For those of us who were teenagers in the early 80s, the daily dose of adventure and thrill came from the television. Sunsets usually brought on the unforgettable line from stern parents and guardians: Haat mukh dhuye porte bosho (wash your hands and face and sit to study). That meant two hours on the table with or without the presence of a private tutor, who usually came wearing a tucked-in shirt and sandals, often carrying an umbrella.
By 8:30pm, all young minds were occupied with the daily TV series, usually thrillers. The craze varied from season to season -- if one year it was Return of the Saint, the following year it was Six Million Dollar Man, and, then, maybe, The Fugitive. But, when Wonder Woman came on, conventional society where conservatism prevailed in thought and outlook, was taken by a storm.
Obviously, parents were worried because even the other TV serials had innocuous kissing scenes cut off and here was in the program where the woman central role, Linda Carter, took on the villains wearing a provocative dress.
I hear that Wonder Woman’s 75th year in comics is being celebrated with the release of a postage stamp. What can be a better accolade than having a stamp commemorating the super woman.
Understandably, in the early 80s, when the notion of female lead roles was not common, Linda Carter created a stir in Dhaka. We were, in one word, smitten. She had blue eyes, a luscious smile, and when turned into the superhero, I think every man missed a few beats.
Women were a bit ambivalent towards this new hero on TV. I remember that one of our neighbours had a terrible row because the wife found out that the husband was unwrapping a Wonder Woman lollipop with a rather lascivious grin -- the lollipops were meant for the son who got the Kojak and the Six Million Dollar Man themed ones, while the father kept the Wonder Woman for himself.
The line that wafted to our ears: “You want to have wonder woman lollipop? You lecher!”
A local uncle went and worked as an arbitrator: “Bhabi, please calm down, he will never have Wonder Woman again.”
Peace was agreed upon, though the woman never really forgave Linda Carter. Maybe a lot of housewives held a grudge against the skimpily-clad super-heroine, because the series did not last long.
Understandably, in the early 80s, when the notion of female lead roles was not common, Linda Carter created a stir in Dhaka. We were, in one word, smitten. She had blue eyes, a luscious smile, and when turned into the superhero, I think every man missed a few beats
But the memories remained, and, till today, send a frisson through our senses. Interestingly, Wonder Woman also influenced a local writer to conjure up a risque fictional heroine called Dasyu (Dacoit) Moonlight.
The 70s and 80s in Bengali fiction saw an explosion plus proliferation of heroes based on Robin Hood. Taking from the vile rich to help the persecuted poor -- based on this theme came Bonhur, Panja, and then, Moonlight.
The girl was a template of Wonder Woman, only she wore a black cat-suit, a black mask, and carried a leather whip.
Very sado-masochistic. Come to think of it, we had our own dominatrix back then, when dungeons and handcuffs used for kink were unheard of.
During that time, TV had several superhero-themed programs with the most intriguing being The Man from Atlantis, starring none other than Patrick Duffy, known widely for playing Bobby Ewing in the drama series Dallas.
It was sort of an Indiana Jones type of flick made for the small screen with most adventures taking place under water, involving submerged civilisations. Duffy played a person lost from Atlantis and discovered by US scientists. Look it up on YouTube.
At the height of the popularity of Casio electronic watches, came a series called The Gemini Man, who, with the press of a button on his watch could disappear for a certain period of time.
Soon, the fashion trend was to get a Gemini Man watch.
The most outrageous of all the superheroes was possibly the protagonist in Manimal, where the hero could transform into any animal, from a snake to a wasp.
So many superheroes but none on the silver screen? That cannot be, so cashing in on the popularity of Wonder Woman and the others, our film industry gave us a Razia Sultana, starring ravishing Rozina as the whip-carrying, long boots-wearing, horse-riding, sword-wielding super-heroine.
Bangla movies don’t make films based on the Robin Hood philosophy anymore, well, that is until we came to know that a current actress called Bobby will be playing the part of Bijli in what is being touted as the first movie to have a full-fledged Bengali super-heroine.
No offence, but one of my friends asked, will there be a lollipop on the theme of Bijli?
Towheed Feroze is a journalist currently working in the development sector.