Sunday, July 13, 2008

Wondering 2050

Ever got that feeling? The one wherein you say something and instantly know that it is going to turn out the other way? I get it all the time. The most recent one was this Friday. While leaving early, (6pm is early by my standards) I was listing the benefits of bus travel to a colleague. The fact that I get the same seat every time and I can book just days in advance flew fine. Then there was the detail about the bus completing the 486 km Mumbai-Ahmadabad journey in 9 hours. Something in my mind tingled, a mark of an ill omen, soon forgotten. So when the bus started at 11pm, 2 hours late, I gave the in-bus movie a pass in exchange for some much needed sleep. So this article is not about ‘De Taali’ (a few scenes of Ms. Takia cooking something, strangely did register in my mind, more because they seemed too unreal)

Beep! Beep! 6:00 a.m. seemed determined to break through my sleep. Just in time to see the Volvo bus hit the Ahmadabad-Baroda expressway. The Volvo bus makes short work of this 100 km stretch, so it is fun to watch. I have the ‘cockpit seat', so the only thing, that I always catch myself waiting for, is a takeoff. Sadly Boeing 747s need to get to at least 180 km/h to do that and Volvo buses don’t seem to fly. I looked out of my window to check the NHAI signboards. None were around. Instead a tiny milestone said, ‘Rajpipla 59 km’

The jet engines, waiting for take-off in my mind, ground to a painfully screeching halt. “Where the hell is Rajpipla?” 4th standard geography kicking in, (yeah, I probably am 'Panchvi Pass'that was a town 100 km due south of Baroda. Ahmadabad is 100 km due north of Baroda. The driver confirmed. Somewhere in the night, they found that there was a big traffic jam on the regular route. A traffic jam, that is 22 km long, is certainly a big jam. So here I was on an unfamiliar 2 lane road instead of the 6 lane expressway and a movie to contend with. This time it turned out to be 'Love Story 2050'

Let me be forthcoming. I am not a Hindi movie fan. After ‘Saavariya’, which I would recommend as an excellent torture device, I steer clear of Hindi movies. Still the sci-fi fan, the concept of a futuristic love-story (sic) had its attraction. I knew what the story was. Guy and girl fall in love in present day. Girl gets bumped off; guy teleports to future; finds the girl’s clone and falls in love all over. Pretty boring. I thought the sci-fi would make it interesting. So I watch on. Starting is pretty slow. Then we get to the boy meets girl. He sings a song. ‘Woo you’- ‘woo me’ sequences follow. My mind screams, “Can we get onto the sci-fi part? Hello? Ever heard of the fast-forward button?” Nope. This still continues. I get distracted. I look out. I spy a sign. ‘Rajpipla 42 km’ The movie is slow, so is my journey. Then I notice something else. The milestone also says, 'SH-64'. State Highway? You call a 1½ lane bumpy road a State highway? I cringe. Powers Ferry road in Atlanta is 3 lanes at worst and better surfaced. I don’t even start thinking about the I-285 and I-75 Interstates. These are 2050 A.D. away.

That brings me back to the movie. Still there is nothing. The song and dance sequences continue. Can the girl capitulate please? And get onto the part where she dies? Then something outside catches my attention. The road meanders into a village. There’s a cart. But this one is different. The ones I am used to seeing, in the semi-rural locality that I grew up in, are ones with neoprene truck tires. This one has wooden wheels. Then another one appears. Last I saw these, was when I went to a rural themed restaurant. I wonder if I just did a ‘Back to the Future – 3’ to be teleported back in time. But we were not doing 88 mph on that road. No way we could have gone that fast. Then we passed a group of small school children. They waved and whistled at the bus as if it was a stranger to their part of the region. Back to the movie, the girl is still alive. Is this movie about 2050 or 2008? But then Boman Irani is introduced. Wearing a ridiculously funny wig, he does a bad imitation of Doc Brown from ‘Back to the Future’. I silently run the second movie in my head, till we finally get to the point where we are almost at Rajpipla and its time for the gal to die.

It is time for a 'Physics+medical' lesson for the story writers. A bus (or dumpster if that what it was) travelling at a velocity enough to kill a person will always cause a good amount of external injuries. If I recall correctly, the gal dies an unimaginably badly acted death (sorry P.C., need to do better!) It was so bad, that the VCD player decided to strangle itself and died too. I guess there are other things than Vogon poetry that can kill a machine and I just had discovered one.

Luckily that spared the rest of us from the movie’s actual sci-fi part. Apparently, they did copy 'Back to the Future-2' to end up in the future. It is said that copying from one source is plagiarism. From multiple sources is research. So yes, the people who made this film deserve an A- for research. An F for the report though. Basing my understanding of the sci-fi from the song cuts and movie trailers that I saw, they decided to copy 'The Fifth Element' Note to the casting team. Mila Jovovich is Mila Jovovich. When she is cast as the red head Leeloo, she looks fantastic. P.C. doesn’t even come close. Also, New York 2263 A.D. is not Mumbai 2050 A.D. And we are not going to see flying cars, except if they are flying off the flyovers. But we are doing that already!

The robot friends of the latter day gal are mindlessly culled from other flicks. AI’s brown teddy looks cute. The pink one looks like a cheap Chinese imitation with lead based paints. Did that actually cause the red-head syndrome? The other robots look straight out of 'The Day the Earth Stood Still', the 1951 version. And I was talking about Gort not Klaatu. You would have seen it if you watched ‘Independence Day’ (the kid was watching the movie inside the RV). Bicentennial man was better rendered and it was Robin Williams behind the mask.

Frankly put, I have seen Indian television come up with better sci-fi way back in late 1980s. Those of you who remember ‘Space Station Sigma’, (yeah, it was a Star Trek rip-off, but a better worked out one) had way better robots. Oh also ‘Indradhanush’ had better stories of time travel than LS2050. Next time Bollywood wants to do a sci-fi flick, please take out the time to move out of the Film city and trek to IIT Mumbai across the Powai Lake. Spend a few hours in their first year hostels. They will give you better designs of robots than the clank-jobs you came up with. And yes, theirs’ will be remote operated with a full facial expressions suite.

Back to the road, a torturous journey completed, we finally head out of Baroda with signs saying, ‘Ahmedabad-Baroda Expressway 1 km’. The jet engines in my mind start rolling again. As for the movie, (since it is customary to rate it with stars), just go pick as many you want from the ones the viewers would have seen after stepping out of the movie theatre. The last thing you are going to see in Mumbai 2050 is a flying car. Fortunately there won’t be any reporters reporting that 2050 is here yet the redhead star with a stupid pink teddy isn’t. That is better left to the Orwellian 1984. Fortunately, Leeloo would be another 113 years into the future then. Else she’d have not bought into Korben Dallas’ words that ‘Love is worth saving’ Not after Love Story 2050. Or maybe she’d have just slapped P.C. and the makeup artists saying, “Senno Ekto Gamat” (“Never without my permission”)

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