Adbhut, Adamya Sahas ki Paribhasha hai,
Ye mitati Manavta ki Asha hai!!
Stand aside for the India’s own ass-kicking, villain-incinerating, criminal-whupping superhero with a paunch…
Created and played by Mukesh Khanna, the TV programme Shaktimaan went on to be a grand success with the Indian Junta, what with tiny children leaping off skyscrapers, slitting wrists and shooting themselves in the eye with arrows yelling, “Shaktimaan, mujhe bachaooo!!” which led to the producers including that small disclaimer in the beginning, the one that goes like, “Is dharaavahik ke sabhi kirdar kalpanik hai…”
Shaktimaan’s alter ego, Pandit Gangadhar Vidyadhar Mayadhar Omkarnath Shastri works as a photographer in a newspaper Aaj ki Awaaz, somewhat like the Daily Planet (Sounds familiar? No?). His muse is Geeta Biswas (not my relative) who is a news reporter for the same newspaper, somewhat like Lois Lane (Now does it sound familiar? Still no?). In the course of the program Geeta comes to know about Gangadhar’s real identity (Now? No? Pathetic. Go read some Superman comics and come back.)
Shaktimaan gets his power from the Five elements of the Universe:-Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Sky and from penance of 7 gurus of Suryanshi, a sect that follows the Sun. The antagonist in the series is Tamraj Kilwish, who is a former sage-gone-bad. He derives power from the Pap-Punj (which also happens to be Shaktimaan’s Kryptonite) and the wrongdoings of the plebeian.
For a boy who grew without proper television hours for the better part of his life, I would, as a child in my 1st grade, be jumping with unhindered anticipation when the title track would blare through the radio speakers. Each dialogue, each composition of creepy music acknowledging those one liners, would be imprinted in my mind for the entire week. Imagery after the other would be embellished with phantasmagoria born from day dreaming as well as those action-packed, testosterone-driven nocturnal reveries. Sometimes I would forget about the presence of any corporeality, imagining myself to have mastered the all my Chakras and the god-knows-what-they-are Kundalinis and feel awesome about my newly acquired apparent super powers.
The TV was finally turned on in my 3rd grade (just the Doordarshan though, which was better than nothing). I and my kid brother suddenly had a fucking good life. Our imagination had a bad guy in flesh and blood to brood about, and not a wraith which we would conjure up from mere descriptions. Sometimes we would have an argument over who had it in him for being the real, raw Shaktiman, which would be settled with a wrestling match.
As it would turn out, I was the real Shaktimaan!
The cable TV ultimately came to my rescue in the 7th grade. It was as if the gates of a dam to an over-filled reservoir were finally opened. Now it was all Schwarzenneger, Van Damme, Jackie Chan and others. Shaktimaan gradually phased out until one day, when I accidently stumbled upon Doordarshan while channel surfing and watched 5 minutes of the TV phenomenon that had earlier gripped my very soul. That day Shaktimaan was completely forgotten.
Towards the end of the programme a small segment aimed at ethical development of the quintessential kid of India would be aired. A child, or a group of them, would be perpetrating something gravely wrong. Say, for example, not washing their ears properly. Or eating the larger portion of the cake. Enter Shaktimaan, who would say “Ruko!!” with fucking Authoritah. The child would immediately realise his folly and say, “Sorry Shaktimaan!!” Thereafter Shaktimaan gives a 5 minute lecture on why it’s wrong.
Chhoti Chhoti Magar Moti Batein!!
Boasting of a vast inventory of Super Villians of vile mien, Shaktimaan would, many a times, be pulverised as an outcome of their bad-assery. As much as Shaktiman remains etched in the minds of the discerning viewer, the Villains definitely occupied as much, and in some cases, more space then Shaktiman himself. Their sheer notoriety, individual idiosyncrasies and the uniqueness and intonation of their dialogues made an indelible impression on my mind.
Andhera Kayam Rahe Hamesha!!
Tamraj Kilwish, the meanest, maleficent bastard in the series, harried Shaktimaan till the end, sending a battalion of minions from time to time. The face earlier hid within a hood, giving him an aura of animosity and anonymity. The face revealed is no less grotesque, every line, wrinkle, pimple depicting foulness.
Such has been his nefariousness that Daler Mehndi, a completely normal, God fearing singer got inspired by him and as a tribute used the following dance move in Ho Jayegi Balle Balle.
Dr. Jackal (pronounced Jay-call)
Dr. Jackal has been one formidable rival. He cloned Shaktimaan starting with just a strand of his hair, (which FYI, he stole from a research facility that was studying its tensile strength. That single hair lifted a tonne of weight, and the scientists only called it quits for that day because they were tired from lifting all the weight. But I digress.) and used the Bad Shaktimaan to terrorise citizens and be a pain in the ass of Good Shaktimaan. He regularly derives power by saying “Pahwah!” every 5 minutes in the show.
Other loathsome creatures…
Finally, the song that is an integral part of the Indian-ness that we all are an integral part of.