The Birth and Re-Birth of the Indian Superhero

If you ask any Indian who has lived through the late 90s and watched television at any point of time the one show he must have seen and remembers, even if only once in a blue moon, it would be our own Indian superhero, Shaktiman.

Clad in the red, loose suit with heavy golden borders and the nuclear crest, Shaktiman soon became a god for children. Everything about the show, right from the protruding teeth of Pandit Gangadhar Vidyadhar Mayadhar Omkarnath Shastri to the incessant chants of Andhera Kayam Rahe by men clad in red and black hoods and the devilish long nails of Tamraj Kilvish, became a rage. We gaped at the television screens in awe of the powers that Shaktiman possessed. We became addicted to the amazing sound that his revolving around produced – the fkshkfkshkfkshkfkshk. The evening games changed from cricket and football to playing Shaktiman and Dr. Jackal. And that wasn’t just me and my neighborhood friend, it was but all of us; from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, from Baroda to Guwahati. Yes, when I look back and think of it, I am amazed at the prowess of a serial to turn the whole nation around. Or in words of the legendary Dr. Jackal, the Power.

It happened three days ago, when it all came flooding back, when it made me think of the love we had for Shaktiman, and the craziness.

I was in the salon, getting a shave, relaxing with my eyes closed when I heard a sound that seemed vaguely familiar. The music made me look around for the source and I found the television in a corner, placed on a raised platform. Yes, my instincts were true, and so are your guesses. It was Shaktiman. The episode being aired was one I had seen and so began the rush of nostalgia. The moments, the actions, the eagerness to know the outcome of the fights. It was one of those episodes where Shaktiman fights Tamraj Kilvish, and another pair of the two nemeses arrives from the future.

I take a deep dive into the memories of the show. The hilarious master of PJs Gangadhar, the inquisitive reporter Geeta (DeviJi), the huge diamond look-alike Shaktipunj, various enemies like electric-man, stone-man, the catwoman and others, and the renowned Thahro with chhoti-chhoti magar moti baatein. Everything comes back as I watch the show with the same zeal as ten years ago. It seems the long-forgotten hero has reincarnated in my mind.

Kilvish is standing near a time-machine and shoots a ball of evil energy at Shaktiman who catches it and catapults it back at him. To escape his own devastating energy ball Kilvish jumps into the time machine. Shaktiman follows him into the machine, for he has sworn the end of evil and cannot let Kilvish get away. And then he is trapped. It turns out to be an illusion. Tamraj Kilvish never took a step inside the time machine and has captured Shaktiman in it. Just before deporting him to another time, the Tamraj speaks in a coarse voice before breaking into an uncontrollable evil laugh.

Khaa gayii naa dhokhaa Shaktiman.

My jaw drops. The memories fade. The reincarnated Shaktiman is already dead, if not by Kilvish’s hands then at the hands of my expectations. I don’t even listen to what the show offers after that. I hear words, music, and still they don’t come together to my mind as dialogues but noise. My eyes can’t stay on the television anymore. Just before removing them from the CRT, I look in the right corner. It is the Mahua channel.

I am both flabbergasted and amused as I come back to my hostel and tell everyone about it. Everyone has a hearty laugh and a comment to offer. But now when I think of it, it seems the days haven’t changed much though. Back in our times, (oh! how I love writing this line), Shaktiman was meant for our entertainment, and that’s exactly what it’s doing till date, entertaining. Be it in Hindi, or in Bhojpuri, Shaktiman is still a flavor cherished for a long-long time.

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