Spiderman creator, Stan Lee’s newest creation – Chakra, an Indian superhero – began his journey last week on Cartoon Network. But he’s hardly the first masked hero to go up, up and away in India. Homegrown superheroes have been around for more than 25 years. Raj Comics’ collection of desi superhero comics have garnered a huge fan following not just in India but even in countries like Nepal and Bangladesh.
Started in 1986 by publisher Raj Kumar Gupta, Raj Comics first began as Raja Pocket Books and published detective novels for children. Fuelled by the collective passion of Gupta’s three sons, Raj Comics gave a new lease of life to Indian comics, and also created a range of Indian superheroes. “When we were kids, the only Indian comics available were Amar Chitra Katha,” recalls Manish Gupta, CEO of Raj Comics. “Indrajal comics were almost dead. So there was a big gap. We decided to create our own Indian superheroes (largely based on Indian mythology) by getting some of the best creative writers of that time – Pratap Mullick, Dilip Kadam and Anupam Sinha – to flesh them out.”
Today, though mostly published in Hindi, the comics also have special editions in English and are branching out in other Indian languages. “Although our biggest sales happen in the Hindi-speaking areas, we do have a growing demand for comics in other languages too,” says Sanjay Gupta, the creator of Nagraj, Raj’s first and most popular superhero. “And, with online stores and tie-ups with mobile operators, we are definitely seeing a big boom in this industry.” A look at some of the best-known Indian superheroes.
Who is he: The very first superhero, created by Raj Comics in 1986. The inspiration came from Spiderman. Raj Kumar Gupta, owner of Raja Pocket Books, was the one who suggested that he should be called Nagraj – the king of snakes. Nagraj’s blood cells have the power of snakes.
He fights against: Terrorism. Nagraj is known as the nemesis of all terrorists.
Area of operation: A fictional city called Mahanagar.
Look and costume: Nagraj doesn’t have a specific costume, but his body is covered with a snakeskin. He wears pink underwear and has a snake for a belt. However, when Nagraj needs to mingle with ordinary people, he covers the snakeskin. Even his hair is set in a way that it forms an ‘S’ shape. Currently, Nagraj is shown working as the manager of a security agency Snake Eyes. His new name is Nagraj Shah.
Personality: Nagraj has high moral values. He drinks only milk, he thinks it’s cool and healthy to drink milk. He is known to go to bars and ask for milk (something the Phantom also did).
Friends: Panchnag, a group of five superheroes who help Nagraj.
Love interest: While it’s not exactly a romantic entanglement, Saudangi is a snake woman who actually lives in Nagraj’s body and comes out to help him whenever he needs her.
Who is he: A man with a past. Doga has a dog-like mask on his face. That’s because he was brought up in inhuman conditions.
After he was born, his parents dumped him in a dustbin. A daku, Halkan Singh, picked him up and used the baby to save himself from the police. But after that, he took the baby to his hiding place and the child literally grew up with the dogs and was even treated like one. Doga has a big following, including filmmaker Anurag Kashyap, who is reportedly making a film on him.
He fights against: Any evil against humanity. He believes in uprooting problems rather than addressing the symptoms.
Area of operation: Mumbai. Fans call him ‘Mumbai Ka Baap’.
Look and costume: Doga dresses like a normal human being during the day. He goes by the name of Suraj and works as a gym instructor.
Friends: He has some sidekicks like Lomri (a fox) who loves him (though Doga is unaware of this) and Inspector Cheetah. Doga also has an army of dogs that work for him. He understands their language and values their loyalty.
Super Commando Dhruva
Who is he: The son of circus acrobats; he is a trained acrobat too. His parents were killed in a fire, which seemed like an accident, but wasn’t. So he became a super commando to avenge their death. He was adopted by the police officer on the case.
He fights against: Any and all kinds of crime. But Dhruva always works within the law.
Area of operation: A city called Rajnagar.
Look and costume: He doesn’t have any specific look. His costume is very similar to that worn by circus acrobats. He has an array of gadgets to help him in times of trouble. His bracelet has a starline rope, and small blades pop out when needed. He always wears skates and a utility belt that stores flares and smoke bombs. He rides a motorcycle and is an expert at it (did someone say Dhoom3?).
Personality: Super Commando Dhruva is the only superhero within a family setting and he upholds family values. He has a sister (the daughter of the police inspector who adopted him) and is very close to her.
Friends: He has his own commando force of Peter, Karim and Renu.
Love interest: Natasha is the daughter of Rajnagar’s biggest criminal and had her own force. But after meeting Super Commando Dhruva, she fell in love with him and is now a part of his squad.
Who is he: Parmanu has the power of atoms in his special suit, designed by his maternal uncle who is a scientist. His parents and schoolfriend were murdered and he was saved by his uncle who raised him. Now, Parmanu wants to take revenge with the help of this special suit.
He fights against: Criminals. He never takes the law in his hands though.
Area of operation: Delhi.
Look and costume: During the day, he is inspector Vinay, but in a crisis he dons his special suit with which he can fly as well as transport himself to any place. Parmanu can even reduce his size. He uses the power of atoms to create atomic blasts.
Friends: Pralayanka (Mamta Pathak) is like a superwoman who likes Parmanu and helps him. Sheena Mathur is the love interest of inspector Vinay. Probot is the robot created by his uncle to help Parmanu.
Who is he: Bhokal was born in the fairyland of Parilok but when some people from Earth killed his parents, he came to Earth to seek revenge. But a strange thing happened when he visited our planet. He found out that his real parents were also Earthlings.
He fights against: Any injustice or crime.
Area of operation: A fictional city called Vikasnagar, ruled by a king called Vikasmohan.
Look and costume: Bhokal dresses like a warrior as he is a warrior in the king’s court. But when he utters the word ‘Bhokal’ he magically dons his superhero persona – green and pink armour and a magical, unbreakable sword and shield.
Friends: Tureen (she is his wife now), Shootan (he can hypnotise anyone), Atikroor (powerful and heavy set, wielding a gada-like weapon called dantak).
Super woman shakti
Who is she: Shakti was a regular married woman who was severely wronged by her husband. He killed their girl child and when she found out, he tried to kill her too. But Kali the devi saved her and gave her the power to save women in distress. Shakti lives as Chanda in Delhi with a friend and works as a nurse in a hospital.
He fights against: Those who commit crimes against women.
Area of operation: Delhi.
Look and costume: Shakti has a very contemporary look. She wears a tiger skin and has a third eye (usually covered with a headband) that opens in extreme situations. She can generate fire with her hands and has the ability to change any metal into a weapon.
Friends: She works alone.
From HT Brunch, December 8
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