By Natalia Ningthoujam
New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) When the going gets tough, Bollywood thinks big. Reeling under the twin effect of the pandemic and OTT influx, which have dented business, Bollywood is pulling all stops with mega-budget announcements, to woo fans back to the halls. Among emerging trends is the superhero movie.
The genre is not exactly new — Hrithik Roshan did star in the “Krrish” films, after all. But at no point in time has the Hindi film industry got into making so many superhero flicks at the same time as now. Trade analysts see it as a good trend, especially in these times when theatres are trying to pull the audience back amid the pandemic.
Hollywood, of course, is a big influence, as everything else about Bollywood. Global blockbusters as “The Dark Knight” series”, the “Avengers” films, “Black Panther”, “Wonder Woman”, “Captain America: Civil War”, and “Justice League” among others set the cash registers ringing in India, too. With more films like “Black Widow”, “Venom: Let There Be Carnage” and the third part of “Spider-Man” lined up for release, the genre is alive and kicking in Hollywood. Bollywood had to take cue.
Actor Vicky Kaushal recently got fans excited when he officially announced a new superhero film with his “Uri: The Surgical Strike” director Aditya Dhar, and also shared posters of the film, titled “The Immortal Ashwatthama”.
“Overwhelmed and ecstatic! On the 2nd anniversary of ‘URI-The Surgical Strike’, the team gives you a glimpse into the world of #TheImmortalAshwatthama Cannot wait to get onto this journey with the dream team of @adityadharfilms #RonnieScrewvala @rsvpmovies @soniyeah22,” Vicky posted on Instagram along with the posters that have a touch of mythology and modernity.
The director, on the other hand, posted on Instagram: “Raising the bar higher for the superhero genre not only in India but across the world, this film is a high-concept visual spectacle in the making. From the team that brought to you URI The Surgical Strike, presenting @vickykaushal09 in and as #TheImmortalAshwatthama.”
This isn’t the only Bollywood superhero film in the making right now.
Filmmaker Ali Abbas Zafar, who has helmed blockbusters like “Sultan” and “Tiger Zinda Hai”, has planned a superhero universe. While one of his films will star Katrina Kaif, his “Mr. India” will be set in a relevant and contemporary superhero world.
In July 2020, filmmaker Sanjay Gupta tweeted that he had started scripting “Rakshak”, his film about a vigilante superhero, while in December last year, there were unconfirmed reports that Kartik Aaryan would star in the film adaptation of the comicbook character Phantom.
Among films already on floor is Ayan Mukerji’s mega-budget “Brahmastra”, which will reportedly have actor Ranbir Kapoor playing a man with special powers. The film also boasts of Amitabh Bachchan, Alia Bhatt, Nagarjuna and Mouni Roy in the cast.
Hrithik masks up again, too, in “Krrish 4”. The hit franchise began in 2003 with “Koi… Mil Gaya”, followed by “Krrish” (2006) and “Krrish 3” (2013). According to director Rakesh Roshan, the film was set for a Christmas 2020 release.
“Today is perhaps the best day to make the release day of Krrish 4 official. Christmas 2020 it is. A gift for all of you on Hrithiks birthday,” Rakesh Roshan had tweeted in 2018.
However, following the Covid pandemic, the film is yet to hit the screens anytime soon.
According to trade expert Rajesh Thadani, huge revenue comes from Hollywood superhero films. “I think they (Bollywood filmmakers) are taking to that. These kind of films cater to everyone, not just kids. They can be turned into franchises. There’s a thrill element involved in such films. Basically, people need a change from routine, and this is a good change,” he told IANS.
Trade analyst Taran Adarsh agrees with him. “It’s a great trend. We should make all kinds of films. When we talk of movies in today’s time, we often complain that Hindi films don’t have originality. They repeat themselves. This (superhero genre) is something that has not been exploited to the hilt. I think it’s a step in the right direction,” he told IANS.
There have been successful and failed attempts made by Indian filmmakers in the genre in the past.
For instance, the audience didn’t accept Tiger Shroff as hero with superpowers in “A Flying Jatt” (2016). Even the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer “Ra.One” (2011) failed to live up to expectations. The “Krrish” franchise, on the other hand, still has a strong fan following. Akshay Kumar also tried his hand at the genre in the Tamil film “2.0”. With Rajinikanth as the protagonist, Akshay played the antagonist Pakshi Rajan.
“Stars are important, but so is the content. You need to be original and give a desi tadka to such films,” said Adarsh, who feels adding mythology element to such films “would be great”.
But he feels that it won’t be easy to woo the Indian audience with such films as they already have a good exposure of Hollywood hits.
“When you make a superhero film, you need to keep in mind that you will be compared with western counterparts because so many superhero films have released in India, and people have loved them. So obviously you have to be at par or maybe in that league to woo the Indian audience,” he said.
Viewers often point out the technology used in Hindi films, especially to make such films, is never up to the mark. But Thadani feels that is not something to worry about now as a lot of experts from abroad work on the special effects. Also, he feels that technology-wise, Indian cinema has improved.