Ho ho howdy folkses! Welcome to the Twelfth Day of The Twelve Days of Shitmas celebration for 2021! We're not gonna was tough going this year, both in terms of the wretched material we had to endure and the challenges of time, health and circumstance we've faced while trying to get these articles completed. The hurdles seemed insurmountable at times, like that unfortunate kerfuffle we were involved in at megachurch preacher Joel Osteen's house, what with all the community service requirements and steep legal fees, but it is the season of forgiveness, and even an offense against God can be somewhat mitigated by turning state's evidence and entering the Jehovah's Witness Protection Program. By the way, would you mind reading this pamphlet? It might just change your life!

Our penultimate special was a postwar family drama that tried hard to end on a hopeful, redemptive note, but bent too far trying to tie up its own loose ends and broke like a dried-up Christmas tree branch overburdened by heavy snow. Today's special starts out broken and only fragments further as it ricochets haphazardly between anemic Western superhero topes and watered-down Hindu Vedic teachings. It's like some phantasmic, dehydration-induced hallucination you'd have after two weeks of a giardia infection, which you got because you insisted on travelling to Southern Asia without getting your shots.

The War on Shitmas is real. We all lost.

We've posted a brand-new review of a Christmas special every other day since December 3rd, culminating in what we consider the worst of the bunch on Christmas morning...and that would be today, people!

In case you've been living off-grid in a dung-and-straw hut someplace in the Great Indian Desert and just happened to stumble across this one review upon your recent return to Western civilization, we've been featuring Secret Santa sneaky links in every article this year. Days one through nine featured one Secret Santa each, and each of the past two reviews have featured two Secret Santa sneaky links. To celebrate our final Shitmas offering of the year, today's article contains a whopping twelve Secret Santa sneaky links hidden higgledy-piggledy about its person.

They're not the kind of sneaky link where you're Santa Claus, and you and Mrs. Claus have been married for like three hundred and fifty years, and things started getting stale in the bedroom about a hundred years in. Despite adding a few kinks and toys, videos and vibrators, unguents and oils over the decades to try and spice things up, you stopped getting busy altogether somewhere around your 125th anniversary, and shortly thereafter you found out she'd been having an on-again, off-again fling for the past ten years with that two-faced beatnik elf Jonazar who takes care of your reindeer. You'd already been eyeing up that smokin' hot elf with the you'd hired a few months back as a quality control officer in your toy workshop, so you figured you might as well get a little grudge-hump action in and start a fling of your own. Now it's a hundred and seventy-five years later and you've been giving her your North Pole behind the rubber ball bins every Tuesday evening ever since. Time just passes differently in Santa Land.

Our sneaky links are just some plain old links hidden in randomly chosen screenshots to odd, scary or inappropriate depictions of that horny old bastard St. Nick that we may or may not have found tied in a bundle in a time capsule inside the base of the Keebler Statue in Battle Creek, MI when ANTELFA demanded it be torn down for its offensively stereotypical depiction of a non-unionized former Santa's Helper.

Shaktimaan is India's low-budget take on Superman, but with a Hindu-centric hero and a groovy Bollywood beat. Unlike most American superheroes whose powers come from irradiated animals, aliens or science gone wrong, Shaktimaan gets his powers from trancendental meditation and perfection of the seven Chakras, the energy centers of the body, and his dedicated practice of Kundalini yoga. He's thoroughly Hindu in concept and form, a reincarnation of a wise warrior from the time of the Indian epic poem The Mahabharata, chosen by a group of wise, ancient monks and gifted with shakti, or primal energy through a Yajna sacred fire ceremony, when he entered the flame and was both tempered and purified by it. He utilizes his almost unlimited powers to battle his nemesis Tamraj Kilvish, the living embodiment of evil, and teaches the children of India to be good and virtuous and avoid sinful temptations.

I'll tell you up front here that I have a thing for ancient epics, Hindu spirituality and eastern philosophy. If I'm anything at all in a spiritual sense it's something between a fairly crappy Buddhist and a semi-fraudulent Hindu, with a heaping helping of Godless heathen asshole thrown in, just to sort of balance things out and keep the Christian Fundies in a perpetual state of exasperation and moral outrage. I've studied both the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the two great epics forming the foundation of Hindu thought and culture. I own three separate translations of the Bhagavad-Gita. I've read the Vedas, Upanishads, and Dhammapada and I even have a complete, six-volume translation of the Buddhist Jatakas. I've also seen my fair share of outlandishly campy and garish Bollywood productions, so I came into today's weird pseudo-spiritual melange with a fairy solid base of experience to try to make some sense of what I was about to see.

