Gravity: A space junkie’s overwhelmed afterthought

Gravity is not a movie. Gravity is a journey you begin treading in zero-gravity footsteps as nervously as first-time spacer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock). It’s the chuckle that you share with Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) every time he relates how he has a ‘bad feeling about this mission’. The unseen Shariff – the supposed Indian on board – may have gone to Harvard but he still rejoices by singing Mera Joota Hai Japani. Gravity is that knot-in-the-stomach feeling you share with Stone as she tumbles off into deep space. It’s the courage and persistence in the face of calamity that we all want to possess just like Kowalsky as he fetches Stone, tethers her to his thruster and heads off to the ISS.

Gravity is loneliness. There may be other intelligent beings in outer space but none could come to the rescue of Stone or Kowalsky. No one tunes in to their cries of help – no confused static, no encrypted messages, no unintelligible blabber from little green men out there. Gravity is death. We see Shariff for the first time only after he’s dead, his EVA suit and helmet damaged and a gaping hole in his face through which you could see the other side. By the time Stone and Kowalsky reach their shuttle, the crew’s dead too making them the sole survivors of the mission. Stone stares at death through her helmet as her oxygen level falls. Kowalsky goes off into a self-imposed exile into the deeper edge of space urging Stone to make it back home.

Gravity is life. The near-asphyxiated Stone climbs aboard the ISS and the first thing she does is go off into an embryonic sleep in the cocooned and oxygenated confines of the airlock. She floats in zero gravity in a foetal position, the air supply pipes around her almost seem like umbilical cords tethering her to life just as Kowalsky had tethered her to the thruster. Once back on earth, Stone swims out of the lake and takes the first gulp of earth-air just like a newborn takes its first breath. She swims, she crawls and finally she stands. Gravity is evolution. Gravity is spiritual. Kowalsky watches the Ganges gleam in the sun from millions of miles away. He even appears to Stone probably in her imagination, probably as a spirit to guide her and help her get the Soyuz close to the Chinese space station the Tiangong. The St Christopher postcard on the Soyuz, the statue of the Budai or the Laughing Buddha, the constant references Stone makes to her dead daughter and how she finally prays. Gravity is silence. Stone says that’s what she enjoys most about space. The absence of a soundtrack. The buzz of inconsistent static. The silence on the other end of the line. The exhilaration Stone feels when she finally hears a man’s voice cooing to a gurgling baby. Gravity is geo-political. An American crew with an Indian on board tries to get home with the help of the Russians’ Soyuz but finally make it in the Chinese module Shenzou.

Gravity is almost make-belief with nearly 80% of it being rendered by CGI. Gravity, released in October 2013, made money grossing overĀ $653,287,000 making it the 7th biggest grosser in 2013 as of December 2013. Gravity was expensive, its production budget estimated around $100 million. Dhoom 3, a mindless whodunnit with a deadpan Aamir Khan and rubberband doll Katrina Kaif with rip-off scenes from at least 15 Hollywood movies made 60% of Gravity’s production budget in the first two days of its release.

Gravity is Hollywood. Gravity is one of the the best things that happened in the arena of larger-than-life filmmaking in this Hollywood era.

Sandra Bullock as Dr Ryan Stone in Gravity
Sandra Bullock as Dr Ryan Stone in Gravity

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