There were no divine forces at work to magically erase the obstacles such as the limited budget and tight filming schedule to rescue the makers of Punjab’s first superhero film, Super Singh. But they did not let that stand in their way of creating a fantasy fiction hero who was perfectly “Punjabified” and partly funny.
“In Super Singh, we have rooted our hero in Punjabi culture. He’s very desi and we haven’t tried to make it a Western movie. We have concentrated on humour, but it isn’t a spoof or satire like Deadpool,” said director Anurag Singh in a phone interview with Gulf News tabloid!.
The one he chose to fulfil his dream of gifting his native Punjab a believable on-screen superhero was actor-singer Diljit Dosanjh.
It’s their fourth collaboration together after hits such as the widely popular romance Jatt and Juliet series and the Indian National Award-winning drama Punjab 1984.
“It was our dream to create a Punjabi superhero and to see a Sikh superhero with a turban… But we are not mocking the genre of superheroes,” said Singh.
Their latest attempt, Super Singh, which has a worldwide release in the UAE on Thursday, chronicles the tale of a charming, fun-loving Punjabi lad in Montreal who stumbles upon his superpowers. As he saves people, he also rolls out a few jokes along the way.
“There is a certain message in the film for the audiences, but the movie is mainly fun. The fun stems from the character that he plays. But we are not trying to make any virtuous statement in it. We have just inserted elements of our own roots and culture here,” said Singh, who got an instant approval from Dosanjh when he approached him with the idea.
For both, the concept of having a home-grown superhero held immense appeal.
“This story will connect with every Punjabi and their roots. In Hollywood, there are several films on superheroes and Bollywood too has a few superhero flicks, but this is our first attempt. I guarantee you that there will be a distinct Punjabi flavour here… The audiences will be intrigued by the story line and I can guarantee you that the entertainment value and fun factor will be high,” said Dosanjh in Hindi.
Between these two creative minds, their credibility is high since their union has resulted in films that resonate with Punjabis.
While Singh is described as the “hit machine of Punjabi cinema”, Dosanjh is an actor who can balance both flashy and meaningful cinema with dexterity.
Putting on a latex suit wasn’t always comfortable, but the singer and actor, who made his Bollywood debut with the hard-hitting drug drama Udta Punjab, kept the big picture in mind.
“Those suits aren’t very practical. But when it gets uncomfortable I tell myself that it’s a part of my job and I must just do it. There’s no escaping that tight costume if you are playing a superhero. Remember, we can’t fly in anything else,” said Dosanjh.
Due to budgetary constraints, the Super Singh team designed the costume, the mask and the turban — the whole look — in Mumbai, as opposed to roping in experts from the West.
“We took a lot of time to come up with that. We were trying to make a costume that was different from others. For us, the turban was an integral part of the costume and the mask had to be designed keeping that in mind. Plus, we had limited means. Remember, the regional cinema doesn’t approve of big budgets,” said Singh, who has co-produced the movie along with Balaji Telefilms.
While Singh didn’t reveal exactly how much was spent on his Punjabi adventure (he claimed he wasn’t good with numbers), the producer-director insists that its total cost was a fraction of what’s spent on snazzy Hollywood superhero projects or even Hindi superhero films such as Tiger Shroff’s Hindi film, A Flying Jatt.
The director also claimed his fee was put back into the project.
But will this film work towards obliterating the stereotypes attached to Sikhs in films?
Sikh characters in Bollywood films are often used for comic relief and are ruthlessly derided. Neither are their characters portrayed as the brightest bulbs on the big screen.
“As a community, we are fun-loving people and we love to live life king-size. So, there is a bit of fun when you think of Punjabis and that has led to some kind of stereotyping. But we have tried to address it,” said Singh.
“For instance, our Punjab 1984 was a serious film and it was widely appreciated and Diljit — [for] his part — did a role of a Sikh cop in his first Hindi film Udta Punjab and that will go a long way in changing the perception that when you cast a sardar [Sikh man], it’s not just for the jokes,” said Singh, who adds that the message in Super Singh will be catalyst in demolishing that perception.
Another question that has been haunting Singh and his team is the question of similarity between A Flying Jatt, a Hindi film about a bumbling superhero, and Super Singh.
But Singh and Dosanjh jump to their film’s rescue and are ready to shoot down such speculations with logic. Singh presents a lengthy case about why would producer Ekta Kapoor from Balaji Telefilms, who backed A Flying Jatt, would also agree to finance a similar Punjabi-language project.
“I agree that Tiger Shroff was wearing a turban and a superhero costume, but that’s where the similarity ends. Plus, flying is the usual trope of a superhero genre,” said Singh, adding that while he hadn’t watch A Flying Jatt, producer Kapoor had told him that his script and idea was different.
But such a comparison was the least of their priorities. For them, extracting the maximum worth of every penny spent with credible cinema was on top of their minds.
“We are not trying to copy Hollywood films or trying to ape them in terms of VFX because we know we can’t do that with the budgets we have. But we are trying to play to our strengths,” said Singh.
Don’t miss it!
Super Singh will release in the UAE on June 15.
Other Indian superheroes
Hrithik Roshan in Krrish
Bollywood got a taste of a Western-style superhero with Krrish, played by Hrithik Roshan. In a black suit and mask, Roshan was perfectly cast as a superhero with a herculean physical strength, a keen sixth sense and an ability to leap from sky scrapers.
Rajinikanth in Robot/Enthiran
This 2010 film revolves around Chitti, a robot played by Rajinikanth, who suddenly begins to exhibit human emotions. But evil forces are at work to manipulate him. Watch this for Rajinikanth’s charisma and star power.
Anil Kapoor in Mr India
What happens when a regular bloke stumbles upon a watch that gives him the power of invisibility? Watch director Shekhar Kapoor’s Mr India to find out the answers.
Shah Rukh Khan as G.One in Ra.One
Directed by Anubhav Sinha, this magnum opus from Shah Rukh Khan didn’t do well at the box-office, but if you are his fan then give this film a shot. His turn as a blue-eyed superhero G.One was a hit with the kids.
Amitabh Bachchan in Ajooba
This 1991 fantasy film is loosely based on the fable One Thousand and One Nights and is a tale of valour and heroism. Bachchan with his silver mask owned the superhero role.
The fantasy adventure entered into an Indian household homes with the hit television series. Produced and acted by Mukesh Khanna, it has around 400 episodes of intriguing action-filled episodes.