The idea of an Indian superhero has always been fascinating for both filmmakers and viewers. We have come a long way from watching Shaktimaan on our television screens during the late 90s to the most recently talked about superhero Minnal Murali. The need for a superhero who would be relevant to the Indian audience has always been primal. While Shaktimaan emerged from yagna and gained his superpowers through meditation, the modern superhero relies on a scientific explanation for their transformation from an ordinary human being to a hero with extraordinary powers.
If we take a look at the Indian superhero films, we will notice two tendencies. Films like ‘Ra.One’, ‘Robot’ and the ‘Krrish’ series depend on high-end technologies to justify their advancements. With a visibly futuristic approach, the Indian superheroes in these films were aiming for international equivalence. Whereas, if we consider movies such as ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’ or even ‘Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota’, the approach is starkly different. The films are deeply rooted in reality, and the truly Indian aspect is paramount. The superpowers in Bhavesh Joshi Superhero are not acquired by accident but are developed by the hero himself. Whereas, Mard Ko Dard Nahi Hota took a completely different approach, where the film pokes fun at the superhero genre itself.
‘Minnal Murali’, the new Netflix film, features a Malayali hero, who is true to his regional attributes. The film tries to stay true to its Indian origin but is also able to create not just a great superhero but also a supervillain with a backstory. What is also interesting is how the film deals with the question of choice when it comes to power. Choice and responsibility are crucial when it comes to superheroes regardless of their universe.
In ‘Minnal Murali’, the superhero and the super villain acquired their powers from lightning, but the villain had an added power resulting in uncontrollable damage. The villain was not born evil; the society’s contribution to the character’s growing hate was immense. Considered a dimwit, the villain named Shibu, was never treated with respect or love. Bullying and disregard was a part of his everyday life. After gaining superpowers, Shibu chose to use them to achieve his own personal dream. While his romantic intentions were harmless, his hate was not. Knowing how powerful he had become, Shibu got rid of his obstacles one way or another. The villain gained his status when he started blaming his crimes on Minnal Murali, who aimed to be the saviour of mankind with his newly acquired powers. The son of a selfless man who died while trying to save people from fire, Jaison (Minnal Murali) knew his power was meant for a greater purpose.
The Marvel and DC Universe superheroes are known for their origin and turning points; hence, it is interesting to watch an Indian superhero film with a similar approach. While the good and the bad remain, (something that is crucial in typical superhero films), Minnal Murali has been able to stay true to reality.
As the international superhero films are using advanced technologies along with the complex concept of the multiverse, how the Indian superhero films will experiment is something to look forward to. Suppose the aim is towards reaching international standards with the hope of providing future generations with a superhero worth comparison. In that case, we can expect big-budget productions such as ‘Ra.One’ or the ‘Krrish’ series. Whereas, if the intent is to stay true to our ‘Indianness’ where our heroes would not just fly wearing capes but also fold the ‘mundu’ with a heroic charm, then the concept will be the critical element. The question of who is our superhero will always remain a point of extreme interest with multiple interpretations.
The superhero can be a regular guy who takes it upon himself to bring in the sense of law and order, where the power is courage. Or, the superhero genre and its sense of polarity itself can be questioned in such films. Finally, the superhero films can also opt to bring the best of both worlds. The deep sense of reality can remain where the world is the real world we know and live in, but the powers cannot be logically explained. While the future of the Indian superheroes remains a mystery and depends on the filmmaker’s perception of the world and the budget sanctioned, one thing is known that our superhero films are getting better, and it is not just the heroes that we will look forward to but also the villains who can create a lasting impression.
Minnal Murali is a 2021 Indian Superhero film streaming on Netflix.