TELEVISION Fifteen years after our homegrown hero Shaktimaan made his debut, he makes his return in an animated avatar
Pandit Gangadhar Vidyadhar Mayadhar Omkarnath Shastri is now Vihaan Arya. He's also changed his profession and is no longer the dowdy, bunny-toothed news photographer, but an IT guy. However, what he still continues to do is fight evil. I am talking about Shaktimaan, the man who zoomed into our television screens at a time when Batman, Superman, Spiderman and other men in tights were monopolising the superhero scene. In a maroon and gold outfit, he whirled and flew at top speed, transformed his body into various shapes, controlled the elements of Nature and became one of India's first homegrown superheroes in 1997. Ever since, ‘Shaktimaan' has been airing on numerous channels.
Fifteen years years later the hero returns in a new animated avatar on Nickelodeon and Sonic. Mukesh Khanna, who played the role of the super hero ever since its inception says, “The series is in animated form now, and this will keep the superhero alive for generations to come.”
To keep up with the changing times the show will also introduce new equipment and gadgets. “It's been made contemporary to appeal to audiences all over the world but it still retains its Indian influence. We won't have guns and such things because we don't advocate violence… Shaktimaan doesn't kill anybody. We feel a sense of responsibility towards our viewers,” adds Mukesh.
He sincerely believes that the yogic hero whose role he portrays; helps instil good habits in children. “They can learn honesty, self confidence, discipline and the culture of our country. These are points we touch upon through every episode.”
Talking about his initial days as Shaktimaan, Mukesh says that he never thought that the show would achieve this kind of popularity. “Mothers used to come and tell me their children don't drink milk so I would tell them to drink milk and develop healthy habits. I remember after that a parent wrote to me saying that her child was drinking milk thrice a day.” He laughs recalling another incident, “Once a parent wrote to me saying ‘Baap se badha Shaktimaan'. That's because his son used to bunk school on Saturdays just to watch this programme and in spite of the father repeatedly telling him, he wouldn't listen until Shaktimaan announced during the show that children shouldn't bunk school, instead they could just watch a repeat on Tuesday evenings.”
Apart from doing the voice-over for the Hindi animated version, Mukesh is also busy gearing up for the 3D ‘Shaktimaan' telefilm. He's been gymming and practising yoga regularly to get into shape. “The toughest thing though is to shoot in that suede costume, especially now when temperatures are soaring,” he laughs. But then he is Shaktiman after all.
‘Shaktimaan' airs on Sonic and Nickelodeon, Monday to Friday at 4 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. respectively.