Introducing : Grand Master Robo! Or The Portrait of a Badass
We have spoken about everyone’s favourite Super Commando Dhruv earlier, we now take you deeper into his richly populated world by bringing you face to face with his biggest villain – Grand Master Robo. But beware, this man’s face shoots lasers.
Grand Master Robo appeared in the fifth isssue of Dhruv called ‘Maut Ka Olympic’, in which an international syndicate of criminals descend on the shore of Rajnagar to play a sport of Crime where criminals of each nation earn points by committing crimes. Robo appears only in a couple of frames at the end of the story when it is revealed that he is the N Srinivasan of these Crime Olympics.
He finally burst onto the scene with a nuclear explosion (literally) in his eponymous comic book, and thus clearly adds a distinction between himself and a normal Gangster. Robo is the boss of an Organized Mafia. He controls a huge crime syndicate a la old hindi film villains of 70s and 80s complete with multiple secret hideouts and expendable henchmen. And he commands respect and fear from his followers.
Part cyborg and part human, Grand Master Robo does not shy away from jumping into the fray himself or getting his hands dirty. He frequently uses his laser-emitting eye to exterminate enemies at will. And he usually gets away with it, except when confronted by a pesky youg man named SCD.
Keeping up with the overall Science-y theme of Dhruv, most of the villains were scientists or doctors or professors or people with technology at their disposal (In Chumba ka Chakarvyuh, Chumba unleashed Death, magnetic). Robo too (being half Robot and overall) was tech savvy, using mind control chips and an arsenal of multiple weapons along with deviously designed vehicles and escape pods. Robo was futuristic, and there was no ‘magic’ or divine intervention involved in his powers.
Except the equation between Grand Master Robo and SCD is not you run of the mill hero-villain story. There is something positively Shakespearean about it since Robo also happens to be the father of Natasha, a reporter who was Dhruv’s de-facto love interest in the earlier comics and who through a series of incidences beyond her control is implicated in crimes she doesn’t commit and turns to the dark side to join her father’s empire as Commander Natasha (we promise will do a deep dive into that later when we write a piece on Natasha).
When we talked about Dhruv we also mentioned how Anupam Sinha created arcs which continued for several comics in back-stories, by extremely skilled story telling Robo was entrenched into the life of SCD, as he appeared from time to time as a puppeteer controlling crime in Rajnagar in a bid to get his daughter back. So along with the one-shots featuring other villains, there was an entire mass of story which moved forward setting up clashes between Robo and Dhruv and changing the fate of Natasha. And in the course of the comics we get to know through Robo his backstory which he narrates to his daughter in the comics called ‘Commander Natasha’, talking about his life in England as a strongman called Robert Sheen who used his physical strength to lead a life of crime.
After a thoroughly violent dust-up he turns up half-burnt at the house of Dr Shilder (no connection to Schindler) and is shielded from his enemies. Dr Shilder is fortunately a cybernetics expert and shapes Robert Sheen into half man-half machine (power extreme), but addition of mechanical body parts makes Robo an angry bald guy, who is constantly irritated and despite getting married to the Doctor’s beautiful girlfriend returns to a life of Fedora hats and trench coats and crime.
If Dhruv was a videogame, Robo would be a primary antagonist who would appear in many levels along with other bosses to make life hell for SCD. In fact in the epic arc of Hatyara Kaun and Maine Maara Dhruv ko it turns out that among all the villains it was he would was actually telling the truth. And while most villains of Dhruv spend a lot of time in Naarca Prison and returned after many many comics, Robo was almost omnipresent as a sinister threat.
There are two sides to Robo which need to be discussed, he was also a conflicted villain. While he plotted a way to make Natasha return to a life of crime he himself contemplated leaving crime forever and leading a normal life. In fact in the end of ‘Commander Natasha’ in a truly tragic turn of events it’s Natasha who tells her father to not relinquish his life of crime since there is more honour among thieves than in Dhruv’s world. This also was an offshoot of Dhruv being a dick and believing that Natasha had something to do with a murder (in effect offending a woman, something you should do at your own peril) but we have promised we will talk about it later in detail.
The writer of this article remembers at least three more instances where Robo wanted to retire his laser-eye and has also on a couple of occasions expressed interest or given his approval to Dhruv as a prospective son in law, but in a mirror of the story of his daughter he tends to keep on returning to a life of crime. Although Robo has at times also helped SCD when the survival of Earth was at stake in the comics ‘Vinaash’ because his logic was if Earth gets destroyed he would not be able to conquer it.
The present stage of Robo is that he is semi-retired, he has been out of action for some time but he would be sitting somewhere oiling his mechanical arms itching for a return. And with his volatile state of mind it is possible that he can return either as a hero or a villain, in either of his avatars he cannot be trusted because for more than thirty years in comics he remains the baddest baddass there is.