Girl, Interrupted

Niharika M

Keep calm, Doga is coming

| Updated on July 04, 2013

There was a very interesting meme on Facebook recently, one that first made me laugh and put me in a contemplative mood soon after. It was a rather lamentable collage of Indian Superheroes – a desi version of the Avengers. Drona, Krissh, G-one, Salman Khan’s Bodyguard (you heard it!) and Sunny Deol rightly morphed as the hulk! While the collage went on to show that we do indeed have an Indian answer to every made-in-the-west tag, and that we are unquestionably loyal to our superheroes, we still have to look elsewhere for quality superhuman action.

The Indian story

The attempt to engineer a formidable Indian superhero on screen has a longer history than most of us can imagine. The universal favourite ‘Superman’ was the first to be adapted to the Indian screen. Directed by Mohammad Hussain in the 1960s, and titled Superman, the similarities ended at the name as this Superman looked more like a villain out of a Batman comic with Red Baron-ish flying headgear and a wrestler’s outfit that had a cape dangling limply merely for authenticity. We followed it up with more believable (purely relative) versions in the ‘80s with Puneet Essar starring as the Man in Steel and N.T. Rama Rao enthralling the Telugu audience as Superman; of note being a very original ‘H’ moniker splayed across his generous mid-section.

While big stars like Amitabh Bachchan also tried their luck with movies like Ajooba, they failed to capture the audience; his crime-crusader movie Shahenshah managed to draw in the audiences though. Son Abhishek Bachchan’s Drona sank at the box office despite its extravagant sets and special effects. The lone wolf in this that managed to become a cult classic was Mr India where Anil Kapoor very convincingly plays a common man who turns into a superhero with the power of invisibility – Sridevi helped of course! The film was very honest in its portrayal of reality, took off into fantasy just at the right time, and gave us one of the most memorable villains, Mogambo (“Mogambo Khush Hua” sends shivers down my spine even today!). Surprisingly, there have always been quality villains in Bollywood. But that story is for another day.

Wealth of heroes

This void in the Indian superhero scene has been cashed in by Hollywood; movies from the Spiderman series, Dark Knight series and even the latest Man of Steel have done really well. There were superhits from the Krishh franchise and Ra.One but they were unconvincing in their storyline and did not manage to create that larger-than-life aura that surrounds a cult superhero. I wouldn’t blame them, considering the fact that we don’t quite have a legacy of superhero cinema to draw from. There is no particular standard either with which to weigh and compare.

But, we often tend to forget that we have a rich body of myths and legends from epics like the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. If adapted with some creative vigour, imagination and set convincingly to a modern context, there could be no bigger superhero than Hanuman, Bheema or Arjun. For example, Samhita Arni’s The Missing Queen posits the Ramayana in today’s world of burgeoning media and political clout, with Sita as the protagonist. Given the importance of feminist discourse in the current scenario, this brand of speculative fiction becomes politically significant as well.

Also, to see a Doga or a Super Commando Dhruv come to life is every comic buff’s dream. When I heard that Anurag Kashyap is doing just that with Doga, I told myself: Keep calm. Doga is coming.

Published on July 04, 2013

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