Taking Science For A Spin, Film Companion

It’s no secret that the laws of science don’t apply to the filmi world, but it’s the pseudo-science of movies that’s particularly inspired. Who can forget the lessons that the Krrish series taught us about the regenerative powers of solar energy? Or the way Enthiran (2010) redefined android robots. From biology to thermo-dynamics, there’s no science stream that hasn’t gone round the bend in the hands of our screenwriters. Here are some lesser-cited works of dodgy science from the alternate reality of commercial Indian cinema. Tell us your favourite pseudo-science scenes in the comments. 

Genetic Memory Activation, 7aam Arivu (2011)

AR Murugadoss’s 7aam Arivu packs a lot of science – ancient and modern – into its narrative. The film is centred around the idea of bio-war and its ramifications, which could have been interesting, but the plot sandwiches hypnotism gimmicks with rants about the power of ancient martial artist Bodhi Dharma. The net effect is chaos. Shruti Haasan plays Subha, a student of genetic engineering who is enticed by the DNA powers of Bodhi Dharma. She soon senses trouble when a Chinese intruder attacks Chennai with a virus variant (ah the good ole days when seeing words like “virus” and “variants” didn’t give us panic attacks). This leads Haasan to join forces with Suriya, who plays Aravind, a descendant of the monk. Don’t miss the genetic memory activation experiment that is performed in what looks like a Houdini-inspired water tank. 

The Pituitary Gland And Immortality, A Ad Infinitum (2021)

This Telugu film stars Nithin Prasanna as Sanjeev, a middle-aged man who battles memory loss and demons of the past. As he tries to move on with his life and a new family, he learns he is the doppelganger of Ashwathama, an activist from the Seventies who protested the Emergency. Sanjeev does the logical thing and begins working backwards to map his lineage — only for all of us to discover that Ashwathama was a victim of genetic testing and de-ageing. Which was done by carrying out “brain surgeries” on the pituitary gland. If there are any surgeons reading this, we apologise for what this bit of information has done to your brain.  

 

Anti-gravitational Forces, Bharathan Effect (2007)

In Biju Menon’s Malayalam film Bharathan Effect, the veteran actor as Bharathan plays a character who develops an obsession for anti-gravitational forces after seeing a ball trick as a child. This leads him to become a mad scientist (naturally). The ambitious screenplay bites off more than it can chew, but the cherry on top of this scientific cake is when Bharathan defies Newton’s law of gravity with a special particle that seemingly helped Lord Hanuman take flight. 

Generous Snakes, Billa No. 786 (2000)

Of all the animals that Bollywood has embraced into its madcap world, the snake has had it the worst. We’re not talking about the way actual snakes would be mistreated to make them ‘act’ on screen, but the way snakes were fictionalised. Take for example what the snake has to do in Billa No. 786, which stars Mithun Chakraborty as Shankar, a courageous coolie. At one point, after surviving a slew of death plots, Shankar has a snake set upon him. The snake bites him and Shankar dies. At this point, we are told that his only hope is “duniya ka sabse bada doctor” (the greatest doctor in the world). Cut to the snake finding its way back to Shankar to suck out its own venom from Shankar’s body and bring our hero back to life. Is this better or worse than Tum Mere Ho (1990), in which one snake sucks out the venom of another snake at the behest of snake-whisperer Aamir Khan? You tell us. 

Heart Transplant Soulmate, Hello Brother (1999)

A Khan-brothers collective, the film’s premise hinges on the concept of organ transplants. Hero (Salman Khan), a spirited courier boy unknowingly working for a drug lord and Vishal (Arbaaz Khan), a recently-transferred cop, shuffle off their mortal coils at the same time. When the two bodies are coincidentally brought to the hospital, the doctors decide to take a mind-boggling decision: transplant Hero’s heart into Vishal’s body. Net result: Vishal now sees Hero all the time and thanks to Hero’s beating heart, he also falls in love with the object of Hero’s affections (Rani Mukherji). Our favourite is the curiously homoerotic sequence in which the two men’s bodies merge in order to combine their combat skills. Does any of this make any biological sense? Of course not. Ask a doctor, but at your own risk. 

Invisibility Bracelet, Mr. India (1987)

It’s not just that the premise of this still-charming science fiction is that a bracelet can turn someone invisible, but also that there’s a particular spectrum of light in which the invisibility goes kaput. What an idea! The hero of Mr. India is Arun, who is the son of a once-renowned but now-deceased scientist. When Arun and his brood of adopted kids are threatened by crime lord Mogambo, they discover Arun’s father had casually created a miracle bracelet that can turn the wearer invisible. Arun using his invisibility bracelet — so much more user-friendly than a cloak, sorry J.K. Rowling — to do everything from romancing the girl to outwitting the villain, is the stuff of Bollywood joy. 

Also Read: The 10 Most Ridiculous Bollywood Action Scenes

Computer Simulation, Project Agni, Navarasa (2021)

Science is weird, declares Vishnu (Arvind Swamy) a few minutes into Project Agni, Karthick Naren’s film in the Netflix anthology Navarasa. A maverick research scientist, Vishnu calls over his friend Krishna (Prasanna) from ISRO, in a frenzied state. What follows is a 15-minute conversation between the duo that truly boggles the mind. From God Molecule and time-travel to the bizarre explanation of the world being under the spell of a computer simulation, Naren has an oversimplified answer for every science enigma. Towards the end of the film, Vishnu declares, “Some questions are better left unanswered.” We couldn’t agree more. 

70% Brain Activation, Rudraksh (2004)

Rudraksh butchers scientific logic in so many ways that it’s hard to pick favourites. Bipasha Basu plays a scientist, Gayatri, who is trying to find real magical healers in the world. Her medical miracle arrives in the hunky form of Varun (Sanjay Dutt), a karate sensei cum nightclub bouncer cum Hanuman devotee who can cure people. How? With intense meditation, if you please. Gayatri tests Varun in a lab (holographic screens FTW) and watching him meditate, she informs us that Varun has “dark areas that have never been used before” and they are “becoming conscious”. At the end of much meditation, some medical blasphemy and a lot of CGI-failure, we learn that magical, telekinetic powers are unleashed when Varun uses 70% of his brain. Give it up for science.  

Fight Sequence In Space, Tik Tik Tik (2018)

In the larger scheme of things, Shakti Soundar Rajan’s Tik Tik Tik starring Jayam Ravi, is a victory for Tamil cinema VFX. Scientific logic, however, is not among its credits. The film revolves around a gang of misfits – an escape artist and his hacker friends – who try to break into a nuclear superpower nation’s space station to steal a 200-tonne nuclear missile, which will save Tamil Nadu from an asteroid attack. The plot proceeds to get murkier and messier. Never mind how our heroes get space-ready in just about six days or the way the space station is “hacked”, the real kicker is the fight scene in outer space.

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