It was India which invented the bow & arrow" my Dad blustered over the phone from Bombay, "remember Arjuna's skill at archery so he could focus and shoot a bird through its eye from many miles away.... He had just returned from seeing The Hunger Games at his local multiplex, when my weekly Sunday phone call had sparked off this conversation; with him insisting that the cross bow was an Indian invention.
Uh! DadI protested,
not everything in science fiction comes from Indian mythology....I was as usual embarrassed by his well known theme of India shining and claiming ownership of emerging trends. Yet his comments gave me pause for thought. I began to wonder if he had a point here?
Cut to a few years back, when on one of my annual trips to Bombay, the extended family had trooped off en masse to see Avatar on 3D at the brand new IMAX theatre in Bombay. I sat next to my father enjoying his excitement as he leaned forward to perch precariously close to the edge of the seat, fascinated by the incredible images flashing across the cinema screen. And as the scene with the Tree of Souls which has a neural link to the Na'vi uniting them all as one, unfolded, he gasped in surprise shaking his head; explaining to me later that Ayurveda the Indian system of traditional medicine had a very similar concept of unity. That, all living creatures are linked to this planet and are one with Earth. The concept of blue people itself was familiar as many Indian Gods are depicted in similar fashion.
I did a double take as my mind wandered back to many a night as a child, spent listening to my grandmother as she narrated stories from Indian mythology. Flying chariots, Gods teleporting at will across dimensions, powerful weapons of war that could destroy entire armies, revolving discs & guided swords spewing fiery sparks which would return to their owners after hitting its target, illusions which could frighten without hurting, the massive bow which only Lord Rama could string to win the heart of the beautiful Sita... Hmmm! I realised that I had seen these scenes countless times over the years but at a different place and a different time.
Amar Chitra Katha (Indian comics) took over where my grandmother left off. But what chance did a teenager's raging hormones stand against tight bodysuits, plunging necklines, fanatical crime fighting and passionate love stories. With the first Superman movie I was in love with caped crusaders - Spiderman, Batman, Legion of Superheroes (my personal favourite) Green Lantern, Wonder Woman not to mention Tarzan & Phantom and much later Conan the Barbarian - I lived happily with them for a very long time.
Over the years Hollywood has personalised and made fantasy and science fiction its own, while India's Bollywood has leaned more towards an exaggerated reality of soap operas, love triangles and family dramas.
But inspiration its seems has come full circle, with a growing trend for Indian fantasy writers to increasingly look to Indian mythology for inspiration. Check out the brilliant Ramayana 3392 AD http://www.liquidcomics.com/titles/ramayan/index.htmlfrom New York based Liquid comics and the seductive Devi http://www.liquidcomics.com/titles/devi/index.html.
Bollywood itself has taken a cautious step with Ra.one http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ra.One a 2011 Indian science fiction film starring its very own homegrown superhero.
So the brave new breed of Indian science fiction writers may yet boldly go where others haven't gone before, paving the way for a whole new generation.
Do you agree? Do comment and let me know.