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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

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Bitten by the Batman (and Spiderman) bug, I did a list - yes, I have not tired of them - of Bollywood superheroes. This was first put up on the IBNLive website (complete with a picture of Drona!) but I thought I should put it up here as well. 
So, here it comes - 2100 words of pointless Bollywood gyan. And you do know what to do if you like it, right

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Any hero who romances the heroine, plays badminton with her (including an under-the-leg shot), sings a song, fights off goons and mouths bombastic dialogue all within nine minutes of screen time is actually a superhero.(This sequence of events was performed by Jeetendra in Humjoli.)
Which means you could argue that all Bollywood movies of 1960s and 1970s are superhero movies. But here, we are restricting ourselves to people with specific superpowers (or gadgets with superpowers), cool costumes and preferably a secret identity. Thanks to our super-screenwriters, they also had super-cool lines. 

In his first lead role, Jackie Shroff was Hero. Almost immediately afterwards, he was Superhero in Shiva Ka Insaaf.
Shiva was a super-combo of super-heroes from many genres. His training regimen was straight out of Shaolin. His costume (mask and cape) was taken from Zorro. His mark-leaving ring was from Phantom. His common-man getup (and profession) was alarmingly similar to Clark Kent’s bespectacled, bumbling reporter routine.
Trained by a trio of ‘uncles’ (secularly called Ram, Rahim and Robert), Jackie Shroff went from being Bhola to Shiva and back again, romancing Poonam Dhillon by day and fighting crime also by day – all in a Herculean effort to catch the people who killed his parents.

Corrupt policeman by day, black-leather-chain-armguard-salt-and-pepper-wig-hair clad dispenser of justice by night. Amitabh’s first outing as a bonafide secret identity superhero was Shahenshah, the story idea of which is credited to Jaya Bachchan.
After his honest dad was driven to suicide by the evil machinations of JK (pronounced Jaay  Kaay by Amrish Puri), AB grew up to become a police officer who always flirted with bribery from shady characters (explained by his need to know who was, in fact, shady). And once he got to know, he appeared like a messiah in his jazzy leather costume beating up Olympic-sized wrestlers for running vice dens, stopping unlawful eviction of slum-dwellers and patrolling the empty streets of Mumbai’s western suburbs at night (Andheri raaton mein,  sunsaan rahon par…).
Apart from his super strength, breath that echoed far and wide and godly voice, he had that one superpower by which he impregnated the mothers of all villains in the world. As he claimed, “Rishte mein toh hum tumhare baap hote hain…”

Apart from the wannbe Supermans in Bollywood, there was a ‘real’ one. Puneet Issar was Superman in the film of the same name – which has been part of many discussions on the worst Indian movie ever.
As Shekhar, Puneet Issar breakdanced to Michael Jackson songs and then quickly changed into his red-brief-on-blue-costume get-up (complete with a lock of hair on the forehead) to fight crime. Dharmendra played the father (Jor El) who was forced the leave his son in the care of foster parents on Earth though he returned in ‘spirit’ to guide his son when he performed breathtaking feats like rescuing a hijacked plane by plucking it off the sky and lugging it on his shoulders (except the plane was rolling on its wheels and our good ol’ Superman was tiptoeing in front with his shoulder touching the side of the plane).

After reading about Superman, those who are despairing about the quality of special effects in Bollywood should take heart from another film that released around the same time. Boney Kapoor bet his house and brother’s career to produce Mr India – an invisibility caper, originally written for Amitabh Bachchan.
Arun Verma’s father was a scientist who invented a ‘faarmooolaaa’ that rendered people invisible – except in red light. <Insert red light district joke here> He knew evil monsters (especially those with names like Mogambo) would want to misuse his invention and so he hid the gadget (a blingy bracelet with flashing lights) and got killed by the monsters. Years later, his son recovered the bracelet, put it on and became Mr India.
Mr India took on adulterers, black marketers and smugglers in action settings and horny crime reporters in romantic ones. He eventually took on Mogambo in his den and was doing phenomenally well till somebody switched on all the red lights. Then Arun Verma realized that to take on villains, you didn’t need to be Superman but Mango Man.

Another father died. Another villain escaped. Another police officer looked the other way. When the dead man’s son prayed to the Bajrangbali for justice, a storm blew across the temple area. A hi-tech bow-and-arrow slid across from the Hanuman idol to the little boy and the idol’s garland flew over to the boy’s neck. Thus, Toofan was born.
Directed by Ketan Desai, Toofan a superhero with a desi-snazzy costume (black pathan suit with orange cape), explosive lines (Jab jab zulm ki aandhi badhti hai, tab tab usse rokne ke liye toofan aata hai) and a calling card that literally blew you away. Whenever Toofan arrived on the scene, he was accompanied by a real storm. Wow, that beats the Batmobile hollow!
Add to that deadly villains, shady police officers, a bumbling magician (who was Toofan’s twin brother), a mother character and you had a full-blown desi superstar/superman.

