Happy A Flying Jatt Weekend! A Review of Indian Superheroes!

This is partly inspired by a review that accessbollywood just posted of all the new heroes launched in the past few years and how Tiger Shroff compares now that his 3rd film is releasing.  I mean, it’s a totally different topic, but I am stealing her idea of using this new release as an excuse to look back at previous similar films.

First, a disclaimer: The general hero-with-a-secret-identity-and-sometimes-special-powers genre was, until recently, more of a B movie thing in India.  Which means these films were ignored in most official histories (not all of them, read Rosie Thomas’ Bombay Before Bollywood!  She is AWESOME and does an amazing job trying to return these films to their rightful place), and more importantly for me, they are very very hard to find and watch.  So, I am not including things like Hunterwali or the various John Cawas jungle hero pictures or the Shaktimaan TV show.  But, if you have stories or clips or anything from things like that, please share them in the comments!

1. I’m going to go ahead and start the recent masked hero trend with Shahenshah.  A ridiculous movie, that featured a wonderfully recognizable costume.

 

2. Shahenshah was successful, as most Amitabh movies still were at that point, but it didn’t come close to the all ages appeal and all-time-classic standing of Mr. India!  Although, tragically, Anil Kapoor’s superhero costume is much less impressive.

(really, a soft-brimmed hat, a jacket, and a watch?  Besides being a very cheap Halloween costume, what is the advantage)

3. I  am tempted to include the Khiladi films, but I don’t think those really fit the “secret-identity-do-gooder” description.  Which means I have to jump all the way ahead to Krrish (if I am forgetting something, again, let me know in the comments!).  Now, Krrish is not the greatest movie, and it doesn’t have the best songs, but even a weak Hrithik song is still a Hrithik song.

(Also, “Great Bombay Circus”?  Are they a local branch of Aamir’s “Great Indian Circus” from Dhoom 3?)

4. Right after Krrish, a movie that has almost nothing else in common with it, but Honeymoon Travels Pvt Limited, that interesting oddball character study film, also has superheroes!

5.  Finally!  A Khan!  Shahrukh made his own hero attempt with Ra.One.  Which I loved, even if no one else did.  And you have to admit, the songs are super good!

 

6.  And after the brief Shahrukh interregnum, back to Hrithik in the inexplicably numbered Krrish 3!

 

7.  And now The Flying Jatt!  Probably not as important as Mr. India, or even Shahenshah or Ra.One.  But at least it’s better than Krrish 3!

 

PS  Okay, I found the Shaktimaan theme song on youtube, and it is too good to resist, even though I have nothing interesting to say about it!

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12 thoughts on “Happy A Flying Jatt Weekend! A Review of Indian Superheroes!

  1. Hunterwali is a B movie? Is this some other movie besides the one that starred Fearless Nadia? I’ve always seen that one (as well as her other films) referred to as classics. So what gives?

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    • “Stunt films” is what they are called in the Indian film history texts. “B-movies” is a specific American film term, studios would rate films as “A” or “B” depending on their budget and so on. But “B-movie” came to refer to anything that was aimed at the lower class cheaper ticket and cheaper theater kind of crowd, even after those studio ratings systems went away. In America, the Tarzan films and their ilk are firmly in the “B-movie” arena. So, translating American film slang into Indian film slang, “B-movie” would equal “Stunt-film”.

      Of course, just because you are a B-movie doesn’t mean you aren’t also a classic (for instance, the film noir genre in America were all B-movies, and many of them are now considered classics). But it does mean the films might be harder to find, and are less likely to be talked about in film texts. Rosie Thomas worked closely with the Wadia children to learn about the history of their studio and the success of their films. But earlier texts were less comprehensive, like Barnouw and Krishnamurthy’s history from the 60s (updated and re-issued in the 80s) which ignored the Wadias entirely, and Mihir Bose and Tejaswini Ganti both barely mention them in their more recent books.

      In terms of accessibility, I believe many of the Wadia films are now available on the indiancine.ma website, but they are hardly included in the Indian film Classics DVD collections along with early movies from Mehboob Studios or even Bombay Talkies.