None if it helped one whit. This show is the weirdest, most disorienting experience I've had in my entire tenure at Million Monkey Theater. It makes Winterbeast (1991) look like a master class in narrative clarity, and its special effects make 70's Doctor Who seem like it had cutting edge CG by Weta Digital. It proves the old aphorism I just now made up that it's easy to sound wise while still being unfathomably stupid. As George Harrison once wrote "Arrive without travelling, see all without looking, know all without knowing," and after watching the Shaktimaan Christmas episode I suddenly feel like I no longer know much of anything at all.

The opening theme song extolls Shaktimaan's many powers and virtues through breathless superlatives, including that he is "indomitable, incredible, courageous," and also has "really nice hair," and I have to admit his late 90's feather-back do is nigh-on irresistible. We also learn that he is both "a hope to dying humanity," and "a blessing of the power of the universe," which not only lays it on pretty thick but also sets our expectations almost impossibly high. What kind of wondrous hero could live up to such outlandish claims?

This kinda doughy-looking guy right here, that's who.

We also see some scenes from other episodes, including the introductory story where the secret consortium of monks chose and anointed him for the task of purging the darkness from an increasingly wicked world.

When the story begins we're dropped right into the action, such as it is, with Shaktimaan standing in a courtyard holding some kind of small, plush doll. He stares at it a moment then does a whirlwind-color-spinny-top thing that is apparently his primary mode of travel.

It features all the colors of his vomit from when he suddenly stops spinning.

He zips up into the air, and when he lands and stops he's in a foam and fiberglass cave with stringy vines and eerie artificial lighting. There are fake stone faces on the fake stone walls and a fake stone staircase leading up from the fake stone cavern. Shaktiman wanders around a bit, then looks up to see a bunch of dolls identical to the one in his hand, all hanging from partially visible strands of fishing line. The doll he's holding leaps from his hand and joins the others, and we hear a child call out to him from across the cavern.

That's what I was screaming the whole time I was watching.

Suddenly the dolls start jumping down and "attacking" Shaktimaan, their technique involving somebody off-camera throwing them at him, and him pretending they're stuck to his face and clothes. Each time he dislodges and throws one down it explodes, but more and more of them appear, swooping and clinging and gripping and shuffling towards him in all their felt and nylon terror.

One of them grows a pair of extra long poly-filled arms and grabs at his neck, but Shaktimaan tears the arm right off and throws it to the ground.

"Well I hope you brought a sewing kit, mister."

More and more of the little dolls come flying down the staircase and soon Shaktiman is overwhelmed by them, pinned in place by their wicked plush mittens and bulbous cotton noses. He pulls off more soft, silky arms and rolls over on top of more dolls which causes them to burst like finger poppers. He jumps up and kicks them out of mid-air, and zaps them with little red lightning bolts from his fingers, and after about five minutes of man-on-terry-cloth carnage he's finally destroyed them all and grabs the kid from the cage.

Before they leave the child tells Shaktiman there were demons there plotting to kill him, then a monk came and said he had been waiting for Shaktimaan six thousand years, and told him that only Shaktimaan could destroy the evil Tamraj Kilvish.

"Then I got bored and started playing with my mom's lipstick."

Shaktimaan tells the kid, whose name is Appu, that he talks too much, then he picks him up and does his colorful spinning top Chakra routine to take them to what appears to be a school cafeteria or maybe a children's social center--it's never made clear--where a bunch of other kids are hanging out and talking, playing games and just generally shooting the shit in a low-key, waiting for the director to yell "Cut!" kind of way. As soon as Appu and Shaktiman appear everyone stops what they're doing and shuffle over to their blocking marks to hear the boy's story.

It seems Appu had found one of the dolls in the road and shoved it in his pocket. When he and his little friends were playing blind man's bluff he felt a tickling and pulling in there, which doesn't sound very savory to me, and I'm thinking a call to Child Protective Services, Mumbai might not be amiss.

All the kids apparently saw Appu disappear right in front of them, but they're all pretty blase about it like maybe that sort of shit happens all the time when Shaktimaan is your pal. Appu says the doll took him to the scary cave with scary demon people who wanted to eat him, and then Shaktimaan came and rescued him and brought him back here.

