The Other Indian Superman Films


From Return of Mr. Superman (1960)

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.

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Superman (1987)

superman1987AKA The Indian Superman, Hindi Superman

Starring Puneet Issar, Shakti Kapoor, Piloo J. Wadia, Bob Christo, Dharmendra, Sonia Sahni, Urmila Bhatt, Ashok Kumar, Ranjeeta Kaur, Birbal, Preeti Ganguli, Rajan Haksar, Dinesh Hingoo, Jagdeep, Jankidas, Lalita Kumari, Guddi Maruti, Murad, Sudhir

Directed by B. Gupta

Expectations: I hope it’s got as many thrills as the Tollywood version of Superman.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:

Wow. Sometimes it takes a truly awful film to remind you of the risk involved in watching low-budget films. This version of the Superman story comes to us courtesy of the Bollywood film industry, although I somehow doubt that this is representative of their normal output, even in 1987. It is a horrible film, with very few redeeming qualities at all. And, sad to say, many of those redeeming qualities are just the novelty of watching degraded versions of footage shot by Richard Donner for Superman. The Tollywood version, which I reviewed yesterday, was so full of life and imagination, but this version is a Superman-sized abomination.

I can only relate my general understanding of the story, as I was forced to watch the film without subtitles. This is always a daunting task, as the success of the film hinges solely on its visual filmmaking and storytelling. I’m sure that seeing this with a better understanding of what was going on would help it some, but no amount of understanding can erase just how lackluster this entire production is. Thankfully, the storyline basically follows that of the original Superman film, so I was treading on familiar ground.

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Superman (1980)

eUAHQ4xmmLxMyJONVQg9VKvoNtrAKA Telugu Superman

Starring N. T. Rama Rao, Jaya Prada, Jaya Malini, Kaikala Satyanarayana, Pandari Bai

Directed by V. Madhusudhana Rao

Expectations: I don’t really know what to expect.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:

Y’know what Superman was always missing? A lust for revenge. V. Madhusudhana Rao’s 1980 take on the character rectifies that by throwing out the story we’re all familiar with and going with one built upon the idea that three evil Indian cowboys confidently stride into Raja’s (AKA Superman’s) house and murder his parents. It’s also filled with musical numbers and a healthy dose of marital intrigue, not to mention a 10-year-old assassin, some attack elephants and a couple of sumos with painted, black skin wielding axes, all thrown in for good measure. And that’s just a few of the interesting things. Yep, this South Indian Superman is definitely unlike any other interpretation of the character you’ve ever seen.

Like any good revenge story, Superman opens with the genesis of the main character’s quest. Those murderous cowboys performed their evil deed on the eve of the prayer recitation of Sundara Kanda, a book which chronicles the adventures of the ape-like Hindu god, Hanuman. Young Raja isn’t sure what he should do, so he goes to Hanuman’s temple to sing an intense, powerful song, calling for help from the deity. When he receives no answer, he threatens to kill himself. But he receives no answer still, so Raja grabs a nearby candlestick, drives it into his stomach and slowly bleeds to death before the statue of Hanuman. Raja’s splattered blood on the statue causes the deity to awaken. He takes pity on the small boy, restores Raja’s life and imbues his body with powers comparable to Hanuman himself. Raja is no longer just Raja, he is now Superman!

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The Return of Superman (1979)

004The Return of Superman [Supermen Dönüyor] (1979)
AKA Turkish Superman, Supermen Returns

Starring Tayfun Demir, Güngör Bayrak, Yildirim Gencer, Esref Kolçak, Nejat Özbek, Resit Hazar, Seref Çokseker, Reha Yurdakul

Directed by Kunt Tulgar

Expectations: I don’t really know what to expect. Greatness? Trash? I’m eager, whatever it is.

On the general scale:

On the B-movie scale:

Make no mistake: The Return of Superman — AKA the more well-known bootleg title, Turkish Superman — is a horrible movie. But like many horrible movies that pop up here, it is rather enjoyable. It’s much too slow-moving and boring at times, but when it’s good, it’s really good, so any fan of low-budget movies shouldn’t miss this one. Just in terms of seeing how someone with a totally non-existent budget tries to emulate the special FX of one of the biggest budget, FX-laden ’70s movies. Within 30 seconds I was laughing hysterically, as the infinite stars of the universe were displayed on the screen via black felt and a whole bunch of round Christmas ornaments. Arguably, the effect looks rather good for what it is, but it’s never a deceptive illusion so it’s impossible not to laugh at it. But as I like to laugh with things, this kicked the movie off to a rather great start.

As much as I love the Superman character, his story is inherently laden pretty thick with American exceptionalist ideas. Of course, this powerful alien champion crash lands on Earth and he’s an American! A wholesome American farm boy, no less! While I respect the basis this gives the character, I was eager to see a Superman that didn’t carry this baggage, and in The Return of Superman I definitely got that. Here Tayfun (AKA Turkish Clark Kent) has been raised by a poor, nondescript Turkish couple. We’re not shown that the Turkish Kents instilled any deep, resonant values in Superman, but he does fight on the side of good, so those scenes must have been left on the cutting room floor. One day, Tayfun decides he must leave to find his Kryptonian fortune, packing his suitcase for a journey across grazing fields and into rocky Turkish caverns, where he uses the green stone that came with him from Krypton to talk with Turkish Jor-El. But before I get there, I simply must mention that this suitcase packing scene has to be the most exciting, thrilling suitcase packings in the history of cinema. Not for its visual content, but for its score, a rousing suite for orchestra that would fit perfectly into the climax of a Hitchcock movie. That’s what those final Hitchcock films were missing… more suitcase-packing thrills.

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Uncle Jasper reviews: 3 Dev Adam (1973)

3 Dev Adam (1973)
AKA Captain America and Santo vs. Spider-Man, Three Giant Men

Starring Aytekin Akkaya, Deniz Erkanat, Yavuz Selekman, Teyfik Sen, Dogan Tamer, Mine Sun, Altan Gunbay

Directed By T. Fikret Uçak

It’s about time I stopped dicking around here at Silver Emulsion. Five months in and I still ask myself why I waste away lonely nights writing about cinema’s bottom-fed rejects. Oh no, not this time folks. This is a respectable medium and I intend to present it as such. It’s high-time to bring some dignity up here in this bitch, which is why I am throwing down the gauntlet and finally earning my keep as a respectable film critic with my long-awaited review of Ingmar Bergman’s contemplative study of emptiness in old age, Wild Strawberries. T. Fikret Uçak’s unauthorized Turkish superhero / Mexican wrestling mash-up, 3 Dev Adam.

The rules of logic do not seem to apply in the world of Turkish cinema. Neither do the laws of copyright holders, I guess. The only thing intellectual about the intellectual property in these films is how many long-protected trademarks you can shamelessly cram into 80 minutes of celluloid in order to put asses in theater seats. Some of you may be familiar with the infamous Turkish Star Wars, a film that had no problem sandwiching sections of douchebag-extraordinaire George Lucas’s space-epic in between lo-fi shots of old Turkish guys punching rocks out in the desert.

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