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Science Fiction and Fantasy | An Indian Experience

Koi Mil Gaya A Review by M H Srinarahari | Adbhut.in
Issue 8

Koi Mil Gaya A Review by M H Srinarahari

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The Present Trend

Though India has progressed in a number of regions, little progress has been done in the area of Science Fiction. Is it because, Indians lack the technology or are they interested only in profitable regions? The answer is in negative. India is mainly an agricultural country and here the labour is cheap. Hence, the impact of industrialization is lately felt in this country. Due to the second wave of the movement in the eighties, India has shown tremendous progress in the software engineering, medical research and biotechnology.  In this regard, the SF movie Koi Mil Gaya (directed by Rakesh Roshan) is a milestone in the path of progress of the country.

Mythological films

Before discussing about the film, let us have a background about the mythological films. Filmmakers in India have produced a number of mythological films in various Indian languages. For example, the Hindu epics – the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha are the rich storehouses of myth and magic. The filmgoers are reminded of many magical instances like the war scenes, the magic carpets, the magical rods, and others. In the early days of talkie movies, fantasy/magic oriented films were produced and directed by Mr.Vittalacharya. Originally these films were made in Telugu and later were dubbed into other Indian language movies.

The exquisite architectural structures are described in the Mahabharatha. On the one hand, it also describes at length the floors like glass and water, which is often, confused one for the other. On the other hand, there is the description of a palace built out of wax. In addition, films of this kind have rightly acknowledged the expertise of the ancient architect Vishwakarma (a mythical character).

The films in the sixties have shown imaginary worlds with imaginary beings like the paradise, the pathala (an imaginary world in the centre of the Earth), the fairy worlds like Gandharva lok (lok means world), Yaksha lok, Kinnara lok, Mathsya lok ((Underwater world in which the aquatic beings have human bodies in their upper part and the lower part resembles the scales of fishes. They usually have divine qualities), Chandra lok (the Moon), Naga lok (The world of snakes) and others. Indian myths usually are associated with the coexistence of human beings with other forms of life. For example, one can visit any Hindu temple, it can be observed that the Hindu gods are created with the combinations of man/women bodies with the faces of elephants, lions, pigs, monkeys, and others. The female gods are of two types namely, divine and awesome. Invariably, the second type of gods is endowed with a variety of weapons holding each in of their ten hands. Each god has his/her own vehicle like varying from lion to mouse. Dashavathara a film produced in all the Indian languages describe the ten avatars (reincarnation) of the god Vishnu. In each of his avatar the god kills the evil and protects the good. Just like the Science fiction themes, the evil used to be monsters (the aliens in sci-fi- non-human in form) and the good used to be the human beings but with an exception. They are invariably the devotees of that particular god or goddess.

The concept of air travel could be traced back to the depiction of  ‘pushpaka vimana’ (The earliest record in the history of humankind – the airplane belonging to the richest among the Hindu gods – Kubera- in the Ramayana). Technological gadgets and vehicles like magical carpets, a sofa, a cot and others were made use of in films where men were required to transport them to the other worlds. In most of the films a few lines of incantation of Vedic hymns were sufficient to transport the protagonist, saints, and gods, representatives of gods from one world to the other. Interstellar travel is very common in these mythological films. In fact, Narada a character in those films is often addressed as thrilok sanchari– meaning thereby one who could travel in all the three conventional worlds, namely, the Earth, Paradise and the Hell or the underground world. Makkala Sainya is the first social Kannada movie in which travel to the Moon and life on the satellite is depicted ridiculously.

The time-travel concept of H.G.Wells’ time machine is made use of in a Telugu language – spoken in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh – film named “Adithya”. The protagonist goes back to the court of the king Krishnadevaraya who had ruled the Vijayanagar Empire. They have also shown us the war weapons, which could chase the antagonist and instantaneously kill him wherever he might be. The well known among them is Vishnu Chakra- the circular disc weapon of god Vishnu – the preserver of human beings. (Brahma is the creator and Eshwara is the destroyer according to the Hindu mythology.) Each war scene has the special effects in which they have exhibited weapons, which could bring rain, fire, and total destruction.

In the Mahabharath, though the King Dritharashtra is visually handicapped, he is endowed with special powers at the time of the war. His half brother Sanjaya makes the king to witness war as if it was like the live telecast of Iran-Iraq war.

In addition, one can recall the use of science and technology in films while showing the use of different kinds of arrows used in war. These arrows have shown how much destruction they could make to the opponents. They could bring instantaneous rain, fire and could have split the Earth or the sky into a number of pieces. There were arrows, which could also bring total destruction. On the contrary, the arrows of the protagonist could neutralize the effect. In a social entertaining film Muqabla, particularly in the sequence in which there is the title song, one can see a transformation of the man into a machine and vice versa. Thus, technology plays an important roll in the films.

