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The original Indian superhero – missing?

By Sumit Das
The original Indian superhero – missing?
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Indian fimlmmakers are still on a hot pursuit to have an original Indian superhero who is not a rip off of a Hollywood franchise, writes Sumit Das.

If you are reading this article, I can safely assume that you are, even if very remotely, interested in the superhero genre of movies, and like me, have given out a shout of joy seeing the present, past and a little more past versions of Spiderman together on screen in Marvel's latest money churner, Spider-Man: No Way Home. And like me, you must have wondered how much longer will Bollywood take to make a proper superhero movie which is not copied (er, inspired, should I say!) from a Hollywood flick. While attempts have been made, the results so far have been, let's say, far from home!

The very first attempt at the genre by Bollywood was the 2011 Shah Rukh Khan starrer Ra.One. The film, made on a mammoth budget, made it one of the costliest films ever made in the country. While the film excelled in technical aspects, giving the Indian audiences never seen before visual effects and awe-inspiring action sequences, all in 3D, making it one of the highest grossing Bollywood films of the year, but unfortunately, the story and screenplay dragged the film down. A video game character coming out of the virtual world into the real one was almost like showing the mirror to Hollywood's Tron franchise. Could the film have done differently domestically in today's Marvel-DC-bred times is a question whose answer we will never know. Having said that, the film does lose you midway with its uneven screenplay and by the time its VFX-heavy high-octane climax arrives, you have already trodden far away. Ra.One can be best summed up as a technically sound attempt which missed the pulse of its audience.

Now coming to a franchise which started off as India's own E.T. and has since drifted off to make superheroism a family trade... Yes, I am talking about the 2003 sci-fi flick Koi... Mil Gaya, followed by its sequel Krrish in 2006 which was again followed by the 2013 film Krrish 3. Koi... Mil Gaya, although heavily influenced by Steven Spielberg's 1982 classic E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, was like a breath of fresh air in the 'Here they break into another song and dance sequence' Bollywood. Not that it did not have any, but Hrithik Roshan's acting, a cute little blue alien and good music pulled in audiences of all ages, making it one of the biggest hits of the year. While most expected the sequel to comprise of more encounters with the aliens, director Rakesh Roshan had other plans. With Krrish, Hrithik Sr's powers got transferred to his son Hrithik Jr! But wait! The ball had just started rolling. Towards the end of Krrish 3, it seemed that there's a possibility that Hrithik Jr's powers were transferred to his son, Hrithik Jr 2! (What happens in the family, stays in the family!) The films are entertaining but with the ever increasing Bollywoodisation of the superhero, the song and dance sequences and the melodrama stalls the growth of the hero. His powers range from flying like Superman, jumping like Hulk, swimming like Aquaman, remaining immune to viruses, among others. Yes, Krrish has powers that even a Marvel-DC-Pokemon crossover hero won't have.

But there finally seems to be some light at the end of this tunnel. Netflix's latest Malayalam release Minnal Murali takes the superhero template and puts it in a small village in Kerala where a tailor, whose sole dream is to live the American dream, gets hit by lightning. How that changes his life, how he deals with those changes (mostly to comical effects) and what does he do when circumstances place him against an adversary who is hell bent on destroying the village is the story of the film. Being a film made on a budget constraint, credit goes to the director, Basil Joseph, who doesn't let VFX get in your way from enjoying the smooth story transition. Alongside knowing what can be done in the budget, Basil also knows what can't be done, and hence the film never tries to do a Marvel and stays rooted which works exceptionally well. The long (yet never boring) runtime of the film gives the director ample scope to develop the characters and by the time the final showdown arrives between the happy go lucky guy turned superhero played with aplomb by Tovino Thomas and his villain in chief played brilliantly by Guru Somasundaram, you're already deeply immersed in the storyline. Minnal Murali shows that it's possible to make a good and grounded superhero movie without jaw-dropping VFX sequences and yet pack a punch. With its success, the budget will take care of itself if the story is continued in a sequel (and why not!).

With Minnal Murali, the hope of having an original Indian superhero who is not a rip off of a Hollywood franchise is on the path of realisation. Who knows, maybe the global Indian superhero is not that far from home!

