And well, the single name (single in superhero form, that is, the village-boy-alter-ego name is a rant, if anything) that stands out, with a sun(?) blazing on his chest and his vermillion uniform of crime fighting, is the very own avatar of Bhishma Pitamaha, the (al?)mighty Shaktimaan (Yes its “maan” and not “man“. Indian television is all for maan-maryada). The thunder cracking intro music rings in your ears long after it has faded away.
His full alter ego name stands at Pandit Gangadhar Vidyadhar Mayadhar Omkaar Naath Shastri. It’s worthwhile to note that the initials of his name, with G, V, O, N—”gvon“, stand at a highly non–super-heroic PMS.
Coming to what makes him a superhero, the super-powers, Shaktimaan is pretty much the unholy union between Captain Planet, Superman and a Centrifuge. As the story goes, he performs “the ritual of death” to become more “alive”—now whatever that is supposed to mean. He is, unlike the other superheroes, put through a lot of ordeal for his share of powers. So he can spontaneously spin counterclockwise, use the “Screw rule” to screw logic, and lift up vertically. He has a commendable degree of freedom whilst spinning, and his flight is geometrically precise, always following the ‘shortest distance between two points’ path (possibly honed for swift crime fighting). But hey, give him some credit for not being too showy, spinning that fast would need an average superhero to include a sick bag in the costume. And yes, he is the unexplained red blur you might have seen in the skies sometime. He has control over the elements of nature—fire, earth, air, water (the usual) and “space” (the highly unusual). How do they consider vacuum as an element in the first place? Armed with these tricks of the trade, emerges the red marauder of evil, a perfect family entertainer of his times.
Wikipedia, which is now pretty much a brain expansion, names the powers of the red, raging, rotating and roof hopping superhero as:
1. Flight at a speed faster than light (though you can pretty much see him flying)
2. Invisibility (When he becomes the unrecognizable Gangadhar)
3. Powerful vision (What is that now anyway? 6/6? )
4. Ability to manipulate the 5 elements known to man (The 5 elements he DOES manipulate are logic, gold foil for the costume cutouts, a non suspecting lady reporter, DD National authorities to air the show on Sunday mornings and Moment of Inertia)
5. Immortality (much to our dismay, yes).
Let us also review the anti-protagonist. Quoting Wiki, “Tamraj Kilvish is Shaktimaan’s arch-enemy. Kilvish is covered with his clothes so that he is not naked, his face is dark and his fingernails are long. Tamraj means King of Darkness. He has lived 6000 years, and is the source of evil in the world. He intends to rule the world by spreading darkness, hatred, sins, and evil.” The Dark Lord wears clothes so he’s not naked. Don’t you get it? (Causality 101, if you must). And there has been evil only for the last 6000 years. The world was a crayon factory before that. The wish killing Kilvish, dark overlord smites the world against a confessedly immortal adversary. Reminds you of an unstoppable force (MR multiplied by omega squared?) meeting an immovable object.
Now what fun would it be, were he to wreck havoc on the evil Dark Lord’s even darker schemes? So they give the arch enemy (TK) possession of this very potent “Crystal” (Reminiscent of Kryptonite, anyone?). This makes Shaktimaan go weak in the knees because it is filled with the evil of the world (Isn’t the whole issue crystal clear? Just get rid of the damn ‘crystal’!) and is the source of the black powers and evil must be feared and he must also not venture out in the dark. Wait, that looks more like what mothers use to keep their children from doing things they should rather not. And of course, I am talking about the logic here, not the crystal.
Let’s also review what “Tamraj Kilvish” has in store for the man of the moment, in the form of his intricately conceptualized minions.
1. Electric man: Who can shoot lightning bolts from his body (Quite like Pikachu, only minus the cute “Pika Pi” shouts)
2. Stone man: Who can shoot stones from his body. (Did they mean “throw stones using his body”. Definitely not the most sinister supervillain. Stoned man would be a nice adversary now, with his radical honesty and staggering moves.)
3. Plastica: Who can stretch any part of his body (Yes, that does sound wrong at various levels. Although Plastica was replaced by Paperica after the government banned plastic, though Paperica didn’t pose much of a threat as Shaktimaan called “Scissors”.)
4. Dr. Jackal: Who is a mad scientist, having allegedly helped Kilvish in his various schemes by cloning Shaktimaan and also by turning aliens against him. (Cloning Shaktimaan was a huge success. Miniature models available on pre-order. And I wonder how he could turn aliens against Shaktimaan. “HE! I saw him with your alien sister the other day! Go give him a taste of the business end of that spiky tentacle thing coming out of where it really shouldn’t be coming out of!”) It’s only fair that Mr Hyde now doesn’t have anything against our crimson cyclone.
5. Crab Man: Who is, well, a crab man. (Extremely blue shifted though because his colour range is a handsome distance from the usual crab like hues of red and orange. Goes best with Oyster sauce.)
There have been numerous duels and fights between Shaktimaan and the nether world demons. He, for someone who is indestructible, wears gloves too with the costume. Extreme agoraphobia?
And what is a superhero story without a lady. So taking a leaf off Superman and another off Spiderman, Shaktimaan works for a TV news channel with ‘Gita Biswas’ and is a photographer. She does have this nagging feeling that something is up, for Gangadhar never gets her photographs of Shaktimaan (she could have just googled it. The internet is flooded with his better than Captain Morgan pose photographs) and she has never seen them together (platonically, that is). But Shaktimaan “erases” these thoughts from her mind, which do border on a ethical gray area of sorts. He cannot although “be” with her as he is a Bal Brahmachaari. This is not to recall again that he is immortal and will have to see countless girlfriends live their lives away. That would be quite an emotional ordeal even for the spinning spectacle.
So we can sum it up by accepting: Shaktimaan—The most eligible Spin-ster in town, since 1997.
Inconsistencies apart, Shaktimaan did drill his way into millions of hearts and was waited for in breathless anticipation. Not exceptional graphics, or storylines, or characters, but a stone cold resolve of an almost endless series, it was what made the Sundays for most Doordarshan watchers of that time. Would have done him good to be made in another age, with better script and visualization.
Well, what can I say?
Sorry (for you) Shaktimaan.