Before embarking on this Superman review series, I didn’t know there were even two Indian Superman films, let alone four! I was aware of the 1987 Bollywood version, and I had a sneaking suspicion that there were more knock-off versions somewhere else in the world, but it seems that India has something of a love for the Man of Steel.
The first film version was a 1960 film simply titled Superman, much like the later ’80s films. This version was directed by Mohammed Hussain (for those keeping score), and it starred Paidi Jairaj as both Supes and his Clark Kent alter-ego. I imagine he’s not called Clark Kent in this film, but info is real scarce on this film, so who knows.
There is a bit more info on the other 1960 Superman film out of India. Wha??? Yeah, in 1960 India produced two Superman films! The second film was originally to be titled Superman as well, but thanks to the other Superman film, the filmmakers of this version were forced to re-title their film. Somehow they arrived at Return of Mr. Superman, but the story of how they came to that is most likely lost to the sands of time. From what I found, it sounds like this film does adhere to many of the Superman hallmarks such as Superman crash-landing on a farm as a boy and being raised by surrogate parents, a journalist alter-ego, a Lois Lane type love interest, etc. Superman was once again portrayed by Paidi Jairaj in this film.
Where this Mr. Superman doesn’t match up much at all is the costume. Even though I could not find the film to review, the Internet revealed a pretty good screenshot of Mr. Superman’s face (see above). It definitely takes the cake for the weirdest Superman costume I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen the real strange costume from the failed, unfilmed, Nic Cage version of Superman. Perhaps Return of Mr. Superman was supposed to chronicle the young, fledgling days of Superman before he dons the traditional tights? I guess before he figured out the “little curl of hair” trick to distract everyone who knows Clark Kent from noticing that Superman looks exactly like Clark Kent, he tried the “goggles and half-mask” idea. I would have loved to bring you a review of this one, and maybe one day that will happen. If I can eventually track down something as obscure as Mictlan, a film I saw on Spanish TV one afternoon and then hunted down for years, then I can probably find this one.
And as to be expected with Indian films, apparently both 1960s versions were musicals, and one of my searches revealed the following song from the Return of Mr. Superman soundtrack.
As far as I could tell, with the two I’ve already reviewed, that rounds up all the Indian Superman films… except for one very high-profile scene in the 1988 film Dariya Dil. The film itself has nothing to do with Superman, but in just one song it leaves an indelible mark on the character. Once you see the clip in question, I doubt you’ll soon forget it. The first video below is the scene that directly leads into the song, showing how quickly you can be whisked away by your imagination, if only you grab the nearest cola can from the wall shelf and hold it for your sweetheart to drink while a couple of superhero costumes hang just a few feet away.
The song itself (below) illustrates exactly why I find so much to enjoy about these unsanctioned takes on popular characters. Free of all restrictions to stick to the rules or ardent fan’s desires, this Superman is allowed to wildly dance to his heart’s content with Spider-Woman. Being Superman definitely isn’t an easy job, so it’s nice to see the guy let off a little steam.
Pretty awesome, right? I don’t expect everyone to enjoy it as much as I do, but hopefully my enthusiasm for fringe cinema has rubbed off enough to at least make it more pleasurable than it may have otherwise been.
This is the first article of its kind here at Silver Emulsion (because the site isn’t called “Silver Emulsion YouTube Embedded Videos and Short Commentaries”), but I imagine it won’t be the last. I’d rather review the films in question, but I’m sure a worthy block of unattainable films will eventually crop up again. In any case, thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts on these films in the comments!