Love Story 2050 (dir. Harry Baweja, 2008), despite massive promotion and glitzy special effects, flopped hard—it was, to steal a joke from another film, a veritable “floppel-e-azam.” Designed to launch Harman Baweja to A-list stardom, this sci-fi romance returns its NRI (Non-Resident Indian) leads to mother India via a time machine. Karan (Baweja) meets Sana (Priyanka Chopra) at a dirt-bike race in Adelaide, Australia. He falls in love, stalks her, woos her, wins her—and then watches her get plowed down by a city bus. Recalling Sana’s offhand remark that she would like to see what Mumbai looks like in the year 2050, Karan rushes to the Sydney mansion of his eccentric scientist uncle Dr. Khanna and persuades him to test out his newly completed time machine by taking the two of them to Mumbai 2050. There, in Tomorrow-Land India, the two acquire a kooky entourage of androids and commence stalking Ziesha, Sana’s rock star reincarnation. Their mission: to remind Ziesha of her past so that, in love with Karan once again, she will escape with him to Adelaide.
In diagnosing this film’s “badness,” reviews typically cite the weak screenplay or Harman Baweja’s failure to stack up to Hrithik Roshan, the star he is said to resemble. I would venture that the film’s failings are less aesthetic than ideological: it fails to produce an Indian future that could be believed or even desired.
Love Story 2050 amplifies ideologies of Ascendant India. Like many hit films since the 1990s, it celebrates transnational elites; but, unlike these films, it interrupts the fantasy of a cosmopolitan modernity returned to family, tradition, and motherland. Love Story 2050 implies (and not so subtly) that the only India an NRI would want to return to is a sci-fi India—the hypermodern future predicted by so much contemporary discourse.
This sci-fi Mumbai proves unrecognizable. Love Story 2050 makes literal the promise of neoliberal futurity: India will be transformed, and it will be transformed very soon. But in visualizing this science fiction, it undermines the consent secured by market ideologies. Mumbai 2050, complete with flying cars and robot servants, is implausible; it’s hokey; it bears no apparent connection to Mumbai 2008. If Mumbai could ever look like this—and we’re not sure we would want it to—it would take a heck of a lot longer than 42 years.