Browning the Future

With the rise of South Asian sci-fi, what might South Asian futurism look like?

Amar Diwakar

June 19, 2019

Browning the Future

In a scene from short film Anukul (2017), an anthropomorphic robot named Anukul begins to question the world of his human handler, Nikunj, through an interrogation of Hindu philosophy. While reading the Bhagavad Gita, Anukul is left perplexed by Lord Krishna’s dictum that Arjun must adhere to his dharma, even if it meant vanquishing his kin in battle.

“If two warriors have the same duty,” he asks, “then how does one decide who is right and who is wrong?” Nikunj, placing a hand on his heart, indicates that it is one’s conscience that determines one’s duty.

Sujoy Ghosh adapted Anukul (2017), a 21-minute film, from a 1976 short story by late Bengali filmmaker Satyajit Ray. Set in present-day Kolkata, the film distills a distinctively Indian imagining of the future through the android’s dharmic ruminations.

Science fiction explores the future and helps mirror the present. But in South Asia, science fiction hasn’t quite broken through. Creators aiming to weave South Asian history and elements into futuristic stories say it has to do with how we view the past.