A still from Vikrant Massey and Shweta Tripathi Sharma-starrer sci-fi film, Cargo.
A still from Vikrant Massey and Shweta Tripathi Sharma-starrer sci-fi film, Cargo.

Sci-fi genre in India: Much fanfare but why so sparse?

There have been films such as Krrish franchise, Robot franchise, Ra.One (2011) and other regional language films in the recent year, but the genre could never really take off in India like it has in the west.
Hindustan Times | By Juhi Chakraborty
UPDATED ON SEP 27, 2020 01:51 PM IST

When we think of the sci-fi genre, our mind immediately starts listing the many, many Hollywood films and series that are made every year but when it comes to home grown content, one really has to think hard. Yes, there have been films such as Krrish franchise, Robot franchise, Ra.One (2011) and other regional language films such as Tamil films Tik Tik Tik (2018) and 24 (2016) in the recent year, but the genre could never really take off in India like it has in the west.

“From my experience the benchmark for sci-fi are indeed these big budget Hollywood films and their scale actually acts as a stumbling block, as it is tough for local producers to put that much amount of confidence (in terms of money) in any home-grown story. Also the Hollywood narratives (superheroes, futuristic world), do not culturally fit in the Indian context and the early films were very derivative and tacky imitations of these stories and their failure was seen as the genre’s failure,” says filmmaker Arati Kadav, whose debut sci-fi film, Cargo which released on Netflix has been getting rave reviews. 

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Shalindar Vyas, who directed sci-fi web series JL50 on SonyLiv, agrees that in India there is not enough home grown sci-fi genre films. He shares that when he started writing JL-50, his focus was to represent to the audience the strong connection India always had with science.

“However, every time I would discuss about time travel topics I was manipulated by most that ye sab India mein nahi chalta, which dragged me to study Indian history to understand the importance of science within our heritage lifestyle n tradition then and now. And no surprise, I was so elated to learn how rich India is when it comes to scientific conclusions. Yet past few years we have been rejecting logical science treating it as foreign trend and guest like reference. Somewhere or the other we too fail to project this genre,” Vyas says. 

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Kadav also points out that the biggest challenge that she faced and something that all sci-fi writers do is the question- ‘will people get it’ and hence it directly impacts the stories one tries to tell or even the budgets our stories get.

But with the rise of the OTT platforms, now this genre might just get a fresh lease of life. “There have been projects on and off but may be the kind of production that one is used to seeing in sci-fi genre because of Hollywood is what makes Bollywoood may be look dim in comparison. But may be with the OTT platforms, there will be more scope of that happening,” trade analyst Atul Mohan says.

Even actors are embracing this genre wholeheartedly. Actor Shweta Tripathi Sharma, who stars in Cargo, says, “It is not every day that an actor in India gets to be a part of a sci-fi film so I grabbed the film with both hands. The big relief was that we got a release. Some films should be seen on the big screen and Cargo is one such film. In theatres it would have been just magical. But nonetheless It is a new way forward and I think it will pave way to a lot of other filmmakers and arbiters to actually get into this genre more now than ever before.”

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