Step aside Spidey; there is a new Indian superhero in town. Chakra the Invincible, an upcoming live-action Bollywood film about a techie who turns into a superhero to rescue Mumbai from the throes of evil, is now in the works. What sets it apart from other Indian superhero films is that this one has been created by Stan Lee, the legendary comic book writer who has given us many crusaders such as Spider-Man, Thor and Iron Man. Last year, Chakra the Invincible was launched as an animated franchise by Lee and Graphic India, a character entertainment company that creates Indian superheroes and weaves mythical stories across storytelling platforms. Sharad Devarajan, co-founder and CEO, created Chakra with his mentor, Lee, as a crossover character that could fuse science and spirituality. One of the first instalments in the Chakra franchise was an animation film that aired on Cartoon Network in 2013. This marked the celluloid debut of Raju Rai, a teenager who morphs into Chakra after slipping into a suit that activates the seven chakras of his body.
Now Lee, Devarajan and Gill Champion of POW! Entertainment are upping the ante with a Bollywood film, set around a grown-up Rai, who will fight his archenemy, Boss Yama. “Film is a natural extension of where we see the character going and an exciting way to take the story of Chakra to a much wider and more immersive storytelling platform,” says Devarajan. The 39-year old entrepreneur had earlier teamed up with Marvel in 2004 to create Pavitr Prabhakar, a desi version of Peter Parker. While details of the cast have not been finalised, the producers have been in talks with leading directors and several actors from the Indian film industry. “No one has been cast yet, but the exciting thing about many Marvel movies based on Stan’s characters is that they are not necessarily star-driven, but character- and story-driven. For Chakra, our main priority is to find the right actor who can bring the heart and relatability that have made all of Stan’s characters so beloved by audiences around the world,” says Devarajan. Filming is set to begin next year. “We are just getting started on putting the project together so it’s very early days and too soon to set a date. However, in Stan’s world, things tend to move pretty quickly and we are really excited about the momentum the project is gaining,” he adds
Ninety-one-year-old Lee will be closely involved in the making of the film, from shaping the storyline to fleshing out the characters. Lee, whom Devarajan calls “the black belt master of superhero storytelling”, has infused Chakra with the right blend of contemporaneity, geekery, science and metaphysics. To give the character and the story an Indian touch, top Bollywood writers will be roped in to work with Lee. Ultimately, the story will be written not just to appeal to Indian audiences, but even international moviegoers with multicultural tastes.
“In today’s world of content creation, I think it’s becoming harder to define ourselves in the same regional boundaries as we used to,” says Devarajan. “We don’t think of Spider-Man, Batman or Harry Potter as western properties as much as we see them as global properties. Hopefully, films such as Chakra will begin a natural migration of audiences, regardless of where we initially market and introduce them. On the character of Chakra specifically, the concept will resonate with people around the world as different societies try to reconcile the fast pace of our scientific breakthroughs with ancient wisdom and traditions.”
Cinematographically, Devarajan promises a sleek, sumptuous visual treat in which Mumbai will be shown with all its dynamism and energy. “What makes Chakra so special to me is that not only will the film try and speak to contemporary issues facing modern India, but also the larger story of this generation — the story of globalisation. The idea of a western icon such as Stan, working with an Indian team to share ideas and evolve the superhero genre is emblematic of that global story. Not since Alexander the Great opened up the spice trade have we seen so much globalisation come so fast. Never before has technology empowered us to share ideas across the planet at blazing internet speed, which is a source of great creativity, but also of great confusion and conflict. Will this exchange lead to a world devoid of cultural distinction? Or, will it instead lead to a spontaneous evolution of humanity, with the synthesis of ideas from around the world?”
The answer to that question seems pretty straightforward in the case of Graphic India. With plum projects such as 18 Days, an animated web series with graphic novelist Grant Morrison under its belt, graphic stories such as Leaves and The Sadhu being turned into Hollywood films, and more than 500 million Indian consumers under the age of 25 as a potential audience base, the business of spinning modern myths for a global audience has only just begun.