Gadgets in Bollywood?

Bollywood has badly lagged behind when it comes to using gadgets, gizmos and technology. But things are slowly catching up now

While Hollywood was experimenting with science fiction and gadgets right from the beginning of the twentieth century, Bollywood was still stuck up in romantic musicals. Post independence, a few spy flicks tried to start a trend, but they never really took off. Suraksha (1979) with Gunmaster G9 Mithun Chakravarthy and Bond 303 (1986) with Jeetendra tried to do a James Bond in India replete with spy gadgets, but were relegated to the B category status.

In fact, one of the first superhit movies that centred on a gadget was Mr India in 1987. In that, the hero Anil Kapoor finds an invisibility bracelet (made by none other than his late scientist father) that helps him defeat the evil Mogambo’s plan to attack India. An invisible man also appeared in 1957′s Mr X and 1964′s Mr X in Bombay, but these had a potion and not a gadget that did the trick.

Just one point

The 21st century probably marked the entry of gadgets into mainstream Bollywood cinema. The mobile and computer have naturally received top billing.

Kaho Na Pyaar Hai (2000): The mobile nabbed the villain in this one. When one baddie dies, the hero dials a missed call from his mobile. And voila! That leads directly to the arch villain, who happens to be the heroine’s father standing right next to them.

Mitr, My Friend (2002): Here the focus of the movie is Internet chat. A neglected NRI wife turns to the chatroom to get some solace. And Mitr, the anonymous chatter, in the end turns out to be (surprise surprise!) her husband.

Koi Mil Gaya (2003): The hero’s father makes a computer and software that can communicate with aliens. And an alien does come visiting the hero to bestow on him superpowers.

Aitraaz (2004): Voicemail on the hero’s mobile ends up as crucial evidence in the courtroom and he gets acquitted. All thanks to a fault in his mobile that dials two numbers at once.

Home Delivery (2004): The hero Vivek Oberoi is hooked to his laptop for writing. One day, a pizza man (Boman Irani) comes calling, armed with a Point of Sale (POS) device that changes the hero’s life.

Kal Ho Na Ho (2003): “Che din, ladki in” (Get the girl in six days). This crucial scene in KHNH wouldn’t have been possible without the Bluetooth handsfree receiver for Saif’s mobile. Shahrukh Khan guides Saif Ali Khan and Preity Zinta (the heroine) doesn’t suspect a thing thanks to the cool earpiece.

Salaam Namaste (2005): The hero and heroine have their first chat on a mobile handsfree that’s there in the hero’s car.

Bluffmaster (2005): A guy takes an anonymous call from a mobile lying on the road. That leads to a large sum of money in a trashcan and the beginning of this con movie.

Krrish (2006): The villain creates a computer that can look into the future. Maybe not much technical wizardry by Hollywood standards, but a leap for Bollywood. Krrish has also proved to be the biggest Bollywood hit of all time, based on raw box office collections.

Corporate (2006): If you saw its trailer on TV, then you could be left wondering whether it was for the movie Corporate or for Lenovo’s ThinkPad, or both.

Heavy duty stuff

And there were other movies that used laptops, handhelds, earpieces, cameras, motion sensors, remote-controlled devices throughout the movies, much like Hollywood. These include Badshaah (1999), 16th December (2002), Qayamat: City Under Threat (2003), The Hero: Love story of a Spy (2003), and Dus (2005). Badshaah had novelties like X-ray glasses and exploding chewing gum, along with a much-sought after remote control that everyone tried to get their hands on-the key to defusing a bomb.

16th December was full of gadgetry and began with a government official filing a report, and not in a sarkari file, but on a computer. It also featured a spy pen and a climax with a nuclear missile. In the end, the nuke is diffused thanks to a kid, a laptop and some speech software.

Of course, these movies are still laggards (in terms of technology and effects) if we compare them with some of the more popular Hollywood counterparts. But Bollywood is surely albeit slowly getting there!

…and in Hollywood

Batman rules! While Superman relies on his superhuman strength and Spiderman on his spidey skills, nobody relies more on his brainpower and gadgets than Batman. He creates all his gear himself, including the batmobile and the boomerang ‘batarang’. Invariably everything ends up with a bat prefix like batcomputer and batcamera.

The master of them all Of course, when it comes to gadgets, no one can quite follow James Bond. About 20 films and counting, Bond films have always stayed one step ahead of technology. Bond’s cigarette case has served as a microfilm reader and the cigarette itself could fire a stream of lethal liquid or gas, as shown in certain movies.

Bond used a magnetic watch with a circular saw, used his watch as a pager, telex, remote detonator, two-way transmitter, laser cutter, and even a remote detonator. His pen has been used to receive signals and even kill people. His ring has been a miniature camera and a ‘sonic agitator unit’ to shatter glass! In Tomorrow Never Dies, Bond finally got an all-in-one mobile phone. It not only served as a remote control for his latest BMW, but also as a transmitter, fingerprint analyser, and stun gun.

Inspector Gadget: What if your whole body itself was a huge gadget? That’s Inspector Gadget, the inspector cum gadget. His neck, arms and legs can stretch to obscene lengths and he also has springs attached onto his legs. There’s a propeller in his hat and his thumb can serve as a lighter. The best part is the mobile – his hand! And he hears through his thumb. His fingers can also serve as scissors. The inspector goes around in the Gadgetmobile, in-built with a radar system, and can even talk!

(This article appeared in the August 2006 issue of Living Digital magazine)