Shaktimaan waves his hand and Appu and all the other children forget everything they've seen and heard, and we're apparently suppose to forget about it, too because we never see nor hear another word about it...and that's ten whole minutes of this thing gone and I have no idea what the fuck is happening.

Look how smug he is about it. I think he's deliberately wasting our time.

Now we cut to the same room some time later, decorated for Christmas with a lime-green plastic tree and some of the most tacky and gaudily bright ornaments I've ever seen. It's like a polymer products promotional film, where they show us a chintzy parade of cheap, meaningless goods while an officious narrator lists all the ways consumer plastics can enhance the quality of our cheap, meaningless lives. The kids are shuffling around the tree in a circle like zombies, just barely muttering Jingle Bells, tunelessly and indistinctly as if they'd just learned the English lyrics phonetically five minutes before the cameras rolled.

It's gonna be hard to jingle all the way if they've only got one bell.

One of the kids has a Shaktimaan doll and Appu wants it real bad, in fact he demands he give it to him, and his playmate is like, no way dude, this Shaktimaan is my Shaktimaan, so if you want a Shaktimaan you'd better get your own Shaktimaan, maan.

Appu doesn't like that answer, so he grabs the thing and tries to run off with it, his friend shouting at him to give it back.

The kid in the plaid looks like the 48 year-old owner of a bait and tackle shop.

Appu doesn't get very far, as the commotion has attracted the attention of a professionally dressed woman whom I initially assumed to be one of their teachers, but as it happens she's Appu's sister Geeta, who actually works as a newspaper reporter. Why she's here, ostensibly in charge of a bunch of kids, is a mystery I can't be bothered to solve with a mere two days left to finish this article, but I will mention that the actress, Kitu Gidwani only played the role for the first eight episodes of the program, with this being her very last appearance.

Yeah, she looks about over it.

Her successor Vaishnavi Mahant-Macdonald would prove more popular and enduring, playing Geeta for the subsequent four hundred forty-one episodes made between 1997 and 2005.

The owner of the disputed toy comes running up to explain to Geeta how the Shaktimaan doll is his sovereign, legal property, and the rights of ownership still mean something in this country, despite the best efforts of the heathen left to promote their Godless communism. Geeta agrees and tells her brother to give the doll back, but he stubbornly refuses. He says he was the first of them to see the real Shaktimaan, and he's asked her again and again to buy him a Shaktimaan doll, to no avail, so he feels the doll should be his by commonlaw squatter's rights.

However novel a basis for the redistribution of wealth and property it may be, it just doesn't hold any water in a legally binding sense, so she grabs the doll from him and hands it back to the other kid, causing Appu to burst into hot, bitter tears over not being able to have whatever the fuck he wants whenever the fuck he wants it no matter who the fuck it belongs to. He even pulls the old "If mom and dad were still alive they'd have bought me one already" bullshit, which seems to sting Geeta straight through her otherwise cold and totally over-it heart.

It's times like this she wishes she were an only child.

Later we're in Geeta's office, where for reasons I can't quite fathom she's second guessing herself about having smacked down her selfish little shit of a brother and put him in his place.

Suddenly a buck-toothed geek with a Moe Howard haircut, thick granny glasses and used car salesman sportcoat walks in.

It's Jerry Lewishaktimaan.

This is Pandit Gangadhar Vidyadhar Mayadhar Omkarnath Shastri, a photographer for Geeta's newspaper and intellectually-challenged comic-relief buffoon, who also happens to be Shaktimaan's Clark Kent alter-ego.

It's clear Geeta has little time or patience for him, but he insists to know why she's so sad and prates on and on with some sing-song, needling nonsense until she can't help but giggle at how impenetrably stupid he is. Since she figures he won't understand most of what the hell she's saying anyway she might as well use him as a sounding board to help her organize her thoughts.

The fact is she thinks she was too harsh on her brother and shouldn't have scolded him so much for his obdurate theft of his friend's toy. He's a child, after all, she naively convinces herself, and children can be stubborn...and larcenous, and occasionally evil. Plus he's just a pathetic little orphan and they only have each other now that their parents are gone.

I disagree with her overly-sanguine assessment. He's acting out and it's only going to get worse if she keeps overlooking it. I don't see how any of her rationalizing excuses his brattish behavior, or why the heroic Shaktimaan, who loves truth and righteousness above all else, would choose to condone it, even through his other, dumber identity. Still, the ways of Dharma are indeed mysterious, and Shaktimaan's Chakras are way more polished than mine.

