Bollywood Superhero Movies That Enhanced The Genre | Comic Years
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The Best Bollywood Superhero Movies That Enhanced The Genre

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BY April 25, 2022

Superhero movies have become a global sensation. While Hollywood’s influence in the genre is huge, thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it’s expanded beyond just America. With many different entertainment industries all over the world doing their take on superhero content, Bollywood is not too far behind. The superhero genre of Bollywood is new, but the attempts have been amazing with a lot of different things going for it. The premise of each of those movies though is still very much rooted within the cultural context of the country. Which is really what makes them stand out. Despite that, even the most popular Indian superhero movies have yet to be as hugely successful for the industry as its other genres. But the same could have been said about Hollywood in the ’90s too, pre-Fox’s X-Men franchise. So, let’s take a look at the best Bollywood superhero movies. 

Understanding The Superhero Genre Of Bollywood

Best Bollywood superhero movie Dabanng Image via Arbaaz Khan Productions.

Before getting into all the superhero movies of India, we should contextualize the kind of content considered standard for a Bollywood movie. Elements which might might throw off general, non-Bollywood audiences. Yes, there’s singing and dancing, usually of a romantic nature, just like any other musical. But Bollywood movies’ appeal, even today, is its value of providing entertainment over anything else. So, the industry really is a very much a bastion for escapism and relief from the harshness of society. Audiences went to the cinema for hope, optimism and a reaffirmation of better things to come. Be that in the romance genre, or the more serious, action and drama. 

This gave birth to the cop movie as a kind of precursor to the superhero genre of Bollywood. A no-nonsense police officer hero who rooted out corruption and bad guys was the ideal that audiences wanted to believe about their own society. Playing a hero-cop is what defined the career of veteran superstar Amitabh Bachchan in many different movies, including Zanjeer. Bachchan played his own vigilante superhero in the superhit Shahenshah, a proto-superhero movie where he played a sleazy corrupt cop by day but became a vicious vigilante at night.

The honest cop of Bollywood movies, in many ways, pre-dated the mask and cape superhero concept in India. An idealist police officer who could take on the world and defeat countless bad guys regardless of the cost, was possibly the first-ever Indian superhero concept. It explains why the cop-hero is one of Bollywood’s most go-to genres of movies in any decade. Films such as Singham, Dabbanng, Mardaani and more have always proven box office successes. Playing a hero cop is almost like a rite of passage for any successful Bollywood star.

Krrish Is One Of The Most Popular Indian Superhero Movies

Krrish. Image via Yash Raj Films.

In 2003, writer director Rakesh Roshan cast his superstar son, Hrithik Roshan in Koi Mil Gaya as an autistic man living in a small mountain town of India. The arrival of a cutesy alien creature saw the man gain powers, both physical and mental. It was a very unofficial adaptation of Steven Spielberg’s E.T. and Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. Koi Mil Gaya (I’ve Found Someone) put a very Bollywood spin on those movies, and it was a huge success. The kid-friendly story, with a sci-fi spin about a man-child who overcomes his emotional challenges with the help of an alien was a sweet story that resonated with everyone. The movie’s commercial success spawned a very different sequel. In the sequel, the son of the main character from Koi Mil Gaya was born with superhuman powers, passed down from the powers from his father.

The sequel, named Krrish after the protagonist (for some reason), played out as a more traditional superhero story. Hrithik Roshan returned to play the son of the character he played in Koi Mil Gaya. Fearing his powers, his grandmother hid him away in an even remote village in India. An accident reveals his powers to the world, kickstarting his superhero journey.  Everything else that follows is basically like the usual superhero tropes but in a modern-day Bollywood movie. With the third act lifted directly from the Ben Affleck movie, Paycheck. Despite that, the movie was successful enough to get its own sequel entitled Krrish 3 (again, I don’t know why.) And yes, that’s absolutely Priyanka Chopra-Jonas in both Krrish movies, pre-Jonas.

