As a gigantic fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I couldn’t wait to watch “Black Panther.” The movie was all kinds of glorious. In executing the story of this Wakandan superhero from the comics to big screen, director Ryan Coogler and all the actors did a phenomenal job. The music and background score added a whole other level to the narrative. It broke boundaries because it’s the first big-budget superhero movie to feature an almost entirely black cast. However, one of the scenes that made me sit upright in my seat was the dialogue “Glory to Hanuman.” I can’t help it, man, I’m an Indian Hindu. It hit the right note!
We are shown that Wakanda has five tribes, four of whom worship Bast, the panther God and live under the rule of the King of Wakanda/Black Panther. The fifth tribe, the Jabari, refused to do so centuries ago and decided to live in the mountains instead. They thrived despite this because of the wood from a sacred tree which has vibranium seeped into it. They believe is a gift from the ape God or Hanuman. And Lord Hanuman is actually a deity in Hinduism.
While this aspect wasn’t delved into in the movie, we see that the Jabari territories are covered in statues of Hanuman. They are even vegetarians. The tribe leader M’Baku (Winston Duke) is draped in clothes made of fur and designed to look gorilla-like.
In the movie, M’Baku initially fights the prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) to claim the throne after the latter’s father’s death. That’s when we hear him chant ‘Glory to Hanuman.’ T’Challa emerges victorious and M’Baku surrenders. However, when King T’Challa is later threatened by the presence of his cousin Erik Stevens aka Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan), he goes to the Jabari tribe for help. It’s here that we first see their living situations and learn more about their love for Hanuman.
It was pretty interesting to witness all of it played out on the big screen, even if it was for such a short time. Viewers in India didn’t get even that much. The Central Board of Film Certification of India decided to mute the reference to Hanuman from audio and subtitles, fearing it would hurt certain sentiments. The CBFC is known to be notoriously careful and cutting scenes from Hollywood movies involving nudity and sex (“Blade Runner 2049”) to muting cuss words (“Baywatch”), even when none of them really need high levels scrutiny. It’s disappointing.
The Jabari tribe and especially M’Baku stood out in the movie for eventually showing off his heroic sides and siding with T’Challa in the final war against Killmonger. This story varies from the comic books, in which M’Baku is way more villainous. There is also no mention of Hanuman in the comics. The ape God is named Gerkha, the central figure in the cult of the White Gorilla, a religion banned from Wakanda but practiced by the Jabari’s.
I assume this change was to appease Indian fans of the MCU, of which I can assure you there are plenty. It’s disappointing that my fellow desis in the homeland didn’t experience that “holy wow, they shouted out to Lord Hanuman in this already barrier-breaking movie” moment. I do wish they would’ve explored the Jabari tribe’s religion more because it’s not something we get to see often but in this case, I’ll take what I can get. Plus, it’s not the last we’ll be seeing of M’Baku or the Jabari. They will return with MCU’s next big release, “The Avengers: Infinity War” on May 4, 2018.