Shervin Rizuvan, Raghu Menon*


Within the corpus of academic writing on science fiction cinema (sci-fi), it is hard to find any significant discourse on Indian sci-fi. This paper attempts to address that gap by analyzing two Tamil-language films from the current decade that can be categorized as being representative of the sci-fi genre. With the release of Enthiran (2010) at the turn of the decade, Tamil industry has witnessed a dramatic rise in the production of science fiction films, many of which were successful in reconciling the demands of fandom with the generic diversity of sci-fi. Elements of science fiction are, by no means, new to Tamil cinema, with films as early as Kaadu (1952), Kalai Arasi (1958) and Ulagam Sutrum Valiban (1973) utilizing science fiction tropes and premises. However, a critique of the entire history of the genre is beyond the scope of this paper, and attention has only been extended to modern Tamil sci-fi � 7aum Arivu (2011) and 24 (2016), to be more precise. The objective is to understand what these science fiction themes, motifs and conventions reveal about the cultural unconscious of the society that produces and receives these screen �myths�. Following the likes of John Izod and Greg Singh, the paper utilizes a visionary Jungian analysis that departs from the traditional �monomyth� approach of archetypal analysis popularized by Joseph Campbell, and studies these screen texts as symptoms of a Tamil psyche in transition. The various possibilities offered by science fiction give expression to the fragmentation experienced by a society that is caught between a glorious classical past and a pan-Indian and a pan-global sensibility. The two films considered in this study feature the popular Tamil actor Surya in multiple roles that traverse different timelines. In 7aum Arivu, the characters played by Surya transcend historical epochs and posit a cultural continuum upon which the contemporary Tamil identity is constructed. Though less overt, a visionary analysis of 24 reveals a similar preoccupation with fragmented identities, suggesting that these themes are expressions of a cultural unconscious in perpetual conflict. In such a reading, these expressions (forking timelines, fragmented identities, distortion of the past and present, true and false realities) are rendered possible only due to a fundamental discord in the cultural consciousness. This seemingly irreconcilable dialectic between history and modernity permeates onto Tamil cinema in the form of science fiction motifs and conventions.

Issue: 14-Special Issue

Year: 2017

Pages: 332-344

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