Geeta lies awake nights dreaming of polishing Shaktimaan's Chakras.

Geeta immediately regrets taking the time to talk with Pandit when he goes off on a minutes-long, utterly bizarre tangent about the moon being made of an upturned bowl of porridge and his mother scooping out a bowl of it for him whenever he got stubborn as a child in an effort to keep him from eating the whole thing at once and ruining the moon for everybody.

I think it's supposed to be a "wise fool" kind of thing, where he makes up some secretly clever nonsensical parable to make her think up a way out of her conundrum, but maybe something got lost in translation because in english it mostly sounds like shizophrenic word salad, but then again, maybe I'm just too distracted by his godawful teeth to process what the hell he's saying.

They're really freaking me out, man.

Mercifully his massive torrent of hot, folksy bullshit comes to an end, and I can't help but feel that maybe they played the "blithering idiot" card just a little too hard. Clark Kent may have been clumsy and shy sometimes but he was still a decent reporter and a believable, relatable person. Pandit is such an excessively moronic caricature it's impossible to take anything he says or does seriously, and his facial expressions, posture and pinched, whining voice combine to make him an ear-splitting, eye-burning irritant every time he appears onscreen.

Geeta decides the only way to shut Appu up is to go ahead and get the him the fucking doll, but she doesn't know where to go to buy one, being as they've been a pretty hot Christmas item and most of the stores are sold out. Pandit thinks he knows where they still have some and offers to take Appu to go get one, but when he and his greedy little pal get to the store, the shop clerks flat-out laugh at them, saying everyone in the whole damn city has been out of Shaktimaan dolls for weeks.

It will be a miracle if I make it all the way through this special with my sanity intact.

Pandit now crouches down behind a rack of sari fabrics and cries over his lifelong bad luck. Whenever he waited for a bus, he complains, it never came, whenever he opened an umbrella it never rained, and whenever he sat on a sofa, bedbugs came out of it, the last of which which sounds more like a failure of personal hygiene than anything having to do with ill-luck or outrageous fortune.

A swanky-looking kid with slicked-back hair and a trendy popped collar overhears Pandit's lament about not finding a Shaktimaan doll and steps over to comfort him. He says he knows where he can get one, and he'll take them there...but only him and not Appu. Oh, and Appu's hot sister can come too, because she's hot.

Maybe there's a brisk black market trade in toys over in India, because that sounds an awful lot like a setup for a police sting operation where they're waiting in a closet to jump out and punch the piss out of some poor consumer who's willing to get a Shaktimaan doll at any price...or maybe it's a bait-and-switch for an organ harvesting ring. Either way Pandit had better watch his kidneys.

Instead of the combination opium den, brothel, massage parlor and discount mattress outlet I expected, it's just a normal-looking house, but with a shit-ton of Christmas presents lying around, a bunch more of those tacky plastic holiday decorations and a Santa suit hanging on a hook on one of the walls.

Geeta asks the Kid if all these presents belong to him, but he tells her they belong to his Grandpa. Dim-bulb Pandit asks why his Grandpa still plays with toys at his age, and is he senile or stupid or something, but the Kid says no, his Grandpa is Santa Claus, and he points to a picture of Kumar Kringle himself hanging on a wall across the room to prove it.

Is that his "sees you when you're sleeping" or his "knows when you're awake" stare?

When Pandit and Geeta turn back around Grandpa himself walks in, looking more like a Florida retiree than Jolly Old St. Nick. The Grandson Kid tells his Grandpa they want a Shaktimaan doll, and it turns out he's the one who's been buying them all up and hoarding them so he can give them to all the children that year.

When Geeta asks why he's so keen on that particular gift he goes off on a long, rambling tangent about how kids' toys are not just their happiness but their ideals as well, and what better way to foster good moral behavior than getting them all playing with Shaktimaan? Not in the same way Geeta wants to play with him, more in the traditional child's play sense.

It all seems reasonable enough, but I'm still in shock from learning that Santa Claus isn't the ancient magical benefactor I've always been told about, but just some fat old dude from Mumbai who looks like he eats too much Palak Paneer.

If you are what you eat he's 80% dairy.

