While thinking of what to write for the column this week, I watched one of my favourite horror films, The Shining (1980). Now, this film, directed by Stanley Kubrick and adapted from Stephen King's eponymous novel, has spun numerous conspiracy theories, none of which are more entertaining than the one which