So the Hollywood Superman is back after a hiatus of 20 years following the mishap and death of the last actor playing him - Christopher Reeves. Superman goes way back right when it was leapt from comic books to radio serials in the 40s, and on to the television screen by the 50s.
So what do you think is India's connection to probably the most popular super-hero the world has ever seen? Word is that, that the original creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel were inspired from none other than the Indian mythological hero Hanuman and that is how Superman got his flying powers. But that is not all; India too has had her share of the Man of Steel.
India's tryst with Superman began in 1960 with a film titled umm..., Superman! The title role was played by the Dadasaheb Phalke award winning actor P. Jairaj. Nirupa Roy known for her motherly roles was the lead actress of the film. We don't know but we assume that she enacted the role of Superman's girlfriend Lois Lane. Dancer Helen was also part of the star cast.
The new Hollywood film starring debutant Brandon Routh titled Superman Returns is one of the most awaited Hollywood movies of the year in India. But would you believe me if I told you that there was a film again back in 1960 in India titled Return of Superman. Talks about sequels are the order of the day but the Indian Superman had a sequel in the same year of its release itself. Due to his royal looks and muscular physique Jairaj continued his sprint as the cape flaunting, red underwear wearing Superman. The actor who passed away in 2000 once said in an interview to a website, "All shooting took place in natural sunlight. Our day began and ended early. We reached the sets by 7.30 a.m. and packed up by 5 p.m. We each learnt our craft by trial and error. We discussed the story together, developed it and then started shooting."
Jairaj who was known for playing historical characters like Chandrashekhar Azad, Prithviraj Chauhan, Rana Pratap, Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Tipu Sultan probably suited the role well.
And while Bollywood would have forgotten yesteryear filmmaker Manmohan Sabir who at one point of time in his career directed celebrities like Shammi Kapoor, Balraj Sahni and Pran, here is an interview with the man behind the original Return of Superman.
"In those days such films were released in play houses. Return of Superman ran for 2-3 weeks at Nishaad in Mumbai", said the veteran director. "Back then we used to take flying shots with different styles and angles. These days of course technology has improved a lot."
So why make a sequel the same year of the release of the original?
"My movie was not a sequel to the other film that released the same year. It was a different film altogether. The title Superman was registered by my friend Ram Dayal (producer) and he objected to it. I was given a notice along with the title registration association's orders. So I changed the title and released it."
On his views of the original Indian Superman- "Jairaj was my friend and we worked in 7-8 films together. He was a very good actor and we shared a great rapport."
But Jairaj was not the only Superman Bollywood had seen. Years later, India saw Puneet Issar in the form of Superman again in 1987.
We got through the producer-director of the film, B. Gupta who directed this version. "I was heavily inspired from the original Superman movie. I am a big Superman fan and have seen all the films. Children really like to see a man flying and that is why I chose to make this film."
On enquiring we found out that both of these directors would want to watch the upcoming film Superman Returns.
From Shaktimaan to Krrish, inspirations can always be seen from this Super-hero. Superman says, "I'm here to fight for truth, and justice, and the American umm... the Indian Way" Dishoom!!