AKA 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!