Marvel’s new Avengers Assemble may have won over the critics and cleaned up at the box office – to the tune of $200m; the biggest ever opening weekend for a movie – but Iron Man, Hulk, Captain America & Co have left a slew of Indians rather unhappy; most notably Ajay Devgan, Anil Kapoor and a few residents of Kolkata.
While large swathes of the Indian population might not be familiar with the careers or lives of Robert Downey Jr, Jeremy Renner or Mark
Ruffalo, they are very much familiar with the actors’ on-screen alter egos: Iron Man, Hawkeye and the Incredible Hulk respectively.
The result is that Indian audiences have thronged to mushrooming multiplexes in droves to enjoy the super heroes as they set aside differences to save the world from an otherworldly, mechanical snake.
The Marvel romp released in India on April 27 and the box office tills have been ringing faster than Hawkeye can draw his special arrowheads.
The opening weekend takings amounted to more than Rs 140m (£1.6m) and the first week’s box office is nearing the Rs 250m marker.
Its bad news, especially for Anil Kapoor and Ajay Devgan, whose Speed-inspired thriller ‘Tezz’ was hit hard by Avengers slurping up all the ticket money.
Tezz isn’t the only one suffering: Jannat 2 and Fatso, both of which opened a week earlier than Avengers, had their box office takings dented by the joint superhero effort.
It’s partially due to the phenomenal publicity blitz orchestrated by the Producers of Avengers and its' reach; it’s reportedly running in more than 800 screens and has been dubbed into Hindi, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam versions.
While Kapoor and Devgan lick the wounds caused by the Marvel juggernaut, residents of Kolkata have been voicing their displeasure at the movie for an entirely different reason.
They have taken exception to a sequence in The Avengers which sees The Hulk’s far more composed alter ego Dr Bruce Banner – played by Mark Ruffalo – hiding out in the city’s slums and treating TB victims.
Bollywood actress Rituparna Sengupta told the Hindustan Times: "Kolkata has a rich culture and heritage, and a filmmaker should respect that. There are two scenes about India, and they only show slums. It could have been done in better taste."
Fellow actress Neha Dhupia was a bit more conciliatory: "It is disturbing to see the murky underbelly of India in Hollywood films. But before pointing it out to the west, we need to make efforts to change their perception about us."
Ironically the scenes depicting Kolkata were actually shot at a specially made set in New Mexico.
What’s more, it wouldn’t have done for Dr Banner to be seen sipping moonshine on a Goan beach, surely?
- Poonam Joshi