The Big- B of Bollywood is an evergreen superstar, but three decades back, he had a different avatar too. When Amitabh Bachchan was at the peak of his career in the 80s, he was launched as a crime-fighting superhero called Supremo in a comic book series published in India Book House(IBH).
The story behind the origin of the Supremo is as interesting as the comic book. IBH publisher Pammi Bakshi was standing in the balcony of her flat. A group of children was playing in the compound of a neighbouring building. One boy declared he was Superman and could fly. Another said he was Batman and could scale any building. However the third declared he was Amitabh Bachchan and could beat up ten baddies with one hand. Bakshi was suddenly struck with an idea, but she needed the permission of the man himself- the Big B.
In 1983, Bakshi met Bachchan on the sets of the movie Pukar in Goa, where she convinced him to lend his name to the comics. Bachchan’s co-star, Randhir Kapoor, used to call the actor Supremo. Bakshi was determined to call her superhero Supremo, as the moniker seemed like a memorable name for a comic book character.
Bakshi recruited her friend, the writer and director Gulzar, to be a script consultant for the series. However, Bakshi’s major challenge was to convince Pratap Mullick, an illustrator with Amar Chitra Kadha, to draw the comics. Mullick was not interested in popular cinema and had not even watched any of Bachchan’s movies.
Out of eight to 10 costumes for Supremo’s character, Bachchan approved one- a pink, fitting outfit with a wrap and holster and a pendant around his neck.
Unlike the western superheroes, Supremo does not have any obvious superpowers, but simply happens to possess the right combination of strength and intelligence. At that time, Phantom comics were among the most popular in India, and several elements in the Supremo series was inspired by The Ghost Who Walks.
The series also included the actor’s most iconic characters, Vijay and Anthony. When Supremo is not in his superhero avatar, he was seen shooting films with Manmohan Desai or Prakash Mehra, the directors who shaped Bachchan’s career. There were even appearances of Gulzar, whose partnership with Bachchan in Bollywood is iconic.
Supremo existed in the limelight for two years. Bakshi got married and left India, the series came to a halt. The series inspired similar comics in southern India featuring Rajanikanth in Tamil Nadu and Mammootty in Kerala