In the course of watching Prasanth Varma’s super successful Hanu-Man, my eleven-year-old made a pertinent comment. In the dystopian hamlet of Anjanadri, the movie shows how the villagers are tormented by Gajapathi, the poligar, as he loots the simpletons off money, land and, when they raise their voice, he finishes them off through muscular trickery in duels. However, during the penultimate scene, when Hanumanthu challenges Michael, it is Gajapathi and his men who support his cause for the ultimate good of the village. This was the change of heart that my son observed in the character who was shown in extreme bad light initially. If you read up on the history of the poligars, they were one of the first to have lead a rebellion against the British in the southern part of India. So, the fact of the matter is that the director very adroitly positions the role of the poligars in a continuity thread to show how their physical might is, after all, channelled by Hanumanthu to resist malevolent forces attacking their motherland.
Essentially, good people start off as errant souls in the Telugu blockbuster. While the poligars are a bit of an extreme in the story, you cannot dismiss how Hanumanthu has been depicted. He is a shirker who finds it easier to pass on the baton of responsibility towards his elder sister while committing petty thefts to slip away from difficult situations. But the moment there is a clarion call to save his village from the grip of destruction unleashed by a potentially self-absorbed monster, the young lad rises to the occasion. Therein lies the beauty of Varma’s script. The balance between Dharma and Adharma that directs the shift in Hanumanthu’s personality. He recognises his potential and his purpose. His actions depict why he was the chosen one. The journey of this young lad becomes promising and powerful. The best part is of course the inspiration derived from the Sanatan scriptures that form the backdrop of the incidents throughout. As the climax nears, you feel the jigsaw solving itself as the mind clings on to what will unfurl in the second part of the franchise, where the director is gearing to present a more potent deconstruction of our revered Pawanputra Hanuman, the most powerful and original superhero ever!
Last year, X was ablaze with opinions and reviews on Om Raut’s Adipurush. A handful of people were willing to give the makers the benefit of the doubt for attempting to mount on the big screen a movie about Ramayana, the historical bedrock of the Hindu civilisation. They didn’t really care about the glitches and the anomalies. For them, watching Sri Ram come to life, Pawanputra Hanuman does superhuman tasks with the tip of his little finger, feeling divinity embedded in Mata Sita’s face superseded every complaint that one could have with the script and the execution of the larger-than-life Rs 600 crore project. But this is where one must stop and ask whether a film depicting our Bhagwans can be made without the requisite bhakti bhav. Varma’s story also has its weak moments, but his intent is crystal clear. To make the audience firmly believe in the shakti, wisdom and overwhelming goodness of Hanumanji that is evoked through the antics of Hanumanthu, played brilliantly by Teja Sajja.
A good film requires vision, creative prowess and talent. And most importantly, a solid script. Hanu-Man was backed by all this and more… fabulous VFX, able performances, good music and exciting action sequences. But most importantly, it has a soul that wanted to reach out to a generation smitten with the synthetic charisma of the Avengers and Marvel superheroes. This is where Varma and his team invoked our Sanatani tales, peppered it with enough humour, romance and dramatic gymnastics to prove how when it comes to larger than life superheroes, Hanuman is the original one. Every Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America will pale in comparison to him and no Dr Strange can match up to his charm and charisma. In fact, if you follow the story of Hanu-Man closely the element of truth, justice and redemption run simultaneously because no ill doing goes unpunished as per the law of Karma.
That Hanu-Man has been a money-churner (highest-grossing film of 2024 with an earning of over Rs 300 crores, highest-grossing Telugu film of 2024 and eighth highest-grossing Telugu film worldwide) proves how ready the Indian audience is for well-made adventure flicks in India. And, if you give them tales from our religious texts by anointing them with contemporary flourishes, they have the capacity to elbow out Hollywood flicks too that are replete with fantasy faff only. But yes, the narrative has to be blemish-free, the effort honest, and the intent coated with bhakti and respect. With all that sorted, you would only have to let Hanuman, the world’s first, most powerful superhero, ensure your work reaches the right position no matter what and it is showered with love and adulation always!