Press Esc to close

'Desi' X-Men — a tale of superheroes

Last updated: 05 February, 2011
Tarun Cherian 17:42 IST

You take a British Airways Flight 142 from London to Delhi. And all hell breaks loose. You either end up dead, conscripted by an evil genius, or find yourself struggling with weird superpowers.

Turbulence
Samit Basu
Hachette India,
2010, pp 344,
Rs. 250


Some like Vir can fly, others like Jai are unkillable, some like Tia can multiply themselves, Aman can become the internet, Sundar invents impossible machines, Sher is obviously clawed… Neither wishing to die or be co-opted into an insane tyrant’s army, a band of superheroes begins to group together. The goodies and baddies clash. Across the world.

Samit Basu, his author’s note informs us, has co-written a book with Mike Carey of X-Men fame. And such comparison is inevitable. Turbulence, like X-Men, the serial heroes, or films like Next or Jumpers explore the dramatic possibilities of gaining a stunning superpower; the temptations it brings, the responsibility it imposes, the negativity it attracts, and the genuine freedoms and true blessings it grants.

What makes the book piquant to me is that, as a meditative guide, many of our students do develop siddhas or psychic powers. Notably, in Turbulence, the superpowers that each hero receives is what each already has, only magnified. This makes the book’s subtext exquisitely revealing. For example, Uzma, who is seductiction personified, had filmi aspirations… And this gives gravity to the surreal. For, in a sense, in a globally open India, many find themselves raised up to heroic status with untold power, wealth and influence.

Now, many believe that if they were granted superpowers, they would —A) Be invulnerable; B) Automatically make the world a better place. Turbulence echoes what Indian sages have proclaimed — siddhas are two-edged swords, for powers can be stolen and exercised without understanding, love and restraint superpowers are dangerous. For example, when Aman uses his internet skills to equalise wealth, it doesn’t bring world peace, but riots and economic turbulence.

Underwritten into superheroism is a discussion of the superclass’ etiquette of chivalry — how do ‘we’ behave with aam janata? Outwardly, Turbulence is moral. Disturbingly, in Turbulence, all those without superpowers are irrelevant. Vir protects them, Jai treats them as fodder. But to both, they are powerless, not even pawns. Contrast this attitude with the Heroes serial or Jumpers flick, where the normal are to be taken seriously. Hey, you may argue this only happens in Samit’s mind. True. But, look around at India, the medieval India of established castes, or the economically arrogant global India, and you’d find this attitude has many takers.

The next lead we need to follow is — Indianness. The subtext, of the flight coming in from London, suggests an import; we derive superpowers from western thought. All Turbulence’s superheroes, barring a Jap teen, are Indian — ‘Goodbye Captain America, Hello Commander India.’ Now, consider this: the action moves from an Indian superhero trying to ‘thulp’ a Pak nuke reactor to London where two Indian superhero gangs end up battling for the world. Step back and you see how beautifully this dovetails with the westernised Indian elite’s global aspirations.

Turbulence is an exciting read. Pacy, clever, well-scripted and never boring. It has no less than three climactic points, rising up with rollercoaster crescendo. The only awkward sentence is unfortunately the first, where the sentence construction stumbles over grammatical puritanism.

A mundane, but serious obstacle to the book’s success, lies in its presentation. It sports a fighter plane with the title Turbulence. It doesn’t place the book on the right mind-shelf. To the superhero genre aficionado, Turbulence is a trifle too close to X-Men. But it is different in two significant ways — A) Western superheroics appeal to the teenager marginalised by big brother. Turbulence’s Indian audience sees itself as belonging to that superclass; B) Western superheroes are freaks while Turbulence superheroes are ‘us’, only amplified. As these vital thematic differences penetrate deeper, a new pantheon, a new code of power, may be born.

Go to Top

Photo Gallery
Indian Air force paratroopers perform maneuvers at Bamhrauli Air station as the Indian Air Force ...

Indian Air force paratroopers perform maneuvers at Bamhrauli Air station as the Indian Air Force ...

Indian Men’s Hockey team celebrates their birth in the final of the Hero Asia Cup 2017 with a...

Indian Men’s Hockey team celebrates their birth in the final of the Hero Asia Cup 2017 with a...

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the maiden voyage of Ro-Ro Ferry Service between Ghogha and Dahej...

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the maiden voyage of Ro-Ro Ferry Service between Ghogha and Dahej...

India's Kuldeep Yadav celebrates the wicket of New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson during the...

India's Kuldeep Yadav celebrates the wicket of New Zealand batsman Kane Williamson during the...

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at a ...

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at a ...

Spain's Garbine Muguruza in action during her group stage match against Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko...

Spain's Garbine Muguruza in action during her group stage match against Latvia's Jelena Ostapenko...

Meng Meng, one of the two giant Chinese panda bears, is seen at the Zoo in Berlin, Germany July 5...

Meng Meng, one of the two giant Chinese panda bears, is seen at the Zoo in Berlin, Germany July 5...

Father Nicolas Maine blesses bikers' helmets during a

Father Nicolas Maine blesses bikers' helmets during a "Blessing of the Bikes" ceremony at Saint...

Arsenal's Sead Kolasinac in action with Everton's Nikola Vlasic during Premier League match at ...

Arsenal's Sead Kolasinac in action with Everton's Nikola Vlasic during Premier League match at ...

A volunteer uses a water hose to fight a wildfire near houses on the outskirts of Obidos...

A volunteer uses a water hose to fight a wildfire near houses on the outskirts of Obidos...

Like us on Facebook

Copyright 2017, The Printers (Mysore) Private Ltd., 75, M.G Road, Post Box 5331, Bengaluru - 560001
Tel: +91 (80) 25880000 Fax No. +91 (80) 25880523
Powered by Yodasoft Technologies Pvt. Ltd.