By Damian D'souza Sep. 04, 2018
What would happen if Bollywood remade Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther? Prince T’halasa would rule over Bondwana, a kingdom inaccessible to anyone with an Aadhaar card.
Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther, which released earlier this year, opened to positive reviews thanks to affirmative action on Hollywood’s part after decades of whitewash. The visual masterpiece also every Marvel fanboy’s wet dream touched upon real-world issues. A far cry from some of our own superhero films which leave much to be desired.
While Bollywood has begged, borrowed, and stolen, or as we put it, been “inspired by”, the plots of innumerable Hollywood films, why’d we only stick to movies like The Italian Job (Players), Hitch (Partner) and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Phir Hera Pheri)? Would it hurt if we were “inspired by” movies like Black Panther to positively depict the “backward classes” as we’ve erroneously labelled them?
In a Bollywood dominated by the first-, second- and even third-born male children of the fading yesteryear stars, this would indeed be a breath of fresh, albeit, recycled air. So without further ado, let’s look at what Bollywood’s version of Black Panther should look like.
For starters, calling a Bollywood film Black Panther would ensure it did the bare minimum at the box office, because this is India, and we all want to be fair and lovely. Meanwhile, we’ve hunted our panther population down to a few big cats who make media appearances when they accidentally stray into urban environments. So the remake should do what it says on the label – something very literal like Tendua: The Rakshak or Main Hoon Tendua should work fine.
T’halasa’s heart is in the right place, but what prince of a technologically advanced culture would want to live the life of a hermit?
Just like the original, our film opens with a night sequence, set in the jungles of Chhattisgarh. A bunch of innocent cattle herders in a truck are being chased by goons in an open top jeep, when suddenly out of the dark jungle leaps a figure dressed in designer black velvet overalls. This dark figure proceeds to dispatch the pursuers using an ancient form of yoga set to thumping tribal beats, and a couple of tiger orgasms in the foley.
Once attackers have been dealt with, the innocent herders thank our hero, who removes his mask to reveal that he is none other than Tiger Shroff in dark-skinned prosthetics *wink wink*. Tiger was cast as the titular character because of his martial arts know-how and because his first name just kinda fits. Anyway, Tiger tells the cattle herders that they’re safe because they have Tendua watching their back.
The next morning we’re introduced to Tendua, aka Prince T’halasa of the Bond tribe, doing the rounds of his kingdom, Bondwana. The sovereign state of Bondwana is inaccessible to anyone with an Aadhaar card. It is home to the Bonds, who believe the panther is their spirit animal.
According to Bond tradition, the bravest warrior in the kingdom is crowned Tendua, the Protector, a ceremony that involves a large dose of magic mushrooms and velvet overalls.
The Bonds are culturally and resourcefully superior to other parts of the empire, but are still somehow marginalised by the government which is hell bent on mining their land and pillaging their sacred forests. Still they live in peace and harmony with neighbouring tribes. This is established through plenty shots of village life, kids playing and village women singing a song while bathing under a waterfall – which Prince T’halasa cannot unfortunately watch because the tribe is so technologically advanced they have “perv blockers” genetically inserted in every citizen.
Life in Bondwana is swell until one day Prince T’halasa is summoned to the palace and told by his mother that is father King T’hane has been assassinated on a visit to Delhi where he was meeting with the government to negotiate the cessation of all mining in the forests around Bondwana. T’halasa is now king of Bondwana and his first move is declaring war on those that killed his father. This means bringing together all the neighbouring tribes, all of whom look like the cast and extras of Baahubali.
The film progresses fairly quickly as T’halasa leads his people to one victory after another against the state-backed evil corporations. The greedy miners respond by hiring henchmen – namely the guerilla group, Marx Bhai and The Rural Naxals, who inhabit the jungles, performing covers of classic rock in between looting and pillaging in the name of Communism.
The traditionally peace-loving Bonds are now suddenly thrown into turmoil because not only are evil corporations hell-bent on stealing their land and destroying their way of life, but also because they haven’t been at war in centuries, thanks to their low-key, non-violent existence.
T’halasa’s heart is in the right place, but what prince of a technologically advanced culture would want to live the life of a hermit? Not T’halasa for sure. A faction of rebellious Bonds therefore decides to adopt a more nefarious means of reprisal. They commandeer a train and head to Delhi, where they call for a nationwide bandh and protests, knowing this will rally the powerful L’ibrandu tribe, a powerful ally in the fight against the powers that be. Unfortunately this backfires as the L’ibrandu tribe has used up its casual leave and cannot ditch work to join the fight.
Meanwhile, Marx Bhai and The Rural Naxals manage to sneak into Bondwana after burning their Aadhaar cards and come face to face with T’halasa as Tendua in his black suit. Tendua is outnumbered but rallies the now scattering tribe and repels the Anadi’s, the Mbani and the government from Bondwana in a sequence that is strikingly similar to the end of Avatar because the makers got tired of being “inspired by” just one film. It is a win for the tribals and a huge slap in the face of the government. All this wrapped in a neat little package lasting just over an hour and a half, without any songs or hackneyed slapstick comedy.
Too bad that this film if it were ever made, would warrant the creation of a new category of rating called “N” which stands for “Nope, Nahi, Never”. As long as the CBFC and certain large corporations exist, such a movie will never see the light of day in India. But thanks to Netflix and other streaming services, maybe there’s an intrepid filmmaker out there who pushes the envelope and decides to make Tendua: The Rakshak a reality.
Until then we’d best make do with superheroes like Krrish, A Flying Jatt and Bajirao Singham, who fix the problems of a privileged few while conveniently flying over the rest in a few montage shots, because that’s the way the big old Bollywood cookie crumbles.
Damian loves playing videogames. If all the bounties he collected slaying zombies were tangible, he wouldn't need to write such bios. Seriously though, Damian used to be a cook who wrote, now he's just a writer who cooks.