Review: Supermen of Malegaon

By Nandita Dutta • Published on June 30, 2012

[T]he indigenous superman of Malegaon sports an ‘M’ monogram on his shirt and stumbles into a gutter while on a rescue operation. He unmistakably dons his underpants on top of his tight-fitting clothes, with its strings exposed to give him a funnier look. He romances the heroine in quintessential marigold fields in Malegaon Ka Superman, a parody of the popular Superman series.

In reality, the Superman of Malegaon was a scrawny young man who died of cancer last year. He worked in a power loom of Malegaon for a living and as a pastime acted in Mollywood (the local film industry of Malegaon) films which are parodies of Bollywood and Hollywood blockbusters.

Faiza Ahmed Khan’s evocative documentary Supermen of Malegaon chronicles the making of the film Malegaon Ka Superman and in the process acquaints one with the working of the indigenous film industry in a small town in Maharashtra. The documentary not just entertains by deftly capturing the quirky modus operandi of the local industry, but also poignantly documents the lives of the people associated with it: right from the passionate director to the multitasking villain to the disillusioned writer. It doesn’t let one forget that it is a film about the ‘Supermen’ of Malegaon: a handful of people who by their sheer ingenuity and determination can put any multi-million dollar movie industry to shame.

In the documentary, Mollywood unfolds as a microcosm of the indie film movement in India. It all begins with a maverick video parlor owner Shaikh Nasir’s love for movies, a man who took his lessons in filmmaking from the Hollywood movies he watched. But one is left to marvel at his understanding of the craft: he knows how to make his Superman fly. He advertises a local milk shop in his film to manage funds and has a proper script ready before shooting. He has been bitten by the movie bug irrevocably but advises his brother against it. There is no money to be made, he says.

Among other interesting characters are a local videographer who multitasks in various capacities like cinematographer, editor and sound designer; and a writer-lyricist who is ‘wasting’ away his life in the hope to get to Mumbai, waiting for that magical moment of fame that would vindicate his countless years of struggle. Ubiquitous characters in the world driven by craziness for movies, one can say. The best part is that the documentary lets one soak in the spirit of these characters without attracting attention towards itself. It also familiarizes one with the world they inhabit beyond the make-believe realm of fantasy: a poor, gloomy town which has lost its voice in the noise of power looms.

Supermen of Malegaon is one of those rare documentaries that are enjoyable and enlightening at the same time. More power to the ‘Supermen’ of Malegaon, the makers of this documentary and PVR Director’s Rare for a cinema-rich world!

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