To Shaktimaan, with love from Vicky, Radhika and fans
When one talks about modern-day superheroes, the centre of it all happens to be Marvel Cinematic Universe and Worlds of DC. But for millions and millions of Indians, Shaktimaan — popularly known as India’s first, indigenous superhero — will always remain more special. Although it has been over 15 years since the Mukesh Khanna-fronted TV show last aired (on Doordarshan), it continues to enthral innumerable fans, including several celebrities.
For starters, earlier in 2020, actor Vicky Kaushal conducted an ‘Ask Me Anything’ session on his Instagram account, wherein one of his fans asked him about his favourite superhero universe: Marvel or DC. Interestingly, Kaushal’s response was neither of the two global cinematic universes but India’s own superhero — Shaktimaan.
Then, last week, actor Radhika Madan, known for her funny picture captions, made a reference to India’s ‘first superhero’ in her new Instagram picture. For the caption of an image wherein she sits dressed in a sports bra and ripped pants, the Angrezi Medium actor borrowed a popular dialogue from the hit 90s television show, ‘Gangadhar hi Shaktiman hai.’
Last year, Kaushal took to Instagram to share a photo in which he is seen standing in front of a wall with multiple superhero graffiti, which has many comic book characters like Joker, Harley Quinn, Deadpool, Batman, Doctor Strange and The Flash. Kaushal captioned the picture, “... but I heart Shaktimaan.”
The Gully Boy actor, Siddhant Chaturvedi also commented on the photo and reminded Kaushal of Dr Jaikaal, another popular character from the 90s show. Chaturvedi commented, “Doc Jackal! #Power!”
Late last month, too, Shaktimaan was referenced to by several cricket fans too, during the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL). When Rajasthan Royals’ Rahul Tewatia came up with a dreamy 31-ball 53 against Kings XI Punjab in Sharjah, many compared the all rounder’s difficult feat with the superhero’s exploits.
One of the tweet, by a fan named Tanisha Batra, for instance, read: “In a matter of few balls, @rahultewatia02 just went from Gangadhar to Shaktimaan.” The tweet was posted along with a picture of Khanna in his Gangadhar and Shaktimaan avatars. Recently, a fan-made unofficial trailer of Shaktimaan also went on to touch 17 million views on YouTube.
“When I was around five or six, Shaktimaan started airing, and I couldn’t let go off the show till it came to an end. I remember my mum gifting me a Shaktimaan costume on my seventh birthday. That way, Shaktimaan has been a part of my growing up years. It will never become obsolete for me, thanks to the show’s theme and the nostalgic value,” says a fan, Raunak Bedi, 25, a BPO executive.
Another fan, Avinash Chopra, now a 28 year old Bangalore-based engineer says, “Although I have watched Marvel films and the entire Avengers series but whenever there is a mention of Shaktimaan, there is a special feeling. Maybe, it’s because of our personal attachment with the show and character or the fact that it’s purely Indian. Nothing can replace that emotion for Shaktimaan for us.”
Khanna, on his part, has always maintained that the superhero is even more relevant in today’s day and age. Ask him about the continued popularity of Shaktimaan, and he says, “I can understand the relationship that crores of fans have with Shaktimaan not only in India but across the world because they have grown up watching this show. This story started from the Mahabharata war. No foreign superhero story has mythological ground to stand on. Shaktimaan is the only hero who has a back story of 6,000 years.”
A few days back, the Indian superhero was again in the news when it was announced by Khanna that the show is set to be adapted into a trilogy of feature films. Shaktimaan, in which Khanna played the lead, ran for eight years on Doordarshan from 1998 to 2005