On August 15th 2018, John Abraham’s ‘ Satyameva Jayate’ was released. Amidst the humongous patriotic fervour that is usually associated with the day, people went to see the film. Despite being cringeworthy, it raked moolah at the box office. Some months ago, ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’ had released. Both films talk about the corruption that has engulfed the society at present. In both films, a common man turns vigilante to tackle the enemy. While ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’ had a tighter script, good performances yet no taker, ‘Satyameva Jayate’ ran to packed houses, despite being tacky, over the top and abysmal. Last heard, the makers are even contemplating a sequel. Which brings us to the burning question of the hour, is the Indian audience ready for a superhero? Are they ready for a story that highlights the common man’s problem and a masked vigilante taking the system head-on?

The answer is a resounding no.

The reasons are quite simple. Except Shekhar Kapoor’s ‘Mr India’ (1987) which had a superhero with a power to become invisible, none of the past films that were based upon the concept of a superhero has been made well. Take SRK’s ‘Ra.One’ (2011) for that instance. Despite a huge budget and the presence of bankable stars, the film tanked. to be honest, the film had a lousy and childish script. Abhishek Kapoor’s ‘Drona’ (2008) was a colossal failure. Remo DeSouza’s ‘A Flying Jatt’ (2016) was meant for children, but even children were missing from the theatre. Let’s not even bring the ‘Krrish’ series of films into the discussion, which is an aberration in filmmaking, despite being blockbusters. Even in the past, there have been films like ‘Shiva Ka Insaaf’ (1985), ‘Toofan’ (1989) which had the masked vigilante saving the poor and the meek, from the clutches of the oppressor. But they all have one thing in common – being labelled as flops.

At Hollywood, while the past films failed miserably, there wasn’t much enthusiasm in this genre, until ‘Iron Man’ (2008) came and completely changed the game. Before ‘Iron Man’, there were plenty of movies on superheroes but none of them impacted the way the Marvel production did. If you remember, ‘Iron Man’ had the opening sequence, set in the contemporary times, where Tony Stark was in Afghanistan to showcase his Jericho missiles. Any story set on the contemporary storylines is always relatable to the audience because they can relate more to it. And having a bankable star. usually negates the risk, if not always. Robert Downey Jr. regained his stature as a saleable star with the success of ‘Iron Man’. And as the film finished, MCU started teasing the audience with a post-credit scene about the ‘Avengers Initiative’ as Nick Fury puts it to Tony Stark.  The interest of the moviegoers started peaking with every Marvel films hereafter. Once people started taking notice of the films, then there were no looking back. Twenty-three films and the cinematic world was redefined forever.

But it wasn’t always hunky-dory. At times, Marvel storylines strayed down the path, some movies weren’t as successful as the others. The original ‘Avengers’ (2012) still has more takers than ‘Age of Ultron’ (2015), in terms of storytelling. In fact, the failure of ‘Age Of Ultron’ forced Marvel’s boss Kevin Feige to contemplate. The success of ‘Captain America: Winter Soldier’ (2014) was instrumental to change the reigns to the able hands of the Russo brothers. It became a milestone in decision making with a stunning finale to the infinity saga – ‘Infinity War’ (2018) and ‘End Game’ (2019).  This tells that it’s really important to know your audience and their tastes, which keeps varying.

Coming back to Indian films, especially Bollywood, in the past, many filmmakers have tried and left midway while trying to make a movie in the superhero genre. Anurag Kashyap worked with the ‘Doga’ character from Raj Comics for many years but eventually left it, citing the project not being viable in contemporary times, especially in terms of budget and technology constraints. Lately, director Ayan Mukherji is working with Ranbir Kapoor and Amitabh Bachchan for his ambitious superhero trilogy ‘Brahmastra’. Let’s hope this does well.

Coming back to ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’, let’s think about what went wrong with it. It had the right kind of story to have a vigilante’s beginning. Let me clarify that a superhero doesn’t mean someone with superpowers, which unfortunately seems to be the general idea. A hero is someone who does the dirty job of keeping the streets clean of the scums. ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’ has the protagonist take up the mantle of a vigilante after he sees his friend getting killed while fighting against corrupt forces. The film has the protagonist working on his skills, working on his fighting style, before he goes all out on the enemy, which constitutes credibility about the character. Think Christopher Nolan’s ‘Batman Begins’. The main premise of ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’ was based on the stealing of water from the common people and selling it back to them, after creating a faux scare. The story is very relevant in today’s times. But then why did it fail to get attention? Perhaps the audience didn’t like the protagonist. Perhaps the story didn’t appeal, even if it has ‘fact’ written all over it. Who knows? After all, when you see another film, made on similar subject getting the audience all thrilled with its over the top buffoonery, in the name of filmmaking, you really start to question yourself.

In time, the audience will forget films like ‘Satyameva Jayate’ but will always remember gems like ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’ which dared to break the mould and rise above mediocrity. Over the years,  ‘Bhavesh Joshi Superhero’ will live its life through word of mouth and eventually will find its place in the hall of fame. For now, it is going to live its shelf life among those films, which could’ve become a game-changer. 





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