I’ve been watching too many old movies (is it even possible to watch too many of those?) and couldnt help but notice their take on science. No matter what the protagonists’ field of research – be it a mysterious formula, nuclear science, or medical research – the 1950s to 1970s scientist always works in a lab that looks like a shiny version of my high school Chemistry laboratory!
As a scientist myself, I am mystified by filmmakers’ strange addiction to chemistry labs that are carefully stock-piled with glassware and multicolored fluids! Here are a couple of quick examples:
A scientist trying to harness solar energy (Madan Puri in Blackmail) should not be working in a Synthetic-chemistry lab straight out of the 1920s! He needs heavy equipment and sophisticated machinery - NOT glassware.
Here’s another scientist (Shashi Kapoor in Abhinetri) working in a chemistry lab. His lab is more sophisticated than usual - it comes equipped with a couple of microscopes (encircled area) in case he wants to go check his bright colored fluids under the scope!
Even doctors conducting medical research arent exempt! Here’s one doctor (Shashi Kapoor again, this time in Prem Patra) whose lab definitely needs more “biological” equipment:
Hollywood scientists too, shared the passion of their Bollywood brethren for chemical laboratories. Remember Fred MacMurray in The Absent Minded Professor or Cary Grant in Monkey Business?
Advent of new technology hasnt improved matters. Now, science laboratories onscreen look like they belong on the sets of Star Wars or require the knowledge of rocket science at the very least!
Such misrepresentation can be quite amusing even though it stretches my suspension of disbelief to breaking point. One instance though, drives me nuts with exasperation (and envy, I must admit) – the “science” in CSI. Not only are their labs super clean, they also possess magic machines that produce results at the touch of a button (wish my experiments would work like that) and faaast! And look - they still hang on to the time-honored tradition of bright-colored liquids!
In case you’re wondering what real-life labs look like - here’s a chemistry and a biology laboratory:
I am sure this phenomenon isnt confined to science alone, but extends to all professions that movie-makers arent aware of and do not bother to research. So how about sharing your take on how Bollywood/Hollywood/small-screen treats your favorite profession? Do you find it amusing/interesting or do the inaccuracies drive you nuts? What things about your profession do you wish the media would highlight?