Whenever my brother comes back home from his college in Delhi, the two things ge brings back without fail are some Grade A drugs, and a list of the most mindf*cking movies that are bound to bother me for days. The drugs thing is a joke BTW. Sorry mum.
After watching great films like Predestination and Wild Tales, we reached arguably the greatest sci-fi film ever made: Primer.
Two things immediately perplexed me about the film. First, the complexity of the plot which requires five viewings, two PhD's and some NZT-48 pills to actually understand. And secondly, how it managed to keep its audience hooked in spite of the heavily technical vocabulary and complex plot. Please note - "complex" is an understatement.
Usually, once a film gets too complicated for its audience the latter gets emotionally severed and is no longer invested in the film. But with Primer, for some reason, the audience wants to know more. They crave for answers that they might not even get at the end of the film.
How can something so confusing hold so much re-watch value?
It's because it shows us human weakness. Vanity, greed, jealousy. Right after they discover time travel, the characters in the film go back in time and invest knowingly in the stock market.
When they make this decision, the audience doesn't immediately antagonize the protagonists because the decision does lie in a moral gray area. But as the plot progresses and their use of this technology continues you do begin to question where you would draw the line.
The beauty of science fiction is even when something could massively alter our quotidian life it'll never be able to alter our intrinsic human nature. The exploration of this human nature has proved successful in numerous other films in providing poignant undertones of social commentary. This is also a reason why Indian Sci-Fi fails because it still caters to escapism. Focused on how to make it as unrealistic as possible rather than genuine.
I always wonder why, even after such a strong maturation of the Indian film industry, we still primarily have massively underwhelming projects like Taarzan: The Wonder Car and Love Story 2050 to boast as part of our contribution to the science fiction genre in cinema.
Even though shit loads of money was dumped into visual effects for projects like Krrish and Ra.One, the final product was highly unsatisfactory. And it all resulted from terrible source materials that just rehashed every superhero cliche in the book.
Those films would fall under the superhero genre rather than Sci-Fi, but does that mean that Sci-Fi projects aren't being produced because of financial concerns.
I wouldn't think so if you consider how Primer was made. Shane Carruth, the one man filmmaker who wrote, directed, produced, lit, edited, composed and starred in this cult classic, sold his car for 7000 dollars to make the film.
The dearth of good Sci-Fi films in the country could be directly attributed to how little credit writers are actually given.
To say that the audience wouldn't be able to grasp and appreciate Sci-Fi is a bull-shit statement no doubt. But for a majority of the Indian audience, Bollywood still operates as a source of escapism. A place to lose oneself in the affluence and the romance that isn't really available to most. Not judging.
However as the Indian film industry finds more ways to break free of the shackles of conventionality, more challenging projects will emerge and pave a new path.
Writers can't be trained to write for the box office. As KK Menon once said in an interview regarding this, "You have to make a fridge and then learn how to market it. Not the other way around."
There is hard hitting cinema that is being made even though it's not Sci-Fi. I mean I can't force my preferences over other people but my God if people would let me rule the world I'd do such a good job. Or maybe that's just the drugs talking (still joking mum).
Scribe: Veer Shetty
Captain's Log: Veer Shetty is a 18-year-old kid out of school with too much free time on his hands. As he hastily applies to film school, he is currently writing and directing short films, jamming with his friends and nerding it up Padawan stylez with Geek Fruit.