Blade Runner: Why Cutting Edge World Cinema Fails to Cut Ice (Eyes?) with Indian Audiences!

Indian Middle Class and the Japanese Pill of Hope

By Nataranjan Bohidar

Blade Runner (1982), Movie Poster, Directed by Ridley Scott, starring Harrison Ford

My issue with Indian cine-goers is not just that Bollywood has comprehensively ruined our collective cine-taste. Among film connoisseurs,too, the inability to connect our reality with the best of world productions is equally painful and openly evident At a discussion after the screening of "Blade Runner" (American Center, September 19) the select viewership found it difficult to parallel our latest passion for building smart cities with the super-efficient but derelict construct of Ridley Scott's genius vision of the city of the future. In this path breaking rendition inspired by Philip K. Dick the educated Indian audience ought to have recognised the memory deleting nightmarish conditions we may be deliriously headed for, where everything is under a command but nothing is in control! But that was not to be.

Film literates amongst us failed to relate to the essence of the movie released just two short of the year universally made famous by a British author, born in India, of the Imperial Police, in his book about official stalking, keeping watch, surveillance, invasion of privacy, targeting individuals, scrutinizing them, interrogating them, measuring iris dilation & contraction, plotting heart beat, quizzing their very breathing pattern, questioning their right to independence, dictating to them the terms of their life & living, and in the process shredding that life to suspicion ridden, distrust riddled bits. Ridley, you see! Or don't you?

Blade Runner: Ridley Scott's vision of a futuristic Los Angeles
Blade Runner: Ridley Scott's vision of a futuristic Los Angeles
Most enlightened Indians have heard of "1984". Even if they haven't read the book they nod their intellectually tilted heads knowingly to signal deceptive familiarity with the phrase "big brother is watching". It is, therefore, no surprise that they will not see, pun intended, the subtle twist of that eponymous phrase in the 1982 film's opening - a powerful metaphor of pupil watching, pupil inspection, pupil analysis, which metaphor Ridley Scott expands,blows out, in fact stretches to snapping point, closing with Harrison Ford's pupil stare at the very audience that refuses to see the expression in his eyes when he sees an origamic unicorn drop off the woman he insists, in fact, commands her to admit, persists with her that she must say she loves him, coerces her that she must admit she trusts him, as if such things can be commandeered, when in fact she may well be origaming him, under someone else's command! Love, if it can be called that and if it is suspected to survive these impossible conditions, is rife with suspicion. But that's at movie's end. In-between somewhere in this amazing film about seeing and blindness where the master creators are apparently keeping an eye on the pupils they have created, is an amazing role reversal where the pupil punctures his master's pupils to create bloody orifices where once the pupils were securely ensconced in their sockets. (There is a visual variant to this in the film, too, where a replicant's fingers dig into her hunter tormentor Deckerd's nasal orifices in a violent attempt to give him the finger while simultaneously ripping his face off his skull, if indeed it is a face and not masked facelessness. Such variations are common in the film, that mimic the core idea of replicated humans aka replicants, variants gene-rated, copies séanced, clones schemed & schematising, mimesis themed & thematising).

Deckerd performs the Voight-Kampff test on a Replicant suspect, Directed by Ridley Scott, starring Harrison Ford
Deckerd performs the Voight-Kampff test on a Replicant suspect
So, who is the master builder , who the pupil aka slave aka replicant aka surrogate ? And can the master put his pupils back in their sockets, seat them firmly back in their place, even as the errant clones, the rebellious replicants sick of being watched , violent under infinite observation, living in eternal fear, try to Oedipus-like gouge out the sockets, rip down the trap, blow the prison away, liquidate the vestiges of their enslavement, erase it from their memory-less memories? That, in fact, is the real chaser in this pioneering AI film of great significance and signification to all of us today, but disguised as the bounty hunting, gladiatorial, killer thriller, mall mauler, infanticidal indranix (because it is this garb that sooo engages our unskilled media- controlled akhada- dissipated Bollywooden mind, having lost both its spark and Spartacus). So, we miss the intent of the movie when we fail to see that more surveillance and more command only leads to more crime and less control of it! Just as more voyeurism only leads to more pornography, not less... and so the question that is blowing in the wind, and blowing our mind, is this: In increasing surveillance is Big Brother really protecting us from more crime or simply increasing its own appetite for more pornography? (Did I just hear Big Bro is now going to monitor my e-mail & WhatsApp for 90 days at the least under legal diktat?)

