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Much before Ranveer Singh was in talks to play Nagraj, the superhero with snakelike powers, the comics were adapted into a four-episode series in 2001. Now, the unaired pilot is on YouTube, with an almost apologetic description: At the time it was created, it used the best tools and technology available, but now, almost 20 years later, the VFX looks really primitive. Nevertheless, hope you enjoy…

Over 39 minutes, the episode faithfully adapts its source material to tell the superhero’s origin story. Abandoned at a remote forest temple, he’s found by Professor Nagmani (Gavin Packard) whose hyper-developed sense of smell helps him deduce that the infant’s blood is extremely venomous. His curiosity compels him to take the child home, name him Nagraj and raise him as his own. The show then skips ahead several years to when the now-costumed Nagraj (Raj Premi) takes down an international criminal cartel, shooting snakes out of his wrists, spitting venom and cracking bones with his super strength.

Originally created for Doordarshan, the episodes were never aired after the show failed to find sponsors. So why release the pilot after all these years? “We were just going through our archives during the lockdown and stumbled on this. We thought this was a good time to release it online,” says Ayush Gupta, director of digital media, Raj Comics. On his YouTube channel, the episode now has around a thousand views. Ayush’s father, Manoj, produced the show and was also one of its three writers.

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(From right) Nagraj (Raj Premi) and his adoptive father Nagmani (Gavin Packard).

“The pilot episode was taken from the comics. For the rest, the character and the universe were ours, but we would sit and come up with different storylines,” says Manoj. The episodes were all shot at Film City within two weeks, with one sequence set at the Chandivali studio where Shaktimaan was also being filmed. “One episode cost us Rs 3 lakh to shoot, when it should’ve cost closer to Rs 2 lakh. We’re publishers, we didn’t know much about film production and were learning everything on the job. That’s why it was so expensive,” he adds. After producing three episodes on their own, the studio collaborated with Bheeshm International (run by Shaktimaan actor Mukesh Khanna) for the fourth.

While the studio isn’t sure of whether the other three episodes will be uploaded – Manoj says he’s seen versions of them floating around on the internet – they’re in talks with Yash Raj Studios and Dharma Productions to produce live-action adaptations of their content. In the meantime, you can watch the unaired pilot of Nagraj here:

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