When Edgar Rice Burroughs created the character of Tarzan in 1912, he couldn’t have imagined that his character would be so embraced by the popular culture across the globe. Not even in his wildest dreams would he have thought that his character would spawn such a franchise in India. Between 1937 and 2000, the Hindi film industry produced 22 films about Tarzan, as is evident from the list below:
- Toofani Tarzan (1937)
- Tarzan Ki Beti (1938)
- Toofani Tarzan (1962)
- Rocket Tarzan (1963)
- Tarzan & Gorilla (1963)
- Tarzan Aur Jadugar (1963)
- Tarzan & Captain Kishore (1964)
- Tarzan & Cleopatra (1964)
- Tarzan & Delilah (1964)
- Tarzan Aur Jalpari (1964)
- Tarzan & Circus (1965)
- Tarzan & King Kong (1965)
- Tarzan Comes to Delhi (1965)
- Tarzan & Hercules (1966)
- Tarzan Aur Jadui Chiragh (1966)
- Tarzan Ki Mehbooba (1966)
- Tarzan in Fairyland (1968)
- Tarzan 303 (1970)
- Tarzan Mera Saathi (1974)
- Tarzan (1985)
- Tarzan & Cobra (1987)
- Return of Tarzan - Jungle Hero (2000)
Interestingly, it was in 1962 that John Guillermin made Tarzan Goes to India and it seems that Tarzan loved the country so much that he refused to leave India. Where else would he have found the opportunity to romance with characters as diverse as Cleopatra or Delilah or even a mermaid; to enjoy the circus, get lost in fairyland and even make a trip to the National capital; or to boldly enter the domain of other myths for a tryst with King Kong or Hercules or purloining the wonderful lamp from Alladin? Tarzan had a ball of a time in the 60s in India.
John Guillermin’s Tarzan Goes To India got an Indian avatar as well. An enterprising producer thought of doing a mix and match of scenes from the English movie (which featured Feroz Khan and Simi) with newly shot scenes with other Indian actors to create a version called Tarzan Mera Saathi in 1974, complete with a few songs by Shankar Jaikishan. What we finally got was this:
From John Cawas in the 30s to Hemant Birje in the 80s, Tarzan in India traversed a long way. But one actor who became synonymous with Tarzan was Azad. Not only did he play Tarzan in most of the films in the 60s, he also played Zimbo, another character inspired by Tarzan, in several films like Zimbo, Zimbo Finds A Son and Zimbo Comes To Town . In the 30s we had another Tarzan inspired character called Zambo that resulted in two films - Zambo The Ape Man and Zambo Ka Beta.
Many of these Tarzan films had decent music. Sample some of the songs:
Toofani Tarzan (1937): A bathing song featuring Gulshan, a bold actress from the 1930s
Rocket Tarzan (1963): A lovely melody by Suman Kalyanpur
Tarzan & Captain Kishore (1964): Geeta Dutt & Mahendra Kapoort having fun in this duet
Tarzan & Delilah (1964): Usha Mangeshkar sounding sweet in this semi-classical song.
Tarzan Aur Jalpari (1964) - Asha Bhosle singing a Suresh Kumar melody, embellished with orchestration that is typically 60s.
Tarzan & Circus (1965) - A rare gem from Husnalal Bhagatram towards the fag end of their career as music directors
Tarzan & King Kong (1965): Belo Bose dancing in the villain’s den (?)
Tarzan Comes to Delhi (1965) - A delectable melody by Dattaram
Tarzan & Hercules (1966) - Krishna Kalle singing praises of the weather.
Tarzan Aur Jaadui Chiragh (1966) - Suman Kalyanpur dancing in front of a tribal deity.
Tarzan Ki Mehbooba (1966): An Shankar Jaikishan like composition by Suresh Kumar in Suman Kalyanpur’s voice.
Tarzan in Fairyland (1966): A qawwali in the voices of Mohd. Rafi & Kamal Barot