The Evolution of the Indian Superhero

In a dark alley, a woman screams as a few armed and masked men seek to rob her. A figure moves swiftly in the dark, takes down all the men with his sheer strength. Saves the lady, saves the day. Another day another place, the same figure appears and rescues several children caught in a fire. The city believes their saviour is here. But for how long?…

This is how some of the superhero movies go.  With extra ordinary powers (and usually a dismal social life), a man seeks to put his strength to good use by protecting mankind from the evil men in society. Then somewhere down the line the hero is tested, whether or not he comes out of the challenge unscathed, that there forms the climax of the film.

One might venture to ask, when has the Indian hero been anything less than superhuman? He has survived four bullet shots while the enemy dies with one, jumped from train to train, car to car without breaking a sweat, and occasionally singlehandedly rescued his lady love from a dozen odd men by just landing a devastating blow across their faces. Yet, it’s not quite the same as the men in latex suits, carrying state of the art weapons and with special abilities to help them save the day.

Bollywood has come a long way in its concept of superhero movies. When it started out with Indian versions of Hollywood hits like Superman, it was as yet in its nascent stages. The audience too was not ready to embrace the concept just yet. Movies of such kind have been popular in Hollywood, with the Superman, Spiderman and Batman films, to name a few, enjoying great success. Indian television has so far been more active and successful in this area with kids enjoying the likes of Son Pari and Shaktimaan. But it has taken several failed attempts to finally reach a point where Bollywood can claim it has created its very own superheroes and a different storyline.

The pit stops en route this pinnacle have included flops such as the 1987 film Superman (aka The Indian Superman) which starred Punneet Issar as Superman (/Shekhar) while his lady love was portrayed by Kimi Katkar.

Indian superman
A still from the Indian Superman movie

After that, it was a long time before Bollywood experimented with such ideas again. The 2008 Abhishek Bachchan starrer Drona too proved to be unsuccessful.

Abhishek Bachchan in Drona
Abhishek Bachchan in Drona

When Krrish (a sequel to Koi Mil Gaya) released in 2006, the response it received was better than one would have expected. It turned out to be a box office success, being the second highest grossing film of the year. The action scenes in the film and Hrithik Roshan’s acting were both adjudged to be good by the audiences and critics alike.

The Hrithik Roshan strarrer Krrish

Even though the Rajnikanth and AIshwarya Rai Bachchan starrer Robot was not exactly a superhero film, it was a sci-fi which was a large scale production and was full of special effects of the sort that are used in films of this genre. It not only enjoyed enormous amount of media attention, but also drew a large crowd to the theatres.

Now Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan is setting foot in this domain with his upcoming release Ra.One.  Directed by Anubhav Sinha and starring Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal and Shahana Goswami in addition to SRK, the film is being made at a huge budget of 1 billion ( 100 crores). The makers have roped in several special effects experts from Hollywood and it is being touted as one of the most anticipated movies of this year. Whether it delivers or not, remains to be seen.

SRK in Ra.One

The kind of investment the makers in Bollywood are putting into superhero films is what draws attention. The sudden spike in it reflects that the industry is now opening its doors to this genre and taking it seriously. The target audience may vary from the kids to adults, but all in all we are beginning to see sophistication in terms of design and effects in these films.

So as Bollywood gets superhero-friendly, we can sit back and enjoy all the nail-biting action with bucket of popcorn.

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  1. says

    Good article

    I personally feel that Robot’s enormous success was more due to Rajanikant’s charisma than due to the film itself. He was a totally unbelievable superhero in it, with greater emphasis on technological marvels than on the characterization of the main performers. But then Indian cinema thrives on exaggeration.

    Maybe Ra.One will reverse the trend of failed superheroes in Bollywood

    • Shivangni Tandon says

      That’s true. Rajnikanth was probably the one major factor that drew audiences. The exaggeration too helped the movie attract attention. And at the end of the day, its the numbers that count. So the movie was a hit.
      Yes, by the looks of it Ra.One has the potential to turn things around.


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