[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]