      In terms of perception, J.B. Wadia himself was ashamed of the films, falling out with his brother Homi over his desire to make “high quality” films, not the same sort of crowd-pleasing stunt film they had made previously.

      If you are interested in learning more, I highly recommend Rosie Thomas book, she had amazing access to original source documents. There is also a biography of Nadia herself written by a German woman, Dorothee Wenner, but I’ve had a hard time getting a copy of it, I think it’s been out of print for several years.

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      • It’s always a challenge to learn history from books. While “scholars” and distance can bring a measure of perspective, they too often also lose the sense of what “reality” was like for those who experienced those events in real time. I am not saying this to denigrate you, but to point out the limitations of the course you are forced to take, since you were not around when these events took place. Well, I wasn’t around, either, but my sources being different from yours (Indian language film magazines of the past which are completely inaccessible to you, and would be for me or anyone else today also, except that I happen to have the old issues lying around), I bring a different perspective. I think any time one depends on secondary sources, and especially foreign sources, to interpret a culture, one always needs to acknowledge that these are not necessarily the be all and end all of such interpretation. Even Margaret Mead ended up acknowledging that she was completely wrong on her seminal research.

        And we don’t even have to foreign cultures. I’ve been seeing this happen over the past decade or so right here in the U.S., as Hollywood remakes classics of the past, where the current generation makers, including directors, are completely clueless about the intentions or perspective of the original works. It wouldn’t matter so much if they were selling their offerings as a new interpretation of an old work, but they offer it as a faithful reproduction, which is quite galling for anyone who has experienced the original. One particularly annoying example I can recall is the movie version of the hit TV series Get Smart. I was quite excited about this (as it had been a favorite show of mine, as well as being an extremely original and dazzlingly clever one) until I read an interview with the director, which showed that he was completely clueless on what the show was about. Was it because he just didn’t have the social and political framework in which the original show was set, having been born much later? Maybe. Or maybe not. But he convinced me not to watch his movie.

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        • “We don’t even have to go to foreign cultures”. Sorry, I didn’t reread the whole thing before posting. And apologies in advance if there are other missing links above.

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        • I loved the new Get Smart movie! It definitely had a different tone than the TV show, but it was also very fun. Well worth checking out if you still haven’t seen it.

          Part of a scholar’s job (and I would include myself in that) is to weigh and balance various sources of information. Please indicate in your comments when your opinion is based on your own personal memory or experience, versus on objective verifiable sources. So I, and the many many other people that I am hoping are reading these comments :), can give them proper weight. If you say your personal recollection, and what you have read in fan magazines, makes you think that Hunterwali was a classic, than I can say “yes, that verifies the work done by Rosie Thomas in proving that these films were always popular and beloved in the public culture, but not in professional film writing or in film courses.”

          We aren’t actually disagreeing at all, we are both saying that these are films that have been ignored by film scholars and archivists until recently, although they were popular among the public. Which is one of the many definitions of a “b-movie”.

          And also, and this is just a personal request, could you try to avoid confrontational language like “what gives?” I know from the tone of the majority of your comments (and just the fact that you are such a faithful reader and commentator!), that you don’t mean to insult me or minimize my knowledge and abilities. But it is a bit unpleasant to have these terms tossed at me, no matter how gently they are intended. It’s not a big deal, and a small price to pay for your valuable voice in the comments, but I just thought I would mention it.

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  2. I just saw mention of this on another blog, and knew I just had to post it here. And guess what, the film is even on youtube, with subtitles, so you can complete your research by watching it. It was apparently Jackie Shroff’s third film. 🙂 And, there is even a 3D version!

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  3. Master India, the criminal son of Mister India from Tees Maar Khan probably deserves a honorary mention since he was not on screen for more than 5 minutes.I couldn’t finish the movie but the beginning was definitely funny.

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  4. Pingback: Aurangzeb: Don Crossed with the Parent Trap | dontcallitbollywood

  5. Pingback: Happy A Flying Jatt Weekend! A Review of Indian Superheroes! — dontcallitbollywood – kesuvulu

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