Bollywood has warmed up to superhero films. Be it Toofan, Ajooba, Shaktimaan or Krrish and now A Flying Jatt, the evolvement of the Indian superhero has been superslow but unique.Sangeeta Yadav talks to industry experts on how & when a perfect one will come along with all his desi mannerisms
Be it the hero’s discovery of his supernatural powers or a the power-pack suit that helps him keep his identity under wraps or a love story where the superhero has a responsibility of saving the world, movies on superheros have always fascinated children and adults alike. But not many have done well at the box office when it comes to Hindi cinema.
From Toofan, Ajooba, Shaktimaan, Mr India, to Drona, Krrish, Robot, Ra.One, filmmakers down the decades have tried to invent their own superheros and tweak them to fit a Bollywood masala film, the latest to join the list being Tiger Shroff as A Flying Jatt.
The movie that released last week is not just a sci-fi but dotes on its desi drama, love angle, fight scenes and of course the point where the superhero saves the world from the evil, giving a message at the end.
“Most of our superhero films aren’t done very well and expecting them to be extraordinary is impossible. Take the case of A Flying Jatt or Krish 3. They will remind you of plots or scenes that have been seen in Hollywood movies. Interestingly, superhero films of the 1980s like Ajooba were highly entertaining despite having a very silly plot. But at least they looked original,” Jatin Varma, co-founder of Comic Con and Golden Kela Awards, tells you.
Watching Tiger Shroff as a flying Jat — the new superhero on the block donning electric blue pagri-suit on a mission — one would definitely draw a comparison between him and the other Bollywood superheros.
“Tiger Shroff is not the ideal superhero a kid would like to be a fan of but still this superhero entertains everyone. Such roles can only be experimented with when the actor is new in the industry. Like his father tried his hand at being a superhero in Shivaa Ka Insaaf. The movie didn’t do well but Jackie Shroff was able to keep a balance between the dual lives he was portraying,” movie critic Raghav Bhatia opines.
Now all eyes are on Vikramaditya Motwane’s Chakra The Invincible, the first Indian superhero created by legendary comic-book writer Stan Lee, and Ayan Mukherji’s Dragon starring Ranbir Kapoor as a superhero. There is also talk around how Anurag Kashyap has been working on making a film on Doga, a popular comic book character. The project had to take a backseat due to his prior commitments.
“I would give more credence to Anurag Kashyap than other actors as he will try and do justice to the superhero. To make a film on Doga, one has to think a lot and put in a lot of time and effort to do justice to a masterpiece which needs to have over-the-top comedy,” Varma says.
Whereas some films have seen a cult following due to their comic-drama element, there have been others that have had an overdose of entertainment and failed to live up to the audiences’ expectations.
“Only in India, it is not enough to keep the audience interested in a hero with supernatural powers. It has to have a mix of other factors like song, dance, drama, comedy, strong characterisation, etc. This is the reason why children are still able connect with the Shaktimaan theme song and the anthem song of Krrish 3 became a major part of the movie. Toofan had Amitabh Bachchan in a double role to keep the viewers interested in the plot. Ajooba needed Rishi Kapoor to make it a complete entertaining package,” Bhatia says.
A lot of experimentation on Bollywood superheros depends upon the treatment of the sci-fi genre and building an emotional connect with the audience.
“Bollywood has been experimenting with superheros but the directors are restricted due to predefined notions and treatment of the genre. Like Kochidiyaan was animation starring superstar Rajnikanth is still considered to be a movie for the kids. Krrish set a very brilliant platform but when Krrish 3 came, it failed to connect with the viewers because there was an overdose of sweetness. Moreover, you never know how your audience will react when you experiment and turn a favourite superhero into a villain like one sees in many Hollywood films like Batman V Superman and Suicide Squad,” Bhatia tells you.
One is told that directors should not restrict themselves even if they want to give out a message that burayi pe achayi ki jeet hoti hai. If a message has to be given it can be woven into the film in a subtle and entertaining manner.
“A superhero needs to be a role model thus they need to give out a message. In A Flying Jatt, you will see that message. For years, Shaktimaan has giving out messages to kids about being good and doing good to environment and society. Even in Krrish 3, there were good messages including the part that har achhayi mein Krrish hai,” Bhatia points out.
Where there is superhero, there is anti-hero and plenty of blood and gore. But here too there are limitations when it comes to Bollywood.
“Can you imagine an anti-hero like Punisher turning into a killing machine adapted in Indian context? When our Censor Board didn’t even allow Thakur to kill Gabbar citing objection to the vigilante-nature of the ending, then how can our filmmakers show our superheros to be killing machines?,” Bhatia asks.
According to Varma, it’s difficult to execute a superhero film like Marvel Comics do.
“What makes a superhero genre film a hit depends upon two factors. First, it should be properly executed without losing the track. Second, make it interesting. It can have a Bollywood setting, over-the-top, silly yet entertaining storyline. We have a huge bank of fantasy fiction stories in our mythology that can be a good storytelling subject,” Varma says.
“Taking superheros from the Indian mythology and comic books can be interesting. India has some the most great superheros like Nagraaj, Super commando Dhruv, Doga. But where are they? These characters are interesting they have weapons, tactics style what they don’t have is bigger shelf life. If we start promoting Indian superheros like Marvel and DC does, we can have our own superheros who can become just as popular like Superman and Batman,” Bhatia signs off.
(The article also got published in The Pioneer Newspaper – http://www.dailypioneer.com/sunday-edition/sunday-pioneer/backpack/unevolved-desi-superheroes.html)