On air since 2011, supernatural soap opera Sasural Simar Ka has been sending the internet into a tizzy over the last few days as one of the lead characters, as a result of a curse from a wandering sage, was turned into a fly. The show began life as a normal soap with a focus on women's improvement but over the course of its 1500+ episodes has jumped far over the shark.
The idea is not entirely original. In 2012, SS Rajamouli’s Telugu movie Eega told the story of two lovers, one of whom is murdered and reincarnated as a fly so he can take revenge on his killer and protect his girlfriend. Much earlier, in 1987, came The Fly, a remake of a 1958 film of the same name, directed by David Cronenberg and starring Jeff Goldblum as a scientist who has discovered teleportation. Since the film was before the CGI movement in modern cinema, it is also notable for its use of plastic, rubber and real materials in creating the transformation scene, creating an effect that is all too real.
These tales can be traced back to Franz Kafka’s acclaimed novella The Metamorphosis, which begins with the now classic opening line, “As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect,” although what that insect was is a matter of debate.
Indian sitcoms, however, are not really as outlandish as they seem to be. In a classic case of truth being stranger than fiction, here is a video from the Dr Phil show about a man who eats dog food and puts on an outfit to make him look like an oversized Shih Tzu. Dr Phil exclusively deals with some of the strangest people in the United States of America. Whether they are real or not is a debate for another day.
Humans are not merely turned into insects. Manimal was a short-lived American television series that run for eight episodes in 1983. The show featured Dr Jonathan Chase (Simon MacCorkindale) as a crimefighting shape-shifter who could turn himself into any animal that he chose. A few of the animals he transformed into, over the show's run, was a hawk, a panther and a snake.
In the acclaimed anime series Full Metal Alchemist, one of the best episodes explores the relationship between science and human experiments. A failure to create talking animals leads a scientists to do a perverse fusion between his daughter and his dog to create a chimera.
But these transformations always do not need a fantastic setting on television.
In the latest season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a show often described as “Seinfeld on crack”, as one of the characters steadily turns into a cat (with the help of expensive cosmetic surgery), it is suggested to her, “You should go full cat and wear humans on your sweatshirt.” She will not be referred to as woman in court which the judge agrees to do while her ex-husband files an application to stop paying alimony because, let’s face it, why should a human being pay alimony to a cat?
Pop culture always takes influence from the real, in one way or another. Sometimes it could also happen the other way round. Whatever be the case, this brings us to subject of one Thomas Thwaites.
Thwaites, who has previously spoken about how he made a toaster from scratch, told The Daily Mail that he was interested in the idea of transhumanism, but also believed that not everyone in the future would want to become a cyborg. Some might use these advantages in technology to “devolve” because the stress of being a human being is sometimes too great.
Chronicling his experiences in GoatMan: How I Took a Break from Being Human, Thwaites spent a year constructing prosthetics that would help him live and walk like a goat, studying goat behaviour, and also built an artificial stomach so he could eat grass. He then convinced a farmer in the Swiss Alps to let him become part of his herd where he spent three days living like a goat in a herd and a further three days living alone.
Earlier this year, a Norwegian woman called Nano claimed to have been a cat her whole life. In the video below, Nano, who wears cat ears and a tail, says, “I was born in the wrong species. I have been a cat all my life.” She indulges in cat-like behaviour including hissing at dogs, walking on all fours and sleeping on the sink or the windowsill.
Whether or not the video is satire, it was uploaded in the comedy section of YouTube. It raised some important questions. “Why is she walking on two feet?” “How can she speak Norwegian and give interviews?” And, most importantly, “What does she think of the cat memes on the internet?”