Santa goes off on a tirade against violent toys like guns and pistols, and hopes through his doll-centric crusade to provide more morally centered playthings and make some small difference in the way children view the world. Since Shaktimaan is honest and courageous and good it is only right, he insists, that children should love him, because it will teach them to be honest and courageous and good, too. I think maybe that arguement falls apart when you consider Appu, whose love of Shaktimaan turned him into a selfish, covetous little shit, but Pandit gleefully agrees with Santa, and even offers that it's not just Children who love Shaktimaan. He turns to Geeta when he says it and gives her his village idiot version of a knowing wink, which I thought was a pretty nice dig, coming as it does secretly from the actual object of her amorous desires.

It ends with Santa promising that if Appu stops being a stubborn, whiny little bitch he will bring him a Shaktimaan doll when he distributes his gifts at the kids' Christmas party at the social center or school or whatever the hell the place is where we keep seeing them.

Now we cut to Shaktimaan's nemesis, the sinister, demon-like sorcerer Tamraj Kilvish, about to enact his next flagitious scheme to spread darkness and ignominy across India.

He's campy in an almost Stu Francis way.

He monologizes about how cruel and dark and goth and fabulous he is, then picks up his totally bitchen' Spirit Halloween Aquaman trident he got on clearance last November and throws it into the mouth of the cave we saw at the beginning of the episode. The trident hits a skull set on a little altar, and the skull shoots out red and green thunderbolts that coalesce into a lumpy humanoid form.

I think it's a gimp suit made out of moving blankets.

Tamraj refers to him as a "stone man," something like a golem, and explains that if his burning sight falls on anything it, too will turn hard like stone...just as he gets hard like stone when he thinks about it. He sends the Stone Gimp off to do his maliciously sexy bidding and laughs gleefully at the merry fun he's going to have watching Shaktiman get his cum-uppence.

We cut now to Grandpa Santa's house where he and his Grandson are labeling the presents for the party. The Kid finds a box he doesn't recognize, wrapped in dull gray paper rather than the colorful purple and pink of the other gifts. Since neither of them know what's in it Grandpa Santa tells him to unwrap it and have a look. Inside they find Stone Gimp, shrunk to the size of a doll.

Batteries not included.

Suddenly the Gimp sits up and begins to grow, and the two just sit and watch in mild confusion and annoyance, like they just heard a knock at the door, aren't expecting anyone and aren't in the mood for visitors, instead of, you know, fucking panicking because a tiny stone doll just came to life and is spontaneously expanding before their eyes.

Santa can't be bothered. He's got shit to do.

Grandson can hardly even stay awake.

Before you can come up with an easy-to-remember safe word the Gimp is full size and uses his stony gaze to freeze Grandpa Santa in place. He wraps his cold-stone arms around the portly old cheesebag and the two of them disappear in a puff of late-90's AfterEffects smoke.

Back in Tamraj's lair he taunts his jolly immobile prisoner. He somehow knows that Shaktimaan will be at the kids' party, even though the scene where all that gets arranged hasn't happened yet, so he plans to send Stone Gimp disguised as Santa to stonify his nemesis and bring him back as a trophy...and then the spanking can begin.

But first they've got to teach him to dance the robot so he can kinda blend in.

Grandson heads over to the kids' center, crying painted-on, glycerine tears and staring at an objectively terrifying Santa mask that's hanging on the Christmas tree.

"Aieee! Aieee! Shub-Niggurath!"

It seems the police didn't believe him when he said a guy in a puffy gimp suit kidnapped his grandpa, so he's hoping to find a little faith and a little assistance here amongst his friends. They all file in behind him, seeming to perform a weirdly ritualistic laying of hands and assuring him it's all going to be fine, that he's one of them now, and that his troubles will be gone once he's been fully absorbed into the collective.

"No more sadness, no more pain. You will only feel what we feel."

Suddenly the Christmas tree begins to glow and Shaktimaan appears. The kids tell him about Grandpa Santa and the Stone Gimp, and he uses his mystic powers of discernment to see that they speak the truth. Naturally Grandson is concerned for his beloved Grandpa's safety, but the other kids are in a panic because if some Gimp is having his way with him in a cave someplace then Santa won't be at the party to give them their presents. Shaktimaan, rather than berating them for their avarice and selfishness, assures them Santa will definitely still come and give them their presents, making a schmaltzy speech about Santa being an expression of their innocent faith rather than just some portly dude from the west side with bad skin and elevated cholesterol. The children also beg Shaktimaan himself to come, that it won't be a proper party unless he's there to do his Chakra-juggling party trick. Plus there's gonna be cake, and they all know how much Shaktimaan likes cake.

This is some Village of the Damned shit.