The cover of the paperback edition of George Orwell's 1984
The cover of the paperback edition of George Orwell's 1984
In 1982, the year "Blade Runner" was released - and bombed, leaving it in grim post-war East European ground zero Hiro-Naga holocaustic tatters, mimicking the very and veritable looks of its sets - I was working with a bouquet of American collaborations in the Indian automotive sector. Among other things I did there I launched a film society I called CINE-ACTION at the firm's Hauz Khas HQ in the belief that management could only gain from consumer insights contained in the best of world cinema, entirely needed at the time when, while liberalization was still a decade away, we had invited Suzuki Japan to launch a culture we then called the Maruti-800. This simply revolutionized our auto industry with its underpinnings of ikebana bonsai miniaturization holding out a vase of hope for our industrial socio- economic revival, growth & dynamism offered in a 'small is beautiful' smart car, faced as were with a 200% increase in fuel prices in an era of savaging energy shortages, that appear not to have ended even today, but that is another story (to be cont.).

Indira Gandhi unveils the Maruti 800 Car, Maruti Suzuki, with Rajiv Gandhi
Image Courtesy: The Hindu
Maruti rolls out people's car 
Not miraculously but by strategic dint India's middle class boomed and bloomed - a phenomena that President Obama believes is the future way forward for the world... growing the middle class larger outwards rather than growing top down or bottom up, trying to fit a levitating balloon in a trance fixed pyramid... so, I believed in the mid-eighties, and believe today it is the Japanese who seduced us by mutual consent to discover for us our very own , our very 4-wheeler-dealer modern middle class... on the go... up and down and outwards and in every other direction... and mis-direction, too! This nano-natured microscopic phenomena, "BLADE RUNNER" reflects, even when it does not depict in those many precise cine-sequences - SURELY NOT THE CREATION OF THE INDIAN MIDDLE CLASS WITH JAPANESE INPUT BUT THE JAPANESE SELLING OF HOPE AROUND THE WORLD IN WHAT APPEARS IN THE MOVIE AS HOPELESSLY DESTINED! But, of course, there is a twist here as is everywhere in this brilliant Ridley take on hope, shot through & through with myriad ironies.

Deckerd holding an origamic unicorn in his hand, Blade Runner, directed by Ridley Scott, starring Harrison Ford
Deckerd holding an origamic unicorn in his hand
The Japanese hope-sell in the film is all in the billboards, in the advertising, in the shape of a pill for all ailments, green blue yellow red, to help you to snap out of it, and it is a much needed curated curative because at ground zero origamic bonsaic miniaturization has been papered over, purloined, hijacked by what appears to be the Latino-Spanish combine historically famous for its extreme actions of cruelty, the infamous inquisitions, the maritime genocidal colonial dominance that in "Blade Runner" becomes a terrifying crush of the human spirit twisted and maimed and tamed into pretty infantile diminutive bonsaic origamic shapes delectably contorted for its possess able, own able, shelf decorative acquisitory worth, if not value, totally under the master's totalitarian control! Which is Ridley Scott's compelling visual expression of the pupil-enlarging & civilization enraging question: with globalization, whither socio-cultural symbiogenesis? What if the liberating art of one culture falls into the Bad Lands & Worse Hands of another? What cyborg will it breed... and grow? Human headed sphinx or elephant headed god? In Ridley Scott's deft hands, of course, that question becomes a riddle.

About Author - 

Nataranjan Bohidar has 40 years of teaching, training & transformational expertise. His interests are socio-cultural symbiogenesis & citizen positioning. His current initiative is to position India as a democracy within a continuum where cinema is a key subtext.

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  1. B4i4get : Kudos to Editor Murtaza for picking that one awesome visual of a smirking Maruti that mimics brilliant Harrison Ford's expression of half knowledge throughout the film 🎥 BLADE RUNNER 🏃 which in turn evokes memories of Belmondo's visceral experience without wisdom writ on his mouth 👄 in a lipofigurative contortion that becomes contagious in Godard's seminal work of socio-cultural symbiogenesis on the streets of Paris that leaves us BREATHLESS.

  2. Sir, what can I say? I am in awe of how acutely you connect different ideas into highly relevant articles of great socio-economic and political importance. It's a great pleasure and a privilege to have you on my blog! :-)

  3. Congrats 😤 Murtaza! Thanks to your blog among many other people's efforts the draconian & daft "save 💾 for 90 days or else" threat has subsided!

  4. Japanese Input: In the 10 years between 1981 & 1991 vehicles on Delhi roads quadrupled, which is the highest decadal growth of vehicles ever in the history of Delhi roads! Just another Trivial Pursuit 😉

  5. Chinese Way :

    You can find it at: "Gurgaon shows tha way: Car-free Tuesdays to control manic traffic"

    This is the China way, as I explained in the presence of the Japanese Ambassador, "undercutting/ underwriting Japanese tech for C.K.Prahlad's bottom of the pyramid"

    ToI ePaper - Digital replica of Print Edition.

  6. Thank you 😊 for trying & please Murtaza, drop the 'Sir '...

  7. Readers, please do check this out:

    Motoring: 50 things that were better in the old days

  8. From Suzuki-800 to odd-even motoring to cut down the hazy daze...sorry,'ve come a long way, Delhi baby 👶


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