New York: American comic book industry icon Stan Lee announced on Monday that he is adapting his geeky, yet handsome Indian superhero for a live-action film to be directed by Bollywood writer-director Vikramaditya Motwane.
Lee is the granddaddy of all superheroes: he has created a roster of legendary action heroes, such as Spider-Man, the Hulk, Thor, the X-Men, the Fantastic Four and Iron Man, which have reaped billions at the box-office. Lee who tapped popular culture to create the metro-sexual samurai gave the world a rocking Indian tech boy-genius as a superhero in 2011 in the India-inspired ‘Chakra the Invincible’ comic book. Like Lee’s other action heroes, this one also wore a form-fitting costume.
The new character that Lee created applied the super successful Spiderman formula — teenager with special powers — and threw in a bit of Iron Man, with the inventive genius of a super suit. What we have is Chakra, the superhuman alter ego of Raju Rai, a 14-year-old tech whiz from Mumbai. The film will update Lee’s original story — which focused on Rai as a young teen, taking up the mantle of superhero after his mentor Dr. Singh invents a suit that weaponises the body’s various chakras — to Raju as a twenty-something battling evil in Mumbai.
Graphic India and Stan Lee’s POW Entertainment have struck a partnership with Phantom Films to begin pre-production on Chakra the Invincible. The film will be directed by Motwane, who is one of the co-founders of Phantom along with director Anurag Kashyap.
“I’m a fan of Bollywood films and am really excited about launching ‘Chakra the Invincible’ as my first Bollywood superhero movie,” said 93-year-old Lee, who shows no signs of slowing down.
“Vikramaditya is an amazingly talented filmmaker who I have no doubt can make the Chakra film a massive hit in India and around the world. I only hope he remembers to include my cameo,” added Lee.
Motwane, who is currently working on the Chakra screenplay with Lee and Graphic India co-founder and CEO Sharad Devarajan, is no stranger to the parallel universe of comics. A diehard comic book fan, Motwane says it’s both an honour and “an absolute delight” to be making a film based on a Lee character, adding, “And no, we won’t forget Stan’s cameo.”
Motwane’s star has been steadily on the rise since his tender and complex coming-of-age drama Udaan was selected for the Festival de Cannes in 2010.
Graphic India, which has a large design studio in Bangalore, was started by media entrepreneurs Devarajan, Gotham Chopra and Suresh Seetharaman in 2013, with an investment of $2.8 million from private equity firm CA Media for a 33% stake, and with a vision of to wow global audience with Indian characters.
Devarajan says he turned to Lee to create a quintessential Indian superhero for the Graphic India franchise as he was aware of his deep interest in Eastern philosophy, recalling how Silver Surfer, a fictional character from the Fantastic Four universe, was influenced by Oriental sensibilities.
“Stan has always been fascinated by Indian culture and its richness in tradition,” said Devarajan. “What better way to conceive of a new generation of Indian superheroes than in collaboration with the Godfather of the genre?”
Highlighting that “Stan Lee’s characters have generated $15 billion at the global box office” Devarajan observed that “more people likely know the face of Spider-Man than they do the Mona Lisa.”
Graphic India is creating a new wave of characters that appeal to audiences from Boston to Bangalore. It is also looking to Asia for content to be shaped into comics, movies, toys and video games. It first cracked open the $2.5-billion-market for comics in the US with Indian filmmaker Shekhar Kapur’s India-inspired comic-book ‘Devi’. American readers took a shine to Goth-like Devi with a penchant for black leather and the comic-book quickly went into a second print run.
“We are mining the creative potential of India and bringing the great stories and characters of Indian mythology to the world. We have gifted artists and writers in India and our success can be attributed to the fact that these guys believe India can be a source of innovative content and not just a back-office for western companies,” said Chopra.
“India is ground zero for what we are building,” he added.
Graphic India projects licensed for Hollywood theatrical deals include Ramayan 3392AD, in development with Mandalay Pictures; The Sadhu, with actor Nicholas Cage cast as the lead and The Leaves.
A digital mobile series based on ‘Chakra the Invincible’ was also launched on Rovio Entertainment’s ToonsTV platform, available through the Angry Birds game. It soon became a global sensation, garnering over 40 million hits.