Much has been said (and with much condescension) about how, the Indian Comic book scene cannot produce its own superhero movie genre – unlike its American, Japanese, European or even Chinese counterparts.
But, there is a plethora of perfectly adaptable comic books and comic book characters across the spectrum; ones capable of give birth to their own universes/franchises – if only one cared to look.
As a comic book creator (disclaimer!), here’s my list of top 10 (in no particular order) primarily independent and some mainstream Indian comic books, that need to be adapted onto the silver or mobile screens. We all know we want a Chacha Chaudhary (Diamond Comics) and Doga movie, so I’m not wasting space on the obvious. So here goes the list:
Bantul The Great – Shuktara Magazine (Bengali)
“Tui ki Bantul the Great hote chaash” is a standard line levied by every Bengali mother to their kids who want to join the gym and build biceps. Bantul the Great, is every Indian hero fetish rolled into one. Strong, invulnerable and good – he is also unaware of the unaware of the upper limits of his strengths. He eats well like a good Bengali boy, is a do-gooder as well as a detective.
There are those of you that might point out that this sounds exactly like the sum total of all Salman Khan characters divided by their protein shake consumption – well, there’s a movie idea for you. Bantul already has a Bengali animated series to its credit and a Johnny Bravo-esque reimagination would be a great counterfoil to the rapidly staling Bengali detective genre.
Parmaanu – Raj Comics
Raj Comics have been the staple ‘original’ superhero comic fare for the northern belt of India for nearly three decades. While their flagship characters include Nagraj, Doga and Super Commando Dhruv and any one of these would be, perhaps, a better choice for a live action adaptation – I personally think Parmanu, while relatively obscure, will translate better to the silver screen. With a mix of hokey science, evil corporations and a radiation powered suit – Parmaanu gives Bollywood a chance to introduce DC Comic’s “Atom” before Warner Brothers does – with its typical flair.
Caravaan – Yali Dream Creations
To be fair, I am not a huge fan of the comic itself. However, the plotline centered around buxom banjaaran vampires, werewolves and the likes does have a certain B-grade Bollywood/Kollywood appeal to it. Elevate the concept from Adhikaari Brothers to a more Sam Raimi interpretation – and we might have a runaway hit on our hands – in any language, to be honest.
Shaitaan – Holy Cow Entertainment
Holy Cow Entertainment has some of the best illustrated comic books in the industry right now. Their popular titles include Ravanayana, Shaitan and Aghori. For those who have read their comics, Aghori would seem a more obvious choice given the cultural context of India. However, Shaitan’s story is tighter, leaner and has potential for a tightly shot ‘Abyss meets Aliens’ movie caper – sprinkled with some rich historical flashbacks, which help expand the movie’s scope.
Holy Hell – Meta Desi Comics
Holy Hell, by the independent publishing house Meta Desi Comics is a random fun romp where it’s protagonists take on everything from Cowzillas to Medusas – in a made up rural hinterland of India. Replete with pop-culture references and some zany humour, a live-action version of this caper, could give Bollywood’s own Deadpool a run for its money.
VRICA – Chariot Comics
I’m writing this article, so yes, I’m putting one of mine on the list. Jokes apart, this is more of an open challenge to anyone who can take on the challenge to bring this military/superhero adventure about a team of Indian Special Operatives, with a superpowered team leader, to life on-screen, given its modern scope, historical narratives, controversial twists and well, gratuitous violence.
Did I mention there are also Steampunk Jaegers, Nazis and military coups, all set against a Indian background?
Odaayan – Level 10 Comics
One of the original pioneers of the new Indian indie comic movement in late 2000s, Level 10’s Odayaan has been a seminal work from the get-go. Combining a Kurosawa-esque feel with an old world Kerala – this comic of a rebel warrior in a feudal and ancient India has the definitive potential to become a cult classic, if made in the veins of a Tarantino caper.
Stan Lee’s Chakra – Graphic India
“When Raju Rai, accidentally activates an experimental suit that unleashes the mystical chakras of the body, he gains superpowers and vows to protect the people of Mumbai as CHAKRA, The Invincible!” Well, yeah, it doesn’t sound too outstandingly original – but Chakra is fun, it’s adorable in parts and if treated right, has great potential to be a seminal kid’s superhero movie that Bollywood has needed for a while now.
TNT – Speech Bubble Entertainment
The comic by Kolkata based Speech Bubble Entertainment is a modern retelling of the famous Bengali anti-hero Taranath Tantrik. Set in modern-day Kolkata with Hellblazer/Constantine like overtones – a Bollywood ‘mystical, gore and horror’ retelling could work pretty well.
Ramayan 3392 A.D. – Graphic India
Of all the comic book titles put forth by Graphic India (erstwhile Virgin Comics), Ramayana 3392 held the most cinematic potential in the IMAX/3D vein. This series takes place in a dystopian future, and follows the exploits of the last remaining humans. The story follows the human prince, Rama, who leads the charge against the nanotech Ravana’s hordes. If the imaginative retelling can survive the censors and fringe-groups, of course.
So there, that was my list, if you have more suggestions from across the comic-book spectrum in India, do comment below.