tight, trapeze-artist-like body-suits.

Our old, non-wannabe heroes knew that you do not need a six-pack or bulging biceps to overcome evil.

Just one muscle is compulsory,saar.

A dhak-dhaking heart full of pyar.

They did not need an unintended encounter with a spider in a radioactive lab or genetic mutations to become mega-men. Just a diet of Ma ka doodh in childhood and a steady supply of home-cooked gajjar ka halwa and Muli ka paratha provided all the rocket power they needed to fly and fight the baddies.

Those who think only Spiderman can swing has not seen Jeetendra  and his anti-gravity white shoes.

Those who think only Superman can fly has not seen Balayya wafting through time and space. Those who feel Bruce Wayne had a rough childhood surely have not heard of Mithunda’s character in “Ma Kasaam” who, after surviving an attempt to poison him by his desperately poor mother, became so poisonous himself that when a cobra bit him, it died.

Dr.Xavier of “X Men”  is the biggest bad-ass in a wheelchair. Sure. Only if you have not seen a wheelchair-confined Sunny Deol in “Heroes” decimating a full group of goombahs, with such force that gigantic cracks develop in the floor.

They have Captain America. So what? We have Captain Vijaykanth. And Mr. India.

Wolverine you say? Meet his baap Anil Kapoor.

And the coup d’grace? Our national heritage, Rajinikanth can obliterate the whole DC and Marvel universe with one twirl of his goggles.

Do our superheroes have weak points? Sure they do. Just like the Western superheroes have theirs, like Acchiles his heal and Superman Kryptonite. And their vulnerability points are not their paunches (they use these as flotation devices) but the izzats of their “behen”-s and “mashooqa”-s , a fact used strategically by their arch-nemeses. And what villains we have had— the Loin, Dr. Dang, Dong, Shakaal, Mogambo, Ajgar Jurrat… I am sorry but sissies like Joker,Penguin, Magneto and Lex Luthor have nothing on them.

If the definition of superheroes be restricted to those who wear body suits, well we have had these for some time too. “Dariya Dil” (1988) had a song “Tu mera Superman” which had Govinda as Superman and Kimi Katkar as an outrageously voluptous Spiderman. And ages before Ra-One and Kkrish, Puneet Issar had played Superman in “Superman”  (1987) where Dharmendra played his father (presumably Jor-El), a movie that had a thrillingly surreal sequence where while a plane is being hijacked, Jagdeep, his face contorted by strong stomach motions, goes to the loo where a lady who introduces herself as Musclewoman from Zambia tries gamely to seduce him. And what about  Shahenshah, who is “rishte main baap” and “Toofan” whose clarion call “Aaya aaya Toofan Bhaga Bhaga Shaitaan” became an inspiration for people struggling with stomach gas—how awesome are they?

To be honest, Richard Donner or Bryan Singer could never even come close to this level of heroism.

So dear new generation folks, please do feel free to be awed by G.One’s superhumanbaazi and to be scared of a villain played by Arjun Rampal.

By all means.

But remember, all this has been done before.

Many many times.

Because, simply put, superheroes are as desi as ghee.

[Author’s note: Due to word and scope limitations, TV superheroes like Shaktiman and purely comic-book superheroes like Chacha Chowdhury have been left outside the domain of definition]


38 thoughts on “Superheroes in Desi movies? Old Hat

  1. Haha…seriously, sir, you are a walking Encyclopedia on Indian Cinema.

  2. OMG! In top 5 ishshsh…

  3. Sadly..not funny.

    …and maybe you are referring to Richard Donner (not Peter Donner).


  4. You missed out one superhero, the one who recently starred in , wrote and directed Chargeshet!!!

    Btw , expecting a review of Chargesheet from you!!!

  5. “…Those who feel Bruce Wayne had a rough childhood surely have not heard of Mithunda’s character in “Ma Kasaam” who, after surviving an attempt to poison him by his desperately poor mother, became so poisonous himself that when a cobra bit him, it died.” Gawwdd. How did I miss this film?
    You missed Hemant Birje who had played Tarzan to Kimi Katkar’s Lady Jane.

  6. Not sure why you would put Enthiran in a superhero movie

  7. Hollywood has been aping hindi films ekdum besharam! Every hindi film hero is by definition a superhero – and they were heroic in word and deed and song as well! also their superheroism was multi dimensional – unlike hollywood superheroes who usually have 1 special skill (which is highlighted in their moniker!)

  8. I thing instead of Arjun Rampal as Ra.One, Sonu Sood of Dabang fame would have been better. May be Arjun Rampal was chosen as he has the same expression for all emotions and since the villan is some kind of robot, then it suits the character.

  9. wonder if anyone can make something similar to ROBOT.
    Plz review shaitan & pyar ka panchnama !

  10. “like Acchiles his heal and Superman Kryptonite”….. i think you meant heel.
    But entertaining and informative as usual. Waiting for the next !!

  11. Re. Anil Kapoor, did you mean Wolfman or Wolverine? Also, does Tarzan qualify as superhero? If it does, you have the Dara Singh/ Tarzan movies to draw on.

  12. Just one question… Where the heck you get such pics from ? A picture is worth thousand words they say and that’s damn right!!!

