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The golden age of cinema, the immediate decades after independence not only saw the best of the Indian film industry but also saw an age of sci-fi.


By Prakhar Patidar

Science Fiction is a genre that knows no bounds. Anything is possible and there are endless possibilities in a sci-fi world. One can travel to different planets, different realities, got to the end of the universe or the depths of the ocean, or the center of the Earth, it's all up to let your imagination soar as far as it can. The more imaginative and fancy the sci-fi world, the more difficult it is to re-create on the screen. Not only does making sci-fi films require an audience that appreciates those stories but it also requires money as production of these films is generally costlier than other genres.

However, this has not stopped the filmmaker from experimenting and making sci-fi films with a shoestring budget. The Indian film industry is known for its musical dramas but there are specimens of experimentation in different genres as well. The golden age of cinema, the immediate decades after independence not only saw the best of the Indian film industry but also saw an age of sci-fi. The genre might not be a benchmark genre for Indian films today but it has a fair share of prominence in the history of Indian cinema.

Netflix released a short series that reimagines Satyajit Ray's stories, the media recalled Ray's failed project that was eerily similar to Spielberg's E.T

satyajit ray Netflix released a short series that reimagines Satyajit Ray's stories, the media recalled Ray's failed project that was eerily similar to Spielberg's E.Twikimedia


The exploration of sci-fi in Indian cinema starts with Kadu; an American-Tamil production that follows a love triangle and incidents of killing in the jungle close to a village. This is where we first see instances of sci-fi themes in the form of the mysterious killings in the jungle. However, the film that does justice to the genre is Kasilingam's 1963 film, Kalai Arasi that draws on the alien invasion trope to identify with the colonial past of the country. These aliens not only invade the homeland but cause the downfall of indigenous cultures and traditions, a direct exemplification of the effects of colonial rule.

Another notable example of a sci-fi film from the time in Mr. X In Bombay, a film that follows the traditions of an invisible protagonist introduced to us by H.G Wells. This isn't the first film to take inspiration from English literature. The Malayalam film; Karutha Rathrikal, directed by Mahesh in 1967 tells the story of chemically induced dissociative identities as done in Stevenson's novella Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). No list of sci-fi films is complete without a film that revolves around space exploration.

The 60s cinema gave us that too with Sundaram's film Chand Par Chadhaye, which became the first space journey film. Recently as Netflix released a short series that reimagines Satyajit Ray's stories, the media recalled Ray's failed project that was eerily similar to Spielberg's E.T. Any discussion on Indian sci-fi of the 60s would be incomplete without wondering what Ray's friendly alien story could have done for the genre in Indian cinema.


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