Kabhi Thunderstorm, Kabhie Flood: The Making of an Indian Apocalypse Movie


Kabhi Thunderstorm, Kabhie Flood: The Making of an Indian Apocalypse Movie

Illustration: Juergen D'souza

The Indian Meteorological Department has issued alerts and predicted thunderstorms in over 13 states – which means the sun will be out and shining bright in at least 12 of them. Many of us were caught unawares by the widespread destruction that dust storms unleashed in Rajasthan and other parts of India over the last few days.

Some of the video and pictures, in fact, reminded me of all those Twister and 2012-type movies we grew up watching. If there’s one lesson in disaster management to be learnt from American pop culture, it’s that calamities and crises make for a kickass plot, the outcome of which is a mega-budget apocalypse movie.

We know the drill: An alien spaceship lands in some field in Boston, the monsters soon make it to the mainland, New York gets flooded, the Statue of Liberty collapses, and ultimately that one family makes it. But what if there were an Indian apocalypse movie?

No, I’m not talking about Prem Ratan Dhan Payo.

Bollywood’s version of The Day After Tomorrow – (Will it be called Kabhi Thunderstorm, Kabhie Flood? Baad Milkha Baad? Or Tsunami: The Leher?) – obviously begins with a warning from the MET, using terminology and colour codes that all of us pretend to understand, but don’t really. Life as we know it, is under threat. And it is aptly summed up by an Arijit Singh song about loneliness and heartbreak that will go on to top the charts for the next four months.

But given the MET’s previous history with predictions, no one believes them. The last time they got something right, Zayed Khan still had a career in the movies.

Ignoring the warnings Dilliwalas are still invoking their baaps in street fights; in Mumbai, thousands have gathered at Marine Drive with the sole aim of shouting “Pyaar Ek Dhoka Hai”. In Bangalore, life’s going on as usual, which means everyone is still stuck at the Silk Board junction. Government, corporations, and the public are going about their day, not realising what’s about to hit them. This doomsday scenario and our complete ignorance to it, is articulated through a Malaika Arora item song about living life to the fullest.

Mr Scientist, obviously played by Shah Rukh Khan with a Swades hangover, disillusioned by the lack of seriousness shown towards scientific facts and scary predictions, leaves the MET and decides to pursue the case secretly, staying underground. He meets the man who the whole of India pays attention to – Baba Ramdev. In a brief presentation to Baba Ramdev about how his multimillion dollar capitalist enterprise will collapse if something isn’t done quickly, he convinces the yoga guru to help him.

Using Baba Ramdev’s political clout, Mr Scientist manages to get on call with the President’s office; the latter ignores him because he has already finished his one hour of meetings for the day. “Give me the man who matters,” Mr Scientist tells Baba Ramdev, as they make the call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The phone is not reachable because he’s on a foreign trip to China and Jio is yet to go global. Running out of options, he tweets to Sushma Swaraj about an international emergency.

As all hope seems to have been lost, Mr Scientist gets a DM from her, and a meeting is set up with the Prime Minister. Before they can begin talking, there is a handshake with 30 photographers in the room because there’s no bad time for a photo-op, the thunderstorm can wait. The mood of the conversation is reflected in a tense background score, at the end of which the PM picks up his phone and makes the big decision.

A collection of the most elite cricketers, cows, businessmen, actors, godmen, and politicians are stationed at Ambani junior’s house, bracing for impact.

A control room is set up in Sriharikota to monitor the situation, cows of the master race are being gathered and shipped to a secret location in case the world ends, last-minute changes are being made to history textbooks, roads are being renamed, the Aadhaar database is being scanned behind six-feet walls to identify important members of the population that must be saved at all costs, and rescue operations have been ordered in various parts of the country. Badass ministers Sushma Swaraj and Nirmala Sitharaman take charge in key locations that will face the direct brunt of the storms. Yogi Adityanath is still campaigning for the Karnataka elections and Amit Shah already moved out of the planet a month ago.

As the storm approaches the country, everyone in the control room goes into utter shock – they have just realised that they once again forgot about the North East and Mr Scientist, originally from Tripura, is already dead. The region is in absolute tatters as the weather Gods unleash their fury. This is followed by sad music and a montage of destruction of Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, the Dalmia Red Fort, Vodafone towers, IPL stadiums, and all of Maharashtra’s 356 statues, termini, chowks, and gol-chakkars named for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj. The cinematic brilliance is captured in shots like “Raju <3 Priya” on fort walls slowly getting covered by an angry cloud of dust. What’s an apocalypse movie without a love story angle?

But as death and destruction takes its toll on life and property, one man has a plan.

It’s not the President, it’s not the Prime Minister, it’s not Baba Ramdev, it’s the most powerful man in the country – Mukesh Ambani. We see a short flashback of how Mr Ambani was building a massive secret safehouse, an underground bunker for all of India, that could withstand any disaster… and he did this while also focusing on his Jio, oil, and insurance business.

As an astute businessman, even in the middle of the end of the world, Mukesh decides to sell a ticket to safety. First preference is obviously given to Jio Prime members, as the mad rush, panic, and a jugaad fever for a safety pass grips the country. A collection of the most elite cricketers, cows, businessmen, actors, godmen, and politicians are stationed at Ambani junior’s house, bracing for impact.

The final impact sequence tests the limits of India’s CGI capabilities as all the members in the safehouse live to see another day. Baba Ramdev conducts a havan in the house for a safe future as clocks and calendars are reset. Everyone finally heads out to Marine Drive, and walks into the sunset as we fade to black.

The end credits feature a rap by Yo Yo Honey Singh to the new national anthem of the country, “O Jio dhan dhana dhan” with everyone breaking into a perfectly choreographed dance number. Arvind Kejriwal gives the movie five stars.