([email protected])

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The original Indian superhero – missing?

Indian fimlmmakers are still on a hot pursuit to have an original Indian superhero who is not a rip off of a Hollywood franchise, writes Sumit Das.

If you are reading this article, I can safely assume that you are, even if very remotely, interested in the superhero genre of movies, and like me, have given out a shout of joy seeing the present, past and a little more past versions of Spiderman together on screen in Marvel's latest money churner, Spider-Man: No Way Home. And like me, you must have wondered how much longer will Bollywood take to make a proper superhero movie which is not copied (er, inspired, should I say!) from a Hollywood flick. While attempts have been made, the results so far have been, let's say, far from home!

The very first attempt at the genre by Bollywood was the 2011 Shah Rukh Khan starrer Ra.One. The film, made on a mammoth budget, made it one of the costliest films ever made in the country. While the film excelled in technical aspects, giving the Indian audiences never seen before visual effects and awe-inspiring action sequences, all in 3D, making it one of the highest grossing Bollywood films of the year, but unfortunately, the story and screenplay dragged the film down. A video game character coming out of the virtual world into the real one was almost like showing the mirror to Hollywood's Tron franchise. Could the film have done differently domestically in today's Marvel-DC-bred times is a question whose answer we will never know. Having said that, the film does lose you midway with its uneven screenplay and by the time its VFX-heavy high-octane climax arrives, you have already trodden far away. Ra.One can be best summed up as a technically sound attempt which missed the pulse of its audience.

Now coming to a franchise which started off as India's own E.T. and has since drifted off to make superheroism a family trade... Yes, I am talking about the 2003 sci-fi flick Koi... Mil Gaya, followed by its sequel Krrish in 2006 which was again followed by the 2013 film Krrish 3. Koi... Mil Gaya, although heavily influenced by Steven Spielberg's 1982 classic E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, was like a breath of fresh air in the 'Here they break into another song and dance sequence' Bollywood. Not that it did not have any, but Hrithik Roshan's acting, a cute little blue alien and good music pulled in audiences of all ages, making it one of the biggest hits of the year. While most expected the sequel to comprise of more encounters with the aliens, director Rakesh Roshan had other plans. With Krrish, Hrithik Sr's powers got transferred to his son Hrithik Jr! But wait! The ball had just started rolling. Towards the end of Krrish 3, it seemed that there's a possibility that Hrithik Jr's powers were transferred to his son, Hrithik Jr 2! (What happens in the family, stays in the family!) The films are entertaining but with the ever increasing Bollywoodisation of the superhero, the song and dance sequences and the melodrama stalls the growth of the hero. His powers range from flying like Superman, jumping like Hulk, swimming like Aquaman, remaining immune to viruses, among others. Yes, Krrish has powers that even a Marvel-DC-Pokemon crossover hero won't have.

But there finally seems to be some light at the end of this tunnel. Netflix's latest Malayalam release Minnal Murali takes the superhero template and puts it in a small village in Kerala where a tailor, whose sole dream is to live the American dream, gets hit by lightning. How that changes his life, how he deals with those changes (mostly to comical effects) and what does he do when circumstances place him against an adversary who is hell bent on destroying the village is the story of the film. Being a film made on a budget constraint, credit goes to the director, Basil Joseph, who doesn't let VFX get in your way from enjoying the smooth story transition. Alongside knowing what can be done in the budget, Basil also knows what can't be done, and hence the film never tries to do a Marvel and stays rooted which works exceptionally well. The long (yet never boring) runtime of the film gives the director ample scope to develop the characters and by the time the final showdown arrives between the happy go lucky guy turned superhero played with aplomb by Tovino Thomas and his villain in chief played brilliantly by Guru Somasundaram, you're already deeply immersed in the storyline. Minnal Murali shows that it's possible to make a good and grounded superhero movie without jaw-dropping VFX sequences and yet pack a punch. With its success, the budget will take care of itself if the story is continued in a sequel (and why not!).

With Minnal Murali, the hope of having an original Indian superhero who is not a rip off of a Hollywood franchise is on the path of realisation. Who knows, maybe the global Indian superhero is not that far from home!

([email protected])