A sense of gravity

A sense of gravity

While our latest mission to Mars cost the country less than a Hollywood film, its true impact is questionable

KAUSHIK NADADHUR

For someone who works for a company that makes graphics processors, where a living is made by enhancing the visual experience of the consumer, it’s a little ironic that I have been indifferent to the use of 3D technology in movies. While I appreciate the beauty of a well-framed shot and acknowledge the importance of good cinematography in what is primarily a visual medium, my main grouse against the use of 3D technology is that in many movies it seems forced. Today, when almost every other major movie released has a 3D version or a 3D IMAX version and now, what is called a HFR 3D version (that uses twice the frame rate as normal), it becomes a financially-driven decision to make a movie 3D friendly. Filmmakers are compelled into altering plots and scenes from their original vision to accommodate 3D effects. Moreover, apart from random objects flying out at the audience or projecting out of the screen, not many movies have made effective use of depth perception to give the viewer an absolutely immersive experience.

Nothing and everything, at once

Ten minutes into Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, I was already beginning to question myself about having been so dismissive of the use of 3D in movies. Post the tense sequence of Sandra Bullock spinning untethered in the vastness of space I couldn’t help but be impressed by how effectively it had been used. To convey the desolation of space, to fill the screen with so much and yet give the viewer a feeling of emptiness and being lost in the middle of nowhere and nothingness and to not make outer space seem like it was fabricated in some Hollywood studio; it almost seemed like 3D effects transcend all other aspects of filmmaking and make Gravity such a visually rich cinematic experience.

A lot of people described gravity as castaway set in outer space, but i personally see more parallels to life of pi.   Both movies feature protagonists fighting for survival in vast expanses where getting help is almost impossible and both have little or nothing left of their personal lives left to get back to. Faced with such adversity and almost insurmountable odds, the way they find the will, the determination and more importantly a purpose, is bordering on the surreal.

A lot of people described Gravity as Castaway set in outer space, but I personally see more parallels to Life of Pi.   Both movies feature protagonists fighting for survival in vast expanses where getting help is almost impossible and both have little or nothing left of their personal lives left to get back to. Faced with such adversity and almost insurmountable odds, the way they find the will, the determination and more importantly a purpose, is bordering on the surreal. It is interesting that in both films, the events and the circumstances that lead them to want to live are hinting at the existence of the supernatural, something that is beyond explanation. Towards the end, in the way a fire extinguisher is used as a propellant, Gravity does a hat-tip, one that is probably unintended, to Wall-E, a movie that also has a lead character who leads a lonely existence on a barren landscape and who finds a new purpose to his life, inanimate as it may be, through love.

Matter over mind?

In keeping with the setting of Gravity, it is only natural that I should make a slightly astronomical leap to come up with a business connect. India’s mission to Mars, Mangalyaan was launched on a budget of US $ 73 million while the budget of Gravity is US $ 100 million. While that fact is commendable on multiple levels- that such a high technology endeavor could be achieved with such cost effectiveness and that space missions that demand a high degree of precision are executed almost flawlessly in a country wrought with bureaucratic hurdles and a casual indifference to quality, the question still remains as its necessity. Before you think that this is yet another socialistic rhetoric about how that money could have been better spent in other areas that would benefit the common man; my question is purely from a business perspective. A government is at a unique position of having to choose to spend the funds at its disposal for things that have a definite social impact like infrastructure development, public services, providing sops and subsidies or on things that may not have immediate social benefits like space missions or any kind of scientific research and development. The important thing is that none of these need to be decoupled from a profit making objective and treated as charitable acts. Any government undertaking can be treated as a business enterprise and making money should be a part of the charter as long as it doesn’t compromise the social responsibility the undertaking entails. When viewed with that in mind, the mission to Mars makes little business sense and it is hard to see it as anything other than some jingoistic chest thumping to catch the world’s attention. Launching communication and weather monitoring satellites has immediate benefits even if they may not always be monetary in nature but the same cannot be said of an interplanetary exploration mission. When good governance in this country itself is a challenge, finding new frontiers in space should not figure high on a government’s priorities. It is just a dead investment lost in space.

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