A Flying Jatt Embodied Tied Superhero Elements Into A Culturally Indian Story

Jatt Image via Balaji Motion Pictures

A more popular Indian superhero movie came in the form of A Flying Jatt. The Jatt people are part of a different Indian culture with their own traditions and practises. The story of A Flying Jatt follows the life of a meek and mild-mannered young man played by Tiger Shroff. His real, legal name, by the way. Shroff’s character doesn’t follow his religion and culture due to his issues with his father. He is kind of a coward in the face of adversity and remains so even after an accident grants him Superman-like powers. Oh, and the villain of the movie has a very Toxic Avenger-like origin, played by Nathan Jones from Mad Max: Fury Road

A Flying Jatt is one of the best deceptions of a superhero’s journey that any popular Indian movie has ever done before. There are all the fun Marvel-like sequences of training montages, superhero rescue shots and so much more. But the heart of the movie comes when the hero accepts his role, by embracing his own identity which is wrapped up in the religion he abandoned years ago after his father’s death. It’s a plot point that’s unique to the Jatt culture of India, making this truly feel like one of the best Bollywood superhero movies.

Bhavesh Joshi Superhero Goes Down a Dark Knight Route

Best Bollywood superhero movie Bhavesh. Image via Phantom Films.

On the other side of things, Bhavesh Joshi Superhero looks at the vigilante side of Indian superhero movies. A regular guy played by Harshvardhan Kapoor is all set to follow the route of a normal Indian youth graduating college and getting a job in America. His friends, however, are activists trying to speak against the injustices of their country and improve it. When one of those friends is killed, it evokes the hero within Kapoor’s character. He takes the fight to the streets, masquerading as a superhero under the name of his friend, and tries to root out the evil responsible. 

Bhavesh Joshi is more in line with the street-level superheroes like Batman and or the CW-verse iteration of Arrow. Fueled by anger and darkness, this is a Bollywood superhero movie that is more realistic and gritty than what the industry produced so far. And while appreciated by critics, unfortunately, the realism didn’t resonate with audiences who have more bright and fun expectations of superhero movies. The movie failed to perform at the box office. 

Mr. India Is The First Introduction Of Superheroes In Bollywood

Best Bollywood superhero movie Mr. India Image via Narsimha Enterprises.

Non-Indian audiences will recognize the name of Shekhar Kapur as the director of movies like the Cate Blanchett starring Elizabeth movies or Heath Ledger’s The Four Feathers. However, before his time in Hollywood Kapur arrived on the scene in Bollywood with Mr. India. The movie is almost the first modern day entry into Bollywood’s superhero genre. Widely regarded as the first true superhero movie of Bollywood, Mr. India doesn’t follow the usual superhero movie format. After the death of his father, Kapoor’s character grows up to be a man who takes care of other orphans. But when he discovers his father’s work, which can turn a man invisible, he finds true purpose in his life. Spurred on by a loss, he takes on the avatar of Mr. India to fight against bad guys and take on the evil Mogambo. 

Mr. India has all the trappings of a true superhero movie. A cartoonish but intimidating villain, a hero with his own child sidekicks and a fun and family-friendly story. While a little long, the movie has something for everyone and really captures the joy of having powers and doing good with them. And non-Bollywood audiences will recognize the hero as a younger Anil Kapoor seen in Hollywood movies like Slumdog Millionaire and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

So, these have been my picks for some of the best movies in the superhero genre of Bollywood. Be sure to let me know your favorite in the comments below. Especially if I left off a title that you feel warrants inclusion on this list.

Featured image via Yash Raj Films.  

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Shah Shahid is an entertainment writer, movie critic (so he thinks), host of the Split Screen Podcast (on Apple Podcasts & everywhere else) and filmy father on a mission to educate his girls on decades of film history. Armed with uncontrollable sarcasm and cautious optimism, Shah loves discussing film, television and comic book content until his wife’s eyes glaze over. So save her by engaging him on his own blog at BlankPageBeatdown.com or on Twitter @theshahshahid.

          

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