People have witnessed a film named paras mani (meaning thereby a precious stone) in which paras mani could bring back life and restore youth.  Similarly, a number of films have focused on longevity of life and reincarnation.  The prolongation of life span could be witnessed if one studies the character of Bhishma. Similarly, the body could also expand as per the need of the hour. To cite a few examples, study the character of Hanuman in the Ramayana (His tail expands to unlimited length at the court of Ravana in Srilanka); the Vishwaroopa darshan of Lord Krishna in Bhagawatha; the body becomes compressed in case of Shuklacharya in Dashavathara and others. Experimentation with regard to the test tube babies has been recorded in Mahabharatha such as the birth of Dronacharya.

These are the cross-sections of the study of the Hindu mythology. In the past, particularly during the Vedic age, magic played an important roll. Since it seems to have roots in science and have been narrated in fictional form, could we brand them as Science Fiction?

What is Science Fiction?

The components of a story are in its narration of a number of incidents in a logical manner. In other words, it may also be made up of many ideas. The major idea is called a theme around which a story is woven. If such themes are based on science or scientific principle, an experiment, a project, a mental one or an exploration of such ideas, then we can name it as Science Fiction. Under these conditions, the mythological incidents and gadgets cannot be called a product of science, as it could not be proved scientifically. They are all called ‘Proto-Science Fiction’ or Er-Science Fiction.

There are two kinds of Science Fiction- Science Fiction in print (SF). Science Fiction is the study of the impact of Science on humanity. To understand SF one must have a thorough knowledge of this kind of literature in depth. The other kind that is the visual Science Fiction does not require any special kind of education to understand them But no knowledge of science, scientific theories, scientific projects, hypothesis, postulates and others are required to understand the visual kind of Science Fiction. They are also called i-scifi or eyescifi. The scifi films are usually commercial in nature and therefore the focus is upon special effects. Most of the times, the viewers forget about the scientific principle involved in the project, instead they are carried away with the gigantic creatures and the evil effects that they make on the human world.  This is what it happens to a viewer after watching the movie the Jurassic Park(The spectators forget the scientific principle involved in recreating dinosaurs.)

Thus, Indian mythological films provide rich experience of magic and fantasy. They capitalize on the mythological beliefs that one may possess. Neither the writer nor the producer need explain the reader/ viewer the scientific principle because they have grown with such beliefs. Though the advent of computers has brought in a revolution in the field of movies, it is a sorry state of affair to observe that they have still highlighted a belief in the unbelievable things.   Hence, any thing is possible in mythical films. But these are all the Proto-Science Fiction movies because, one cannot exactly explain the scientific principle involved in each act. On the contrary, Koi Mil Gaya answers most of the questions scientifically.

The Story line

Rakesh Roshan makes the pioneer attempt in making the first Indian scifi film Koi Mil GayaRakesh Roshan himself is a scientist by name Dr. Mehra. With positive optimism, his life long ambition was to contact the aliens. In his laboratory, he has developed his own computer. He utilizes a variety of sound patterns of the Hindu symbol “Om” to establish contact with the aliens in other worlds. Likewise, there is a perfect fusion of myth and technology in many instances like the perfect balanced belief of the protagonist in Lord Sri.Krishna and the ‘Jadu’. Dr. Mehra succeeds in his attempts but it was too late. The space scientists do not believe his words, nor does he survive to explain them. As Mrs. Mehra (Rekha) delivered a boy at the time of the accident (which coincidentally is the time of the alien contact), the child has an underdeveloped brain.

When the boy Rohit was studying seventh standard it is highlighted that he is a slow learner. But looking at his physical growth no body could suspect his mental ability. That is the initial deposit for the development of the film. His rival the Raj group first challenges his physical ability and later on poses a number of hassles objecting him to be in the company of a city-bred girl Nisha (Preethi Jinta).

Meanwhile, unknowingly by making a random motion on the computer keys the aliens are contacted. Promptly they land on the outskirts of the town but one of them is by chance does not return. The alien is hidden by Rohit barring from the police search team. The alien is found to be intelligent, harmless, helpful and obedient. The presence of the alien brings solace to Rohit as he could restore his eyesight and the mental power. He uses them not only to win the heart of the heroine Nisha but also to defeat his opponents. Meanwhile, the search team with the able leadership of Khan could trace that the alien was with Rohit. The police confiscate the alien. But Rohit’s mother commands his son to bring the alien back. Thus, the film provides sufficient scope for Hrithik to exhibit his dancing ability and the ‘muscle’ power. Ultimately, the alien is sent back to its world confirming that the laws of nature are always intact.

