Faiza Ahmad Khan’s 2012 documentary about the struggle by film-maker Shaikh Nasir to make ‘Malegaon ka Superman’, a Superman rip-off shot on digital video, has been widely praised for showing the sheer determination and blind, unquestioning love of fantasy cinema of all of its participants.
The documentary is made all the more poignant since the star, 25 year old Shafique Shaikh – a Muslim loom operator in a city of weavers, 185 miles from Mumbai – emaciated and with sunken cheeks, died soon after filming from mouth cancer caused by chewing tobacco. He died with his last wish fulfilled, that the Superman film in which he stars was shown in 14 of the city’s small video-parlours. In the movie, Shaikh ‘s Superman – in a red and blue costume bigger than he is, given to him by a white-haired Jor-El at the edge of a pollution-filled lake by a landfill site – fights ‘big tobacco’.
Malegaon has been rocked by communal violence in recent years. When, in the theme music, the playback singer says Superman fights for justice for everyone “Muslim, Hindu and Christian”, Indian audiences know that an intergalactic boy scout who stands for truth and justice represents more than just the American Way.