Filmmakers across industries have turned to the genre for inspiration for decades.

9 is a science fiction movie starring Prithiviraj
Flix Science Fiction Tuesday, September 15, 2020 - 19:00

Arati Kadav’s Cargo hit Netflix this month, and the sci-fi thriller has brought renewed interest to the genre in Indian cinema. Across industries, filmmakers over the decades have repeatedly turned to science fiction for inspiration, from laboratory experiments gone wrong to time-travelling capers to robots with emotions. 

In the south, the genre has seen success as well, with major blockbusters tackling logic-defying narratives and quieter films that offer a subtle shift in reality to give the movie its sci-fi element. 

Read also: With mix of futuristic storytelling and Indian mythology, ‘Cargo’ is a unique sci-fi film

Here are 10 south Indian science fiction films that found new ways to interpret the rich genre.  

Aditya 369 (Telugu)

In 1991, Singeetam Srinivasa Rao’s hit film explored time travelling. Starring Nandamuri Balakrishna and Mohini, with a score by Ilaiyaraaja, the movie quickly emerged as a classic for fans of Telugu cinema, while also reportedly becoming the highest-grossing film of that year. In the film, a scientist invents a time machine, leading to a trip way back in the past (specifically the era of Krishnadevaraya's empire) and an expensive diamond heist at a major museum.       

9 (Malayalam)

In the 2019 Prithiviraj-starrer 9, a comet is projected to cause a massive electromagnetic pulse surge on earth, lasting nine days, and upending modern society as well as the lives of the film’s main characters. Prithiviraj plays Albert, an astrophysicist, as the story explores the fraught relationship between him and his son Adam. The film, directed by Jenuse Mohamed, also stars Mamta Mohandas, master Alok and Prakash Raj.   

24 (Tamil)

Actor Suriya takes on three roles in 2016’s 24, where time travel takes centre stage. A scientist invents a watch that lets you travel in time for 24 hours. The characters, who are also played by Nithya Menen, Samantha Prabhu and Saranya Ponvannan, must reckon with the watch’s powers and the way it can turn their lives around. 

Enthiran, 2.0 (Tamil)

Rajinikanth began his journey as Chitti, the action-hero robot with emotions and a mind of his own, in 2010’s Enthiran and later in 2018’s 2.0. Shankar wrote and directed both films (a co-writing credit for 2.0 is given to B Jeyamohan). The first film sees Chitti grappling with his own abilities and his understanding of the human psyche, while falling in love, facing rejection and turning into a deadly killing machine. In the later film, Chitti is reactivated to face an evil ornithologist played by Akshay Kumar and an electromagnetic phenomenon caused by flying mobile phones. 

Lucia (Kannada)

Dual storylines make this 2013 psychological thriller a unique experience. A mysterious pill called Lucia creates alternate realities for Nikki and Nikhil (both played by Sathish Ninasam), blurring the lines between dream and nightmare. Sruthi Hariharan also stars in the film, directed by Pawan Kumar. 

Antariksham 9000 KMPH (Telugu)

A potential satellite collision could lead to a major communication blackout, and only one man can save the day. Varun Tej stars in this 2018 space drama, directed by Sankalp Reddy. Dev (played by Tej) must grapple with his own personal demons before he can succeed. Aditi Rao Hydari and Lavanya Tripathi also star in the film. 

Android Kunjappan Version 5.25 (Malayalam)

This sci-fi drama takes a comedic turn when a robot named Kunjappan steps in to take care of a grouchy elderly man (Suraj Venjaaramood) when his son (Soubin Shahir) must go abroad for work. Written and directed by Ratheesh Balakirhsnan Poduval, the 2019 movie draws from the English film Robot & Frank

Who (Malayalam/English) 

The film revolves around the strange and eerie occurrences in a fictional valley in India, as dreams must be unravelled to uncover its mystery. The film is Ajay Devaloka’s directorial debut, and is reportedly part of a three-film saga, which includes Isabella and Galileo. The film stars Shine Tom Chacko, Shruthy Menon and Pearle Maaney. 

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