Scientists must be the most ill-treated and maligned community, at least in cinema. At least on celluloid, there are no normal, peaceful, life-loving scientists.
Hollywood has made millions out of making scientists (a) freaks (think of The fly), (b) crazy (how many movies can you think of where the intelligent scientist wants to rule/destroy the world? If I got a nickel for each one you could think of, I’d be rolling in bagfuls of the stuff by now), (c) Goofy, absent-minded and nutty (like, Honey, I shrunk the kids or Back to the future), (d) Schizophrenic (popular now, especially after A perfect mind), or (e) completely expendable, and the first person to die when the monsters/dinosaurs/volcano/shark/terrorists/any one else attacks. There never has been a scientist who has fit in to (f) none of the above.
Sad, but unfortunately true.
Why is that, I ask? Most scientists I know (and I know a few, being one myself) usually fit neatly in to (f) none of the above. Most of them do not have crazy white hair. At that age, they’re retired, or called “professor emeritus” (i.e. guy who doesn’t need to do any work). Some are (unfortunately) bald, but that’s just bad genes, and the percentage of bald scientists are the same as that of bald men out selling dope on the streets. Some poor sods are absent minded, but never so absent minded that they don’t remember their own names.
But these poor souls, who have worked hard to provide Hollywood with so many ideas, remain sorry caricatures. If it weren’t so funny, it would be tragic. And here’s Hollywood, using the nice technology scientists create (CGI, any one), who make a special-effects filled movie where the super-scientist, brain of the first order, is crushed to pulp by a dim witted guy bitten (say) by a radioactive spider, who usually can’t decide if he wants to be a super-hero or not. Science, clearly, has no role in success.
The poor scientist (if it’s male) has not once chance in hell of even having a girl ever like him. So, he ends up kidnapping the prettiest girl on screen, who happens to be the hero/superhero’s girlfriend, and therefore aforementioned scientist will meet his doom, after cackling loudly on screen. The one chance out of a million that there’s a female scientist in the movie, it’s a dimwitted bombshell (Denise Richards in “The world is not enough”, anyone) who falls for the guy who can start a stalled car. Is there no justice in this world?
Bollywood goes even further to make the scientist a bonafide lunatic. Here’s how casting parts go. Doctor? Good. Engineer? Good. Underworld don? Fantastic. BA “gold medalist” without connections and therefore without a job? Perfect. Knows how to play solitaire on a computer? Outstanding. If you’re Shilpa Shetty and can do that, even better than outstanding.
Scientist? You get to be Doctor Dang in Subhash Ghai’s Karma. Or else, a guest appearance (Rakesh Roshan in ”Koi mil gaya”) as a scientist who believes that aliens with supernatural powers are likely to invade earth.
Either that, or there’s option (3), as Anil Kapoor’s now dead blink-and-you’ll-miss-the-role dad who can make a watch that will make people disappear, but will never get to wear that watch (and therefore be cool, and get girls to like him) because, duh, he’s dead.
Science itself will be conveniently relegated to the “evil black-magic” category, and Sai Baba’s grace giving a blind woman her eyesight will be hailed with rousing cresendo of euphoric cheers.
Such is life. In some random gathering, people will introduce themselves, with grand descriptions of what they do (I have a “business” (translation "I sell stuff through Amway"), and will be met by approving looks.
And then I’ll say I’m a scientist, and will be met with looks of pity (“I’m so sorr…..I mean, that’s great”), shock (“Really? Why the fuc…..I mean, really, that’s great”), derision and mockery (“Scientist? You’re one of those guys sitting in a lab at midnight growing bacteria? I mean, that’s great.) (Ok, there might be some truth in that), utter contempt (“That’s great. I work for a start-up. Oh, by the way, I just bought a plasma TV”) (translation “you pathetic fool still doing research and only able to afford a second hand TV”), or sympathy (“That’s great. What do you do?”).
And, in all their eyes, I can see a little twinkle and an image of crazy-white-haired-dork flashing by.
Hollywood, Bollywood, some day us scientists will have the last laugh.
(Laughter fades. I plan my newest scheme for world domination….)