'Spiderman can even fight cancer'
With bated breath, a gasp every now and then, and popcorn spilling on their laps, a gaggle of young and old cancer patients cheered Spider-Man as he swung onto Indian screens on Friday.
As "Spider-Man 2" opened across India, one of the first shows at New Delhi's swank PVR Saket multiplex was in aid of the Cancer Patients Aid Association.
More than a dozen cancer patients gathered to watch the film along with the regular audience. When the show started, toothless women in saris clapped alongside kids jumping up and down as the masked superhero spun his web, flinging from building to building, bringing down villains - and the auditorium.
"He is so good!" said 12-year-old Sophia, eyes wide open. "And so handsome," exclaimed the little girl in the white dress as Spider-Man flung off his mask revealing actor Toby McGuire.
Critics have called Spider-Man a marvellous exciting character because in spite of his supernatural powers, he retains all human anxieties and insecurities.
The audience clearly loves him for his failings and success.
As Peter Parker (the part-time science student and photojournalist whose magical powers make him Spider-Man) gets bad grades, almost loses his girlfriend, struggles to pay his rent, tries to help his poor aunt with her mortgage and fails to deliver pizza on time - there were long faces on the dark seats.
The more he failed, the more the audience identified with him.
"He is just like us," said Manoj, 18. "He is being hurt by all these people in the world and doesn't know what to do about it. He is a nice guy and has lots of problems."
Added Ruby: "That's like us, we have so many problems too. We also fight everyday."
As Spider-Man fought frustrated genius Dr. Ock, with his tentacle-like mechanical arms, across the hall, people moved to the edge of their seats.
Every time the web failed to spring loose from his arms and Spider-Man fell, plunging as if to his death in the zigzagging traffic, there were gasps.
But when he finally won, his jumpsuit torn and bloodied by the effort, everyone smiled and some whistled.
"I believe in Spider-Man," said Manju, in her mid-20s and grinning widely. "When you see him, so human and yet so powerful, so vulnerable and yet so magnificent, you believe he can fight anything."
Quipped Sophia: "Of course, I'm sure he can fight cancer too."