This is a perfect Science Fiction story as the film explores and hints for the possible alien encounter to be speculative and positive. Secondly, there is a thought experiment to confirm that myth combining with technology could yield a positive growth of Indian Science. Alien encounter, though globally a popular theme, was not frequently used to narrate stories in America by eminent SF writers like Isaac Asimov as John W.Campbell, the editor of Amazing had strictly warned the writers not to deal with anything that is scientifically still doubtful to believe. Then why do Indians have introduced aliens here? Perhaps, it seems that technology when replaced by magic or the supernatural or the unbelievable becomes highly acceptable in Indian society now. At the same time the Indian filmmaker has set a target to reach a very big mass among which there are skeptics, religious fanatics, innocents, pseudo scientists, and the people who are on the threshold of religion and science. Hence, the end of the film is the result of the collective opinion and the aspirations of a group of heterogeneous people.

Still the director should have given a thought over the shape, the level of intelligence and an alternative speech pattern for the alien. The alien ‘Jadu’ though conceived as intelligent, it has not been convincingly depicted. For instance, how could it help humanity when it needs protection from the vicious group? How should it be conceived that the makers of the alien have not thought before hand that the intelligent alien needs energy during nightfall? It would have been more satisfactory if it were depicted that the alien walking in the forest area it loses its antenna. In spite of having an intricate communication system (which they make use of at the end). There is no justification for the fact that the Jadu was left alone on earth.

However, it is a work of fiction blended with science and technology. It justifies the fact that there are so many things in the world, which are yet to be testified. This is just the beginning. As per the advertisement, further details about the film could also be had from http:\\koimilgayaindiatimes.com and www.koimilgayathefilm.com. (But I sincerely tried to browse but in vain to get the website.) However, it can be noted that the film is an adaptation of ET- Extra Terrestrial. The Indian attempt is polished, it has a better story and justification at all times. The inseparable romantic element married with sci-fi is the Indian element in the film.

The Indian mythological films have dealt with all the elements of Science Fiction as it is described in the beginning of the article. The film producer knows the bottom psychology of the people. Everything is possible in the hands of the unseen superpower. Those films entertain but do not educate the mass. On the contrary, a good beginning made by Rakesh Roshan is praiseworthy.

Hrithik has come back. He has acted superbly. Preethi Jinta and Rekha have won the hearts of the viewers. In addition, the camera tricks, the photography techniques, the location, the musical hits, the dialogue delivery, editing, are all the merits of the film. What is the impact of the film as a whole? “kuch bhee dikhayi nai rahahai” becomes gradually, “muje sab kuch dikhayi de rahahai!” (“I could not see anything” -has now transformed into “I can see everything.”) Also, this is especially relevant to the progress done in the field of Indian Science Fiction today.


Cover pic from https://www.cinemaexpress.com/photos/slideshows/2020/aug/30/17-years-of-koi-mil-gaya-25-facts-you-probably-didnt-know-about-bollywoods-much-loved-sci-fi-dram-1124.html 

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Spread the Love of Sci Fi
Dr Srinarahari has obtained B.Sc., B.Ed., Diploma in Marathi, MA in English literature. He has been awarded a doctoral degree for “The Robotistic Works of Isaac Asimov: A Study” by Kuvempu University, Karnataka state. After serving for 40 years in Government of Karnataka he has retired as Principal. Now, he is working as Principal of Animaster College of Animation and Designs in Bengaluru, Karnataka, India for the last 5 years. He can be reached over email.principal@animaster.com; Dr Srinarahari is the Vice President of the Asian Science Fiction Association. He is the Secretary-General of Indian Association for Science Fiction Studies®, Bangalore, India. He has organized 14 National and 5 International Science Fiction Conferences. He is an SF writer, critic and reports for the number one SF magazine of the world namely Locus. SF Writing Short Story Workshop that he has conducted for the children of the age group 13-15 is acknowledged as a pioneer attempt. Also, he has conducted similar workshops for Scientists, Science Fiction Writers, Women writers, Research scholars, PG and UG students, Senior citizens, Working Women, Housewives as well as for all levels and age groups. The workshop products are published in the form of books. He has been compared to Thomas Clareson of the USA for his effort in bringing together people of all walks of life to be involved in Indian Science Fiction association activities. Academia.org has several of his articles which reflect the holistic approach to the Indian Science Fiction Studies.