Posted by: kcgadiyar | December 6, 2010

Reasons for a lack of Sci-fi movies in Bollywood

This post has been lying in my drafts for over 4 months now. I finally just decided to polish it as best as i could and post it. I don’t know why, but for some reason, i never found my voice writing this post or the tone for the post. Probably a very bad case of writer’s block.

Anyway, the idea for this post came about in a discussion i had with a few friends after watching “Inception” and we began outlining the reasons we thought India doesn’t make sci-fi movies. Those reasons were then whittled down to these five, namely:

1. Language issues

Sample this quote from Inception:

Cobb: You create the world of the dream. We bring the subject into that dream and fill it with their subconscious.
Ariadne: How could I ever acquire enough detail to make them think that it’s reality?
Cobb: Our dreams, they feel real while we’re in them right? Its only when we wake up then we realize that something was actually strange!

To the point, and succinctly summarizes what the basic concept of dreaming is.

Let’s get slightly more complex, from The Matrix:

Agent Smith: I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you’re not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You’re a plague and we are the cure.

Now, try what a similar exchange might sound like in a Hindi movie. It might be our colonial mindset, but English dialogues or even expositionary dialogue sounds wrong coming from a Hindi actor. We manage to get away with a lot of “Schizophrenia” and “Plastic surgery” explanations in movies because they are typically glossed over. But when the central plot of a movie depends on exposition, we tend to get pulled out. Even if we do manage to get out of the mindset, we collide into the second roadblock, namely:

2. Production values

I recently saw “Action Replayy”, it was a fun movie which did not take itself seriously, also it was a copy of “Back to the future”. Now here is the strange part, “Back to the future” looked slicker – from the time travel to the establishment of the atmosphere of the period to most other things, and BTTF was made 25 years ago.

If we cannot match the production values of a 25 year old movie, how are we expected to have a “Matrix” or “Inception” within the next few years? Also, i will admit “Robot” looked really good, but would it have had the same investment if Rajni wasn’t starring in it? Doubtful.

I know that investing too much money on a movie is a risky proposition, one only needs to look at “Kites” to see that a lot of money and good publicity do not guarantee a hit. But if you are claiming that the hero has time travelled to the year 2050, then you better make sure 2050 dazzles us completely. For an example of how not to do this, you can watch “Love story 2050” – on second thought, no one should watch Love story 2050, i don’t want to subject anyone who stumbles on this post to that abomination and waste 3 and a half hours of their life.

The future, ladies and gentlemen

3. Lowest common denominator

Priyadarshan in a recent interview said the following: “Because of high literacy levels, you can have a lot of unsaid stuff in Malayalam films, but for Hindi audience you have to explain most of the things. That’s why all my Hindi adaptations have one reel extra!”

If Priyadashan, the same guy who makes movies which end with all the characters who appeared in it (if even for just a second) running around in circles around each other says that his movies need to be explained to the hindi audience, what chance do filmmakers who want to make sci-fi movies have? (Ok, granted, he has also made “Virasat” and “Kyun Ki..”, but neither of them was a particularly hard story to follow.) Hmmm… Maybe that is the reason Love Story 2050 was that long.

The height of intelligent cinema, ladies and gentlemen

4. Existing movie structures

The biggest obstacle to a sci-fi movie being made is the existing movie structure. You necessarily need to have 5-6 songs, a clear (or what passes for clear) plot (or what passes for plot), a hero, a heroine, a villain and so on and so forth.

With a sci-fi flick, you will have to forgo a lot of that. The songs for one will mainly have to be background pieces with no lip-syncing or plain music. Having no songs to market doesn’t work well for movies. The traditional story structure cannot be followed since a lot of time will have to be spent setting-up the story and a romantic angle will either be underdeveloped or not present at all.

I am not saying this cannot be done, it can, in fact Rakesh Roshan accomplished exactly that with “Koi Mil Gaya” and “Krissh”. It is just that no one followed his example to push the envelope further.

5. Failure of previous attempts

Now, i may have derided Love Story 2050 in this post, but credit where credit is due – Harry Baweja tried something different. The fact that it turned into a reported 70 crore bomb is a different thing altogether. That is the main obstacle to sci-fi being made in India – Huge budgets need to be invested and there is no good track record for sci-fi movies in India.

Also, let’s face it – “Robot” was more a hit due to Rajnikanth than anything else. Until there is a standalone sci-fi hit whose success cannot be attributed to other factors, it is strongly doubtful that the state of the Science fiction movie in India is going to improve.

Until Next Time,




  1. Which slot would you put Koi Mil Gaya and Krrrish ??

    • I do count them as sci-fi, and Koi Mil Gaya is pretty good Bollywood sci-fi as well. Krissh has a good concept underneath but is basically a superhero movie.

  2. So… well i stumbled onto this thru ur klueless blog and went thru it just for the heck of it… coz i remebered a similar discussion me and a few of my frns have after watching almost every sci fi flick.. not sure if u posted the reason in any particular order… but i would’ve put the LCD at the top and the language next..
    I mean a simple fantasy sentence like “If u r hit by plasma, ur blood evaporates like water at 200 degrees” wud sound way way weird in Hindi. Hell! I don’t even know the hindi word for plasma. And the mindset.. Yes.. and I agree with Priyadarshan… It can be seen prevalent across the industry.. Mindless movies do a lot better than movies that leave u thinking.. Or movies where u need to figure out wht the director is trying to say….

    Kinda long for a comment.. Wl leave u here.. Liked ur blog.. Will probably go thru ur other entries…

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