Superman (India) 1980
This is not the first, nor will it be the last semi-official foreign knock-off Superman movie. The main reason why I call it semi-official is because as far as I know it had a legitimate foreign release in theaters despite it not having official clearance from DC Comics. As opposed to the small handful of full-length fan films that I don’t cover on this site, at least not yet. There was even another Superman knockoff movie from India that came out several years later and is often referred to as Indian Superman while this one is referred to as Telegu Superman, the language used. Other than the similarities in the outfit and his super strength and ability to fly nothing else about the movie or his origin has anything to do with the DC Comics version of Superman. And though it was released in 1980, the fashion is heavily steeped in the 70’s with polyester leisure suits, gold chains, exposed chests, and bellbottoms a-plenty. Not to mention the helmet shaped hair and perfectly trimmed mustaches that all the men sport. That along with the low budget special effects, bizarre story choices, and ridiculous villains, this was a hilariously enjoyable low budget superhero knockoff. And if you’re curious to watch this for yourself, it’s currently streaming on Amazon Prime as well as YouTube.
This certainly doesn’t start out with the typical Krypton story although it does feature a young boy named Raja becoming an orphan at the hands of three criminals that are dressed more like banditos in a Spaghetti Western. They kill both his parents while he watches as well as the priest, something that’s more fitting of a Batman story. But he prays, in song form, to a giant statue of Hanuman, begging him to grant his prayers. He goes so far as to say that he’ll kill himself if Hanuman doesn’t answer and he does stab himself in the stomach for Hanuman to appear in worse-than-Planet-of-the-Apes level makeup, breath on him, and he wakes up with no injury and goes home to find out he has super strength. His now adoptive mother tells him to hide his power and it cuts to him as a paunchy adult in a job as an equal partner of a mica mine.
The rest of the movie isn’t all that easy to follow. The three bandits show up again throughout the movie with one of them being a billionaire mastermind who wears a fake beard to cover the scar he got during the origin story robbery. There’s also a sorceress living in Hong Kong who gets the hots for Superman but is working for not-Lex-Luthor. There’s also plenty of other relationship drama as Raja’s sister gets pregnant by not-Lex-Luthor’s son out of wedlock and her and her mother are ready to kill themselves in shame. Raja himself gets introduced to his partner’s daughter Jaya and they get into some shenanigans in the latter half of the film when he is on the outs with his partner and he’s playing along with the sorceress to get to her boss. There are so many different plot threads going on at different times, less than half of them make any sense, and they often barely get resolved.
The overall insanity of everything that’s happening is really part of the appeal. One of the first big action set pieces for the film is when Raja comes face to face with the first of the three bandits who is running a camp full of attack elephants. Yes, attack elephants. He has a control room with a bunch of control panels and a microphone and he’s able to command a group of about a dozen different elephants that have numbers painted on their trunks to attack on his command. It’s a sequence that lasts forever with badly dubbed and very grating elephant roar sounds followed by someone getting crushed by an obviously fake elephant foot until they spit out fake blood with the consistency of ketchup. All while sporting those gloriously seventies styled hairdos and fashion.
Since this is basically a Bollywood movie it wouldn’t be complete with several instances of Bollywood style musical numbers throughout the film. If you’re someone with limited experience with Bollywood, especially 80’s era Bollywood the musical numbers are both jarring and irritating. It’s difficult to tell if it’s an acquired taste or if these numbers are just plain bad, though the musical number in the Krrish trilogy were relatively enjoyable and a far cry better than these. On top of that the choreography for both the dance and the fight scenes were fairly poor. The dance scenes fared a little bit better as the fight scenes featured way too many shots of Raja jumping up towards camera in a style reminiscent of the Adventures of Superman where they would film George Reeves jumping out of a window then cut to the flying special effect. There are the occasionally impressive flip done by the stuntman but it’s mostly him jumping at the bad guys and all of the slaps are nearly a foot away from connecting. One of the most egregious examples is a scene where Raja’s sister tells their mother that she’s pregnant and the two of them do not have their timing down at all between getting slapped and reacting to getting slapped.
Outside of all this, or possibly because of it all, this was an enjoyable film to watch. The insanity made it hilarious as did just the fact that Superman doesn’t just have a dad bod, but he’s fairly overweight. He would also just randomly change into costume with zero explanation, it would just have him in regular clothes, then he would leap towards the fight and appear in the next shot in costume. Yet he would also occasionally fight as himself. The film also never explained the “H” logo on his chest instead of the typical “S” even though they still call him by the English “Superman” in this film. The best explanation is that the H stands for the god Hanuman who gave him his powers but it would have been nice for them to at least explain that somewhere in the film. Still, not the worst way to spend a little over 2 hours. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.