Last Sunday, I was teleported into a South Delhi cinema to find myself in front of a screen watching the new Star Trek movie and delivering a hyperactive commentary to the person next to me. Understandably, she kept telling me to shut up. It was just that I was terribly excited and, as is wont with Trekkies, was showing off my knowledge about the many inter-stellar voyages of the starship Enterprise. After all, they don’t teach you this stuff at the IITs.
In the battle of aesthetics between Star Trek and Star Wars, I’ve always favoured the nerdy sci-fi-wired — and cheesy — television series created by Gene Roddenberry in the 60s over the swashbuckling space operas by George Lucas and his special effects gnomes. (J.J. Abrams, director of the new Star Trek, however, admits being a bigger Star Wars fan.) Compared to the franchise toys-made-flesh characters of Darth Vader, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and the Meira Kumar-like Jedi Master Yoda, give me the Lennon-McCartney of outer space, Captain James T. Kirk and Mr Spock, any day. (I never considered any of the later series, like The Next Generation with the stentorian Captain Jean-Luc Piccard and comic-relief android Data, to be really Star Trek.)
The new Star Trek, the 11th big-screen movie since the first one in 1979, is a prequel — but with a twist. Not only does the film deal with a backstory that shows us what happened ‘right at the beginning’, but it also uses the conceit of time travel to present an ‘alternate reality’ of how things were when the crew started out into space. Which is just as well, considering that only in an ‘alternate universe’ scenario can I come to terms with the fact that my hero, Mr Spock, the half-human, half-Vulcan first officer who keeps his ‘earthly’ emotions in check by his cold ‘Vulcan’ logic, kisses a girl back in the movie. (The other good thing is that this Captain Kirk is unlikely to ever look like the seriously bloated William Shatner any time in the distant future.)
But Star Trek 2009 got me thinking about prequels and their innate charms, most dramatically showcased in the Star Wars trilogy that started with The Phantom Menace where we meet young Anakin Skywalker much, much before he turns into the asthmatic, dressed for some serious S&M Lord Vader.
So here are some prequels that we could take a crack at. Imagine along and prosper.
* A 30-year-old Manmohan Singh, after completing his economics DPhil from Oxford, works at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad). While on a visit to Unctad headquarters in Geneva, he gets into a minor argument with a young whippersnapper from Edinburgh University, Prakash Karat. Unable to respond to the youngster’s jibes against Ian Malcolm David Little, Singh’s old supervisor at Nuffield College, Singh promises himself that he will join public service and one day kick this little twerp’s ass.
* An 11-year-old Lal Krishna Advani, student at St Patrick’s High School for Boys in Karachi, has his tiffin snatched by a senior. If a lost lunch isn’t bad enough, the bully insists that Lal Krishna is too ‘angrez’ and hates being a Hindu. When he moves to Hyderabad in Sindh with his family some four years later, Lal Krishna immediately joins the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. That makes him feel so much better.
* In 1960, the meeting with Barack Obama, a Kenyan economics student with a British accent at the University of Hawaii, and the Dunham family, goes off moderately well. The Dunhams, nervous about their daughter Stanley Ann bringing home this man from the small village of Nyang’oma Kogelo in Kenya, ends up impressed. But it is a wise decision on the part of the young couple to keep the fact to themselves that Barack is already married and a father of a child.
* A five-year-old Karan Johar is taken to the cinema to see the latest Manmohan Desai blockbuster Dharam-Veer starring Dharmendra and Jitendra. Till now, young Karan enjoyed playing with toy soldiers, was developing an interest in cricket (even having a poster of Sunil Gavaskar on his bedroom wall) and had a secret crush on Neetu Aunty (after seeing her and Chintu Uncle once when the two had come for his parents’ anniversary party). After seeing the Dharam-Veer jodi (especially Dharmendra in a frock), everything changes for cute little KJo.