Bollywood star hopes to inspire homegrown superheroes

MUMBAI, Shail Kumar Singh- Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan is gearing up for the release of his new special effects-packed film, hoping it will trigger a spate of Hollywood-style superhero movies in India.
"Ra.One", which hits screens at the Hindu festival of light Diwali on October 26, has cost more than one billion rupees ($20 million) to make and is one of the most ambitious -- and expensive -- films in Indian cinema history.
Khan says that the film -- in which he stars as G.One, who saves humanity from evil villain, Ra.One -- has more special effects than James Cameron's 2009 blockbuster "Avatar" and will mark a shift in the domestic movie industry.

"This film is one of a kind," Khan told reporters in India's entertainment capital Mumbai this week. "I feel (it) will take the Indian film industry one step forward from what we have been doing.
"After this film, I feel there will be other Indian superheroes in our films and many more actors to follow."
The 45-year-old is one of the triumvirate of Khans who has ruled Bollywood since the 1990s, carving a niche as a bankable romantic lead through movies like "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" (The Braveheart Gets The Bride).
But he has been eclipsed recently by his namesakes Aamir and Salman, who have both made box office records with works such as "3 Idiots", "Dabangg" (Fearless) and "Bodyguard".
Shah Rukh Khan's last high-profile film was "My Name Is Khan" in 2009, which was hailed by its studio at the time as Bollywood's first, truly international picture, yet it was more successful abroad than at home.
The "Om Shanti Om" star may say he is not worried about whether his latest venture is a success, but his publicity drive -- from video game launches to marketing tie-ups and a dedicated YouTube channel -- suggests otherwise.
For the time being, he has preferred to talk about how India should have its own superheroes -- and that the country is now well-placed to do so.
"Why should it be that it is only America that has superhero films? We (India) are the largest film-producing country in the world and I feel we need our own," he said.
"We need to make Harry Potters, Supermen and Spidermen here, just like we did earlier in films like 'Krrish' or 'Drona'."
The last big Indian superhero film was "Endhiran" (Robot), starring Tamil-language superstar Rajinikanth. It was dubbed into Hindi and broke box office records.
"Krrish" (2006), starring Hrithik Roshan, was the last successful Hindi-language superhero flick, while "Drona" (Saviour) -- a Diwali offering with Abhishek Bachchan in 2008 -- failed to excite cinema-goers.
Both were big-budget productions and made use of domestic firms specialising in computer-generated imagery (CGI), whose post-production expertise has seen them increasingly courted by Hollywood.
Khan's own production and distribution company, Red Chillies Entertainment, has a special effects division.
Previous Western-style superhero films include a version of Hollywood's "Superman" and "Mr India", about a villain who steals a scientist's formula for invisibility.
But Indian directors, television producers and animators have preferred to look to Hindu mythology for their superheroes, particularly the monkey god Hanuman or the battle between kings Ravana and Rama.
For Khan, "Ra.One", which is also being released in 3D, shows how India can now compete with the best in the world.
"'Ra.One' is a salute to India's technical expertise," he told the Times of India newspaper in a September 26 interview. "People across the globe contributed to its making -- but India was the nerve centre."

Sunday, October 2nd 2011
Shail Kumar Singh

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