    Anil kapoor is the certified “baal” kalakar of Indian cinema

    Awesome post

  13. Wasn’t Mithun film Jeene Ki Aarzoo where he was fed on poison from childhood or are you talking about another film here?

  14. We have had our share of unnatural too… who can forget the dolphin mother in Ajooba, or the icha dhaari nag and naagins (Jeetendra, Sri Devi) .. now thats some inspiration for hollywood movies

  15. Attention to detail is one aspect on which all Indian superheroes fall flat on face. (I am talking about Movie and TV superheroes only).

  16. Confused on this point... October 12, 2011 — 2:26 pm

    Is the Anil Kapoor picture genuine?

  17. Confused on this point... October 12, 2011 — 2:30 pm

    The picture of Meenakshi Seshadri being scared/concerned by Amitabh’s carrot is priceless.

  18. GB…do check out the article on times of india website about the Ra-one “look” of Arjun Rampal…it is not easy to find a costume to make that man look ludicrous. I do hope this pic is a cartoon representation or something.

  19. Dude, chill.

    All *popular* art is derivative to a large extent. Most pop artists steal from sources that are obscure to their target audience. And this is especially true in the Sci Fi/Fantasy genre. George Lucas shamelessly ripped off Akira Kurosawa’s films and many old Westerns for ‘Star Wars’. The Lord of The Rings is based on many old European legends/epics such as Beowulf and Nibelung.

    Our popular filmmakers do the same — Hollywood is as obscure to their target audience, as Japanese films to the average Joe in the American midwest.

    Incidentally, my grandfather was a playwright, and I’ve seen many artists (writers/musicians) from close quarters since childhood. Watching them at work, frankly, was a bit like getting a guided tour of a sausage factory.

    I can give you an example of how this works:

    A Marathi poet called Kusumagraj translated Jean Anouilh’s “Beckett” into Marathi. My grandfather, a friend of his, thought the same central conflict in ‘Beckett’ would work well in a modern-day industrialist versus union leader setting, and adapted this translation into a Marathi play called “Beimaan”. Now, a Marathi actress who was part of this play was friends with a certain famous Bollywood director, and it’s no coincidence that this famous director made a famous film with a similar title with two famous actors. Now, I always asked my grandfather why he did not sue this director, and he would say, “Well, didn’t I rip off Jean Anouilh too?”. This is how things usually work in the art world.

    Anyway, what I wanted to say is, in my experience, an artist can never ever be commercially successful, if they don’t base their work off a template that has already worked before. They can innovate within those constraints, but only incrementally.

    I think your disappointment stems from your unrealistically high expectations. Artists aren’t super-humans. They are just very smart thieves, especially the greatest ones.

  20. Anshuman,

    My point was that Indian heroes have always been superheroes sans costumes. As to the originality of ideas and adaptations, I thoroughly agree with what you said.


    I have. It’s an image taken from the game.

  21. Chacha chowdhary wasnt a super hero…

  22. Another Prabhu bhakt October 13, 2011 — 9:23 am

    Our desi start trek was full of awesomeness..Captain vyom!

  23. One more desi super hero movie was zorro *ing navin nischol

  24. Similar Thoughts…. though u should have included Mr.Devgan and Akshay kumar

  25. Rightly said–“Just one muscle is compulsory–a dhak-dhaking heart full of pyar.” 😀

  26. Whoaaa….. Indian cinema is sooo high on superheroes….Impressive post!!!! and all those movies…didnt even know they existed….

  27. what about malegaon ka superhero?

  28. wow… you surely have an eagle eye…

  29. A dhak-dhaking heart full of pyar……..Ha ha Super Awesome ( I dont know what else to write 😛 ) Made my Friday in office 🙂 Thanks for the wonderful posts Arnab ,You rock 🙂

  30. Yaaaawn.
    Arnab, your blog is becoming Old Hat too. The dwindling number of responses in the comments section is a clear indicator (though admittedly there are a few females still gushing about your “wonderful” posts).
    Time to retire and join the Advani rath-yatra? Better act fast then, because your friend (:D) Chetan Bhagat seems to have sided up with Narendra Modi!

  31. “Our national heritage, Rajinikanth can obliterate the whole DC and Marvel universe with one twirl of his goggles.” – Priceless!

    Leaving out Salman Khan is a bad move, considering all his recent movies have been Superhero flicks (South-Indian remakes)

  32. Greatbong,
    Aonther nice article from you. Now that out desi superheroes have received your attention, what about desi Pharaoh who is builing structures and idol of her worth multicrore INR. It will be a treat to read one such blog from you.

  33. Arnab: Just loved this one. But i’m a little tired of the ‘critical’ hair splitting comments that follow. Sometimes the comments section completely goes off track. I suggest that you should respond a little more often to keep the context intact for further comments that come in. I know it might not be possible to respond to everyone, but just once in a while (slightly more frequent than now) would be great!

  34. You missed ajooba, perhaps?

  35. Ashu,

    There is only a finite amount of time I have. Plus you respond to critical hair splitting comments and then there are more splitting hairs of how I am intolerant to criticism. Which brings me back to the first sentence.

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