Shaktimaan, India’s first superhero completes its 23 years. The memories of our growing days as Indian millennials remain incomplete without speaking of the first Indian superhero. This legendary fictional hero with his supernatural power is intimately involved with the nostalgia of our Indian childhood. Then, without cartoons on YouTube or easy access to the Tablet PCs or phones full of motion games, it was the only respite of entertainment. Shaktimaan started on DD National Channel on Saturday, September 13, 1997, in the slot from 12:30 to 13:30 PM. every week! There was a repeat telecast of the same episodes every Thursday night.
Mukesh Khanna – the Shaktimaan:
Mukesh Khanna, who was Bheeshma in the B.R.Chopra’s Mahabharat series, played the role of Shakthimaan.
The series started with yogis and rishis in the Himalayas passing on the universe’s energy into another yogi, creating the avatar ‘Shaktimaan’. The word ‘maan‘ refers to the ‘possessor of‘ and the word ‘shakti‘ means ‘power‘.
So after the universal energy gets transferred, Shaktimaan gets ready to go to earth. He wears a flashy new maroon suit with boots, golden belt, and anklets and a golden chakra on his chest. His superpowers include moving from one place to another by spinning himself, super strength, flight, shooting lasers from the eyes, blowing powerful air, withstand fire, hear distant conversations, etc. His mission is to save everyone from Tamraj Kilvish, the dark lord whose aim is to spread darkness or Andhera on the Earth.
After coming to Earth, Shaktimaan realizes that he can’t roam around in his flashy maroon suit. So, he disguises himself as Pandit Gangadhar Vidyadhar Mayadhar Omkarnath Sashtri and he joins a newspaper office as a photographer. And what was the disguise? A grey coat, a pair of glasses, and all the hair combed in such a way that it fell on the forehead covering the top rim of his eyeglasses.
Nostalgia of Shaktimaan:
We are all adults now and being in close to our early thirties when the old episodes stream on Amazon Prime or YouTube, it is not only the nostalgia of childhood but much beyond that. It is about boasting the supernatural power of a superhuman, the bizarre action stunts of his enemies make us not only laugh but make out thoughts heavy.
The most crucial part of the show was not only entertainment but also the good things Shaktimaan taught. Other Superheroes don’t care about the impact of their actions on younglings and live like an isolated person with their aura and doing whatever they want! Whereas Shaktimaan was the one who gave the best advice in the multiverse. “Chhoti chhoti magar moti baatein!” The session of the series made every child learn them a lesson.
Nowadays, it’s difficult to find a quality program for kids, which comes with a package of entertainment and life lessons at the same time. Pratyush Chowdhury, a youth in his approaching 30s still recalls of the impact Shaktimaan had in his childhood, “Sorry Shaktimaan. Not being able to attend relative’s invitations or not being able to lend money to a friend to run the month … the most polite confession of all, sorry Shaktimaan.”
There’re so many aspects to talk about Shaktimaan becoming the most popular and unique serial of our times. This serial was endorsed by a common household brand like PARLE G. Initially, telecast time was a non-prime one, but later due to the overwhelming acceptance among the kids, it was rescheduled for Sunday 12 p.m. Anirban Ghosh, a student of B. Sc final year recalls the Shaktimaan mania, “It was the time of technology boom. Globalization made the kids and youth attracted to Hollywood action movies and DC/Marvel comics. Still, Shaktimaan was able to make it look cool to follow the Desi trend, Yoga and all. Most of the kids who grew up in the ’90s had a red T-shirt with the golden chakra on the chest.”
The merchandising of the popular imaginary characters were limited to the cartoons, those days. Perhaps, Shaktimaan was among the pioneers which successfully marketed various kids stationaries followed by the comics. As a television show, it also pioneered the trend of publishing comics after gaining mass success on television. This was totally opposite to the concept where films were adapted from comics.
Mukesh Khanna’s take on the show:
People frequently ask the producer, Mukhesh Khanna on his decision to stop this highly successful show in March 2005. On this, he said in an interview, “Despite being non-prime time, the show was going well. I had to pay Doordarshan 3.80 lakh for the show. That time, shows were sponsored and ads earned us. About 100-150 episodes went on like this,” he said on his YouTube channel. Further adding to it, “I was later told by Doordarshan that Shaktiman is so popular that it should be aired on Sundays. Children also have holidays on that day. I had to pay 7.80 lakh because it was aired on Sunday. Even so, I ran the show”.
The producer further revealed, “The next year there were 104 episodes of the show and I was asked to pay 10.80 lakh. The DG of Doordarshan said that with 104 episodes, the fee is one-and-a-half times. I told him that it was the result of success. From 3 lakh to 10 lakh, I was paying a huge amount. That’s when I found out that he was thinking of increasing it to 16 lakh. I protested, but they didn’t listen. My finances suffered because of the huge fees I paid. I never wanted to stop Shaktimaan but I had to do so in compulsion.”
Shaktimaan in near future:
Mukesh Khanna, even at his 62, still doesn’t rely on the established Bollywood heroes to portray Shaktimaan in the near future. ” Well, they don’t have the image like me. I played Bheesma pitamaha in Mahabharat and after that, I never played any dark character. Perhaps, I am the only one who is the ultimate fit for a strong, pious and idealistic personality like Shaktimaan. “
So it’s very obvious that, if in the near future, the second season comes, he will be playing the Shaktiman. Whatever the generation of ’90s shall always cherish the memories of Shaktimaan. Happy Superhero!