Cult cinema

King Kong, born in the USA and happily adopted the world over, including by India

The giant ape that fell in love with a woman was a product of 1930s Hollywood and travelled widely, including to our shores.

The March 10 release Kong: Skull Island resurrects the giant ape that was first seen on the screen in 1933. Several countries have adopted the monstrous creature who loses his life because of love, including India.

Ever since the Hollywood production King Kong, there have been numerous adaptations of the gargantuan ape’s fateful encounter with a beautiful young woman – the first of which was in the same year of its release. Japan’s Shochiku Studios produced Japanese King Kong (1933) and King Kong in Edo (1938). The second title located the ape in the samurai era.

The other major Japanese studio, Toho, pitted Kong in a contest with the homegrown monster Godzilla in 1962. King Kong vs Godzilla was a major hit, and led to a series of crossover appearances for the ape. He featured in the Japanese production King Kong Escapes (1967), in which he faced his mechanical nemesis Mechani-Kong, a character that first appeared in the animated series The King Kong Show.

King Kong Escapes (1967).

Hollywood too sent off Kong in different directions. In 1961, Konga saw a villainous doctor’s experiment turning a baby chimp into a killer ape that turned on his creator and other victims before finally being stopped.

Konga (1961).

The central Kong iconography – a prehistoric creature that is lured out of its natural habitat and turns on civilisation – travelled to other film industries over the years. South Korea produced its version called Ape (1976), in which the giant primate rampaged across Seoul. Hong Kong joined the club too with The Mighty Peking Man (1977), in which the ape, named Utam, had a beautiful female companion and an evil businessman as its adversary.

The Mighty Peking Man (1977).

Parodies followed too, such as King Kung Fu (1976), in which a gigantic gorilla with kung fu skills laid waste to Kansas. King Kong Lives (1986) featured a female ape and was a sequel to the successful reboot from 1976, featuring Jessica Lange as the blonde woman who caught the ape’s eye.

King Kung Fu (1976).

India wasn’t far behind in acknowledging the undeniable attraction of massive monsters. In 1966, Balwant B Dave’s Gogola saw the irate cousin of the Japanese Godzilla throw Mumbai out of gear. Before Gogola came King Kong’s Indian cousin, Otango, in the 1963 movie Shikari.

Shikari (1963).
Shikari (1963).

Ajit, KN Singh and Madan Puri played pivotal roles in the local version, directed by Mohammed Hussain. The filmmaker had several stunt films and B-adventures to his credit, including Diler Detective (1948), Superman (1960) and CID 909 (1967).

Singh was the mad scientist Cyclops, who created Otango; Puri was the nasty businessman who wanted to commercially exploit Otango; Ajit played the dashing hunter who helped the team capture Otango while falling in love with Ragini, a circus owner’s daughter.

Shikari (1963).
Shikari (1963).

Shikari could have been a good Indian version of King Kong, but it failed mainly because Otango didn’t get enough screen time. Too much attention was devoted to the romance between the leads. The movie did pick up in the scenes featuring Cyclops and had hummable songs, but the overall premise was wasted.

Despite its flaws, Shikari is enjoyable mainly because of the troika of Bollywood’s leading evil men of the period. Mainstream Bollywood hasn’t attempted anything like this – for movies that celebrate size and scale, we have Baahubali.

Shikari (1963).
Shikari (1963).
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Changing the conversation around mental health in rural India

Insights that emerged from discussions around mental health at a village this World Mental Health Day.

Questioning is the art of learning. For an illness as debilitating as depression, asking the right questions is an important step in social acceptance and understanding. How do I open-up about my depression to my parents? Can meditation be counted as a treatment for depression? Should heartbreak be considered as a trigger for deep depression? These were some of the questions addressed by a panel consisting of the trustees and the founder of The Live Love Lough Foundation (TLLLF), a platform that seeks to champion the cause of mental health. The panel discussion was a part of an event organised by TLLLF to commemorate World Mental Health Day.

According to a National Mental Health Survey of India 2015-16, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), common mental disorders including depression, anxiety disorders and substance use disorders affect nearly 10% of the population, with 1 in 20 people in India suffering from depression. The survey reported a huge treatment gap, a problem that is spread far and wide across urban and rural parts of the country.

On 10th of October, trustees of the foundation, Anna Chandy, Dr. Shyam Bhat and Nina Nair, along with its founder, Deepika Padukone, made a visit to a community health project centre in Devangere, Karnataka. The project, started by The Association of People with Disability (APD) in 2010, got a much-needed boost after partnering with TLLLF 2 years ago, helping them reach 819 people suffering from mental illnesses and spreading its program to 6 Taluks, making a difference at a larger scale.


During the visit, the TLLLF team met patients and their families to gain insights into the program’s effectiveness and impact. Basavaraja, a beneficiary of the program, spoke about the issues he faced because of his illness. He shared how people used to call him mad and would threaten to beat him up. Other patients expressed their difficulty in getting access to medical aid for which they had to travel to the next biggest city, Shivmoga which is about 2 hours away from Davangere. A marked difference from when TLLLF joined the project two years ago was the level of openness and awareness present amongst the villagers. Individuals and families were more expressive about their issues and challenges leading to a more evolved and helpful conversation.

The process of de-stigmatizing mental illnesses in a community and providing treatment to those who are suffering requires a strong nexus of partners to make progress in a holistic manner. Initially, getting different stakeholders together was difficult because of the lack of awareness and resources in the field of mental healthcare. But the project found its footing once it established a network of support from NIMHANS doctors who treated the patients at health camps, Primary Healthcare Centre doctors and the ASHA workers. On their visit, the TLLLF team along with APD and the project partners discussed the impact that was made by the program. Were beneficiaries able to access the free psychiatric drugs? Did the program help in reducing the distance patients had to travel to get treatment? During these discussions, the TLLLF team observed that even amongst the partners, there was an increased sense of support and responsiveness towards mental health aid.

The next leg of the visit took the TLLLF team to the village of Bilichodu where they met a support group that included 15 patients and caregivers. Ujjala Padukone, Deepika Padukone’s mother, being a caregiver herself, was also present in the discussion to share her experiences with the group and encouraged others to share their stories and concerns about their family members. While the discussion revolved around the importance of opening up and seeking help, the team brought about a forward-looking attitude within the group by discussing future possibilities in employment and livelihood options available for the patients.

As the TLLLF team honoured World Mental Health day, 2017 by visiting families, engaging with support groups and reviewing the successes and the challenges in rural mental healthcare, they noticed how the conversation, that was once difficult to start, now had characteristics of support, openness and a positive outlook towards the future. To continue this momentum, the organisation charted out the next steps that will further enrich the dialogue surrounding mental health, in both urban and rural areas. The steps include increasing research on mental health, enhancing the role of social media to drive awareness and decrease stigma and expanding their current programs. To know more, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of The Live Love Laugh Foundation and not by the Scroll editorial team.