Ajooba = Zorro + Robin Hood + Braveheart + James Bond. 
He wore a mask, shot arrows, robbed the rich to donate to the poor, rebelled against the ruler and was a hit with women. He was, literally, a miracle. When the evil Vazir (Amrish Puri) of his Sultan father tried to kill him, a dolphin carried him to safety (and became his foster mother) and left him with an ironsmith. The burly ironsmith trained the anonymous prince in swordfighting, archery and catching arrows as he grew up to rebel against the Vazir, who kept intoning ‘Shaitaan Zindabaad’.
Finally, Ajooba made an appearance with a booming slogan – “Muddai lakh bura chahta hai toh kya hota hain / Wohi hota hai jo manzoor-e-khuda hota hai” – that became his calling card.
Throughout the movie, Amitabh Bachchan toggled between mild-mannered serai-owner Ali and masked crusader Ajooba. The final showdown happened between him and Fauladi Shaitan (a metallic giant, which looked like a cross between Johnny Sokko’s Flying Robot and Chewbacca) amidst demons, flying carpets, magic swords and the final revelation that Ajooba Shahzaada hai!


Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd put a motley group of six newly-married couples on a bus to Goa and tracked their love, lust and lives as skeletons tumbled out of the closets.
Abhay Deol and Minissha Lamba formed the two super-compatible Parsi couple, who were together since childhood, wore colour-coordinated clothes, danced synchronously and even managed to finish Sudokus at exactly the same time. And they both had a secret to hide.
Aspi and Zara were – hold your breath – superheroes. They got their superpowers – it was hinted – when they were both caught in an asteroid fall. And that led to both of them vanishing in the dead of the night to fight crime. A cute bit of misunderstanding later, (Gasp! Are you cheating on me?) they went on to become a superer-compatible couple.


Many superheroes have an extra-terrestrial connection. Usually, they are dropped off from a different planet/galaxy/universe. Krrishwas from a strange breed whose father was ‘blessed’ by aliens to attain superpowers and those powers passed on to him.
While his father Rohit was born with slow mental growth and sharpened only after an alien intervention (Koi Mil Gaya), Krishna Mehra was born with superpowers. As a child, he drew fantastic pictures, did Std III maths while in Std I and totally cracked an ‘IQ Test’ (which was really a GK test, but still…) His paranoid grandmother took him away from the public eye so that he doesn’t get killed like his father but it is not easy to hide a hunk like Hrithik. He soon emerged racing (and beating) horses, leaping over mountains and displaying his rippling muscles.
Very soon, Krishna had landed up in Singapore following the love of his life and had ended up becoming Krrish – wearing a masquerade ball mask and his overcoat inside out. He then saved children in a burning circus, fought goons, leapt over cars in downtown Singapore and finally locked horns with a time-travelling evil scientist (who – conveniently – had also ‘killed’ his father) in his island hideout.
His job thus done, Krrish returned to his idyllic home in the hills but in the name of the oppressed masses, in the name of helpless children, in the name of the tormented box office… he will be back.   

Abhishek Bachchan tried his hand at being a superhero in the semi-mythological fantasy, Drona that went on to become one of the biggest box-office disasters of recent times.
He started off as mild-mannered Aditya, blissfully – or rather, painfully thanks to a cruel aunt – unaware that he was one of a long line of warrior princes designated to protect the vessel of amrit that emerged from the Manthan. His super-strength was unlocked by a ‘bodyguard’ (Priyanka Chopra, who put the body in the bodyguard), who moved around with a chandelier-like weapon. He donned a traditional Indian costume with a flowing kurta, churidar and sword (not to mention a jeweled headband) to take on his adversary, Riz Raizada (Kay Kay in the most inexplicable role of his career), a magician-asura with massive pointy sideburns and hair gelled to shape like a single black antenna on his head.
Despite ticking off all the boxed of superhero ingredients, Drona did not make an impact due to some very ordinary special effects, a slow – almost boring – buildup and super unfit AB Jr, whose cheeks jiggled when he took flying leaps.

From mythology and spiritual strengths, superhero movies moved into the hi-tech gaming zone with Ra.One.
The superhero G.One (Good One) emerged out of a video game that also had the titular villain Ra.One (Random Access One – huh?) in order to protect the game designer’s son. A cool blue-tinged suit, unblinking eyes and blinking heart formed the persona of the Good One as he took on his form-shifting adversary in a London car pound, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (in a mindblowing SFX-laden scene) and finally a video game.
SRK went from the mild-mannered geek Shekhar Subramaniam to the cool, robotic G.One in an effort to woo the family audience. Despite a lukewarm critical response, the box office was more responsive to his superhero act that included running on Mumbai local train sides, doing household chores super-efficiently and wooing Kareena Kapoor with Chammak chhallo dance steps.

Honourable Mentions
It’s a bird! It’s a plane!! It’s Govinda!!!
Dariya Dil, a nondescript movie by most standards, had an iconic superhero song in true Bollywood tradition. Govinda dressed up as Superman and Kimi Katkar was Spiderwoman for a song that has become so cult that the video has gone on to garner 8.7 million – yes, 87 lakh – views on YouTube. They zoomed over the Mumbai skyline before landing in a garden and singing a romantic duet (Tu mera Superman, main teri lady/ Ho gaya hai apna pyaar already) that scaled unprecedented heights of WTFness.


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