I'm not sure how he can be so sure Santa will be at the party when he subsequently does nothing to find him, but it was a nice speech and it sure cheered up the Kids. Geeta showed up about halfway through it but hovered in the background, covertly admiring Shaktimaan's manly "arms akimbo" stance, his broad shoulders, his bulbous, pockmarked potato-nose, all the while blushing and getting all schoolgirl wiggly, and seeing him being so nurturing and paternal with the Children...well it practically made her melt into a puddle of her own lady juices right there in the all-purpose room.

"He can put his Shakti in my Kundalini anytime!"

Now there's a shoehorned-in scene back at the office of Geeta's paper, where Geeta is trying to convince her reptile-man of an editor to let her do a write up about the Children's party since Santa Claus and Shaktimaan will both be there.

The guy is a doddering old septuagenarian grumpus who seems unable to smile, laugh or form coherent sentences. First says he can't publish such "weird news," then completely reverses himself and says he needs news that's "out of the ordinary" so his paper can stand out from the crowd, then he decides that she should go, and Pandit the idiot photographer should tag along with her and get a picture of Shaktimaan and Geeta together to put on the front page, because that would be both weird, since he's not that into her, and exclusive because Shaktimaan is notoriously camera-shy.

It's all very confusing and contradictory, but the narrative purpose, so far as I can tell, is to have Pandit at the party so he can be a foil for the goings-on and provide the episode with its Clark Kent/Superman plausible deniability moment.

He looks hungry. Somebody throw him a few crickets.

Next we cut to the same courtyard where we began the episode, all decked out with Christmas lights now, where the Stone Gimp has arrived before the start of the party and assumes the form of Santa Claus so he might wander around the place waiting for an auspicious moment to ambush Shaktimaan.

Cue perfunctory Bollywood-style musical number, replete with a fantasy dance sequence and chintzy music video.

"Shakti" means "power," specifically a mighty elemental power that might be harnessed for either constructive or destructive purposes, and "maan" means "value" or "esteem." Shaktimaan's name was coined by Geeta for her paper shortly after he first appeared in the world and he liked it so much he kept it. But he's still not that into her.

The song is all about how everyone everywhere is "Shaktimaan," in the literal translation sense, but they just don't know it. Of course it helps if you were hand-picked by ancient wise men, reincarnated from an ancient warrior king and spent decades devoting yourself to ancient rituals and meditations.

The first part of the song features Pandit and the Kids dancing around the courtyard, then Shaktimaan appears and starts playing a little trick where he pops around from place to place in an instant to confuse Fake Santa. He makes himself fat and makes himself thin, then makes himself young and makes himself old.

His Shakti abilities are awe-inspiring, indeed.

Next thing you know Shaktimaan waves his finger around in the air and he's suddenly dancing in broad daylight at some cheap Indian theme park, with the Kids all dressed in identical Shaktimaan suits and following him around like a pied piper-themed mass hallucination.

I think this might be from that ergot fungus again.

So Shaktimaan dances and Shaktimaan sings, Shaktimaan rides a carousel and Shaktimaan buys the children cotton candy, and all the time Fake Santa is in the background, waiting like the rest of us for the fucking music to stop so he can pounce and turn the bastard to stone already.

At least he had a nice day at the park.

Then they're back at the ludicrously huge social center, which we now see has a luxury in-ground swimming pool, and to represent the Yajna ceremony where Shaktimaan walked into a sacred flame to absorb its power, the entire circumference of the pool is aflame. Then, just for a lark, Shaktimaan sets his own arms on fire.

"Hey kids! Try this!"

There were many reports in the Indian media of kids lighting themselves on fire or doing other stupid things because of scenes like this, and eventually the program had to add a bumper sequence at the end of each episode with star Mukesh Khanna informing children that none of this shit is real. Because children apparently really are that dumb.

This musical sequence just seems to go on and on and on...and every time you think it's about to be over it seems to pick up again for another twenty minutes, with Geeta and the Kids and Santa and everybody getting in on the upbeat and tediously repetitive Indi-pop action.

"I'm dancing for you, Shaktimaan! Please love me!"

Mercifully, after what seems something like an hour, the song and dance routine is finally over, and we get right back into the heart of the alleged action with Fake Santa reverting to his original Stone Gimp form and shooting his blue lightning eyes at Shaktimaan.

Our hero dodges the beam and it turns a tree into stone instead, and next thing you know "Shaktimaan" has Pandit's creepy demon bunny teeth and granny glasses on. He pulls the suit off and tells the Gimp that he's not really Shaktimaan, he was just funning around for the party, so please don't shoot his lightning eyes at him and turn him to stone.

I though everyone everywhere was Shaktimaan. What a disappointment.

Pandit stammers out his full name, which as noted above runs to a tongue-twisting fifty-one letters, and as soon as he spits out the last syllable he gets pulled into he sky and out of sight. Then Shaktiman drops down in his colorful spinning top, lands behind the Gimp and calls out to him, and the Gimp begins shooting his blue beams again, but every time he does Shaktiman just casually bends himself this way or that to avoid it, and soon the place is littered with chairs and tables and plants made of stone.

Now it's Shaktiman's turn and he fires his +3 damage points red beams from his fingers, but the Gimp just slaps his chest and laughs. Lather, rinse, repeat this shit for about another three minutes and you've got yourself an action sequence.

The kid in the blue jacket is like "Is this shit almost over, because I was told there'd be cake."

Finally Appu notices that when the Gimp shoots a beam at something shiny it bounces away, so he grabs a silver serving tray and tosses it to Shaktiman, who holds the thing up like a mirror and reflects the beam back at the Gimp, completely immobilizing him as he'd immobilized Santa Claus back in what seems like three hours ago.

Suddenly we cut to Tamraj's cave, where the Gimp has just returned triumphantly with the immobile Shaktiman in tow! How can this be? Did we not just see Shaktiman defeat the stony-faced submissive sex slave? Can it be that our faithless senses have deceived us and this entire world is nothing but Lord Maya's bewitching illusions?

The evil yet jolly Tamraj turns to admire his supreme triumph and immediately starts in with his usual over-the-top camp-filled prancing and gloating, talking about all the exquisite tortures he will put Shaktimaan through in his compromised position, and all of the other compromised positions he plans put him into, too.

"I shall make you bend over to my will...repeatedly!"

Tamraj transforms himself into the Spirit Halloween trident thing and hurls himself at the immobile hero's chest, but when the sharp plastic points make contact they make a loud clang, and the weapon falls to the ground useless. When Tamraj comes back to himself he's moaning and rubbing his sore neck, and he watches helpless and confused as Shaktimaan becomes the Gimp and the Gimp becomes Shaktimaan.

He's got that smug look again. It almost makes you wish he'd lost.

Shaktimaan looks down at Tamraj's altar with its little glowy skull, and he fires his red eye beams to destroy it. No sooner has it blown to bits than the Gimp disappears in another puff of that sweet, late-90's AfterEffects smoke.

Shaktimaan lectures Tamraj about his being such a dick, didactically insisting that all of his failures are his own damn fault because "a person who bothers others never finds happiness."

Tamraj tells him to go fuck himself and disappears.

Our hero then turns his attention to Grandpa Santa, using another blast of his eye-beams to de-stonify him.

It's the Swiss Army Knife of superpowers.

Shaktimaan grabs Santa and whisks him back to the courtyard just in time to hand out presents to the Kids. Geeta approaches him and asks if he will finally sit for an interview, but Shaktimaan says no, not tonight baby, I've got a thing to go to, and such a headache, but why don't you interview Santa instead?

He's really just not that into you, lady. Maybe if you swap yourself out with a different actress he'll change his mind.

Shaktimaan zips off to Shiva knows where, and when Geeta goes to ask Santa if he'll sit for an interview he tells her yeah, maybe later, loser, because he has to give out his Shaktimaan dolls to all the Kids, and if we're honest, he's just not that into her, either.

Friend-zoned by Santa. That's gotta sting.

When Santa splits to put on his outfit and grab the goods, followed by the gang of Kids, Appu hangs back to ask his sister what she thinks happened to "Bunny Teeth Uncle" Pandit, and suddenly the human rodent himself falls from the sky and lands on his ass in the grass.

When Appu runs over to help him up he claims to have been all the way up on the planet Venus, and when he turns his back to the kid we see that there's a message written on his sportscoat to the effect that the Venusians would very much appreciate if the people of Earth never let this prat-falling, bucktoothed asshole back on their planet again...or else.

"Actually it just says 'Kick me.'"

Pandit/Shaktimaan turns directly towards the camera and winks...and we have all just officially made it through The Twelve Days of Shitmas 2021!!

The End.

Shaktimaan was extremely popular in India during and after its entire run, and when production was halted in 2005 it was only because of changes in the television industry that made it increasingly difficult to turn a profit on it. An animated revival in 2011 proved lucrative enough to produce a one-off TV movie in 2013, but the franchise has been on hiatus since. Oddly, producer/star Mukesh Khanna had also appeared in an unrelated crime drama called Shaktiman in 1993.

Khanna has had a long, successful career with a very respectable one hundred twelve acting credits on IMdB, including as Bhishma in a 1988-90 television adaptation of The Mahabharatha. He currently produces original programming for his YouTube Channel.

Shitmas Bonus!

Shaktimaan was developed specifically to address the lack of a Hindu-centric, brown-skinned hero Indian kids could look up to and identify with, and judging by its longevity it was a rousing success. It got me thinking about whether other faiths had their own superheroes, and it turns out a few of them do, although not all of them are home-grown or have enjoyed uniform acceptance within the groups they're meant to represent.

Case-in-point would be the character Dust from Marvel Comics' X-Men series, who although popular has faced accusations of Islamic stereotyping, poor research and over-sexualization of her traditional Islamic dress. A fan-made redesign by Twitter user Sara Alfageeh addressed the latter concern, drew over 20,000 Twitter shares and was met with widespread accolades...

...but it sadly spurred no change within any official Marvel products.

A more egalitarian approach led to the successful crowdfunding of Super Sikh, a Taliban-busting hero described as a cross between Batman and Jason Bourne. Created by Supreet Singh Manchanda and Eileen Alden, the series has been getting rave reviews from comic book fans since 2016.

"Boom," indeed.

Evangelical Christians have a superhero, too because they're a poor, powerless, downtrodden, persecuted pseudo-minority, in charge of half the fucking country yet always "under attack," and always somehow in need of saving. The dull, tiresome direct-to-video program Bibleman has been limping along in various forms and boring the literal hell out of children since 1993. The titular hero sometimes flashes a glowing "Sword of Truth" at his heathen adversaries to blind them into submission, but mostly his "superpower" is quoting scripture.

Come on! What's the point of having a Sword of Truth if you're not going to behead any infidels?

So, what about the Jews? Have they gotten the shit end of the pop-culture stick yet again? Sure, they have Hanukkah Harry, which is admittedly fucking awesome, but he's more like Santa Claus than Superman. Aside from Old Testament Samson with his super-hair, do the Semites have a bona-fide superhero of their own? I did a little digging and discovered that there is, indeed a genuine Hebrew Hero, a certified Kosher Crusader, and it turns out the guy is a real mensch, too!

Meet Shaloman!

Why did I not know about this until today?

I'm not Jewish, but I grew up in an area with a huge Jewish population. Most of my close friends and more than a few of my serious girlfriends were Jewish.

My own parents were, let's euphemistically say "difficult" rather than "drunk" or something much worse, so most of my positive role models growing up were from the warm and wonderful Jewish families who opened their homes and hearts to this scrappy little gentile boy who always seemed a little bit sad and lost.

I absorbed their openness, their love of life, and most of all their playfully ironic humor, alternately so sweet and so bitter, which combined with both the delightfully dry and silly British programs I'd watch on PBS, and the wonderful pathos-tinged Charlie Chaplin films I'd discovered as a child, served as the three foundational pillars of my comedic education.

I don't even like comic books, but for this I'll make an exception.

Superman and Captain America were created by Jewish writers, but the first Jew-forward, Israel-loving, certified kosher superhero Shaloman was the brainchild of Al Weisner of Philadelphia, who drew on his own childhood memories and family traditions to inform his largely tongue-in-cheek work.

You'd have to be meshuggah not to love this.

Spurred into action by the desperate cry of "Oy vay!" Shaloman emerges Golem-like and Kippah-clad from the "Shin-Rock" of Mt. Israel, to right wrongs and protect the faithful from the likes of Doctor Traife (a yiddish term for non-kosher) and others who would harass and victimize the people of the twelve tribes.

Al Weisner, the genius who created this wondrous, joyful thing. I'm completely verklempt.

Shaloman might be my new favorite thing ever. Seriously. And can you believe it? I've already found a complete reprint for only $11.99!

"Is that a bargain, I ask you?"

Thank you for sharing this year's Shitmas journey with us! From all of us here at Million Monkey Theater--human, feline and otherwise--we wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year. See you all in 2022 with more movie mischief and mayhem! Peace out, people!

That's All, Folkses!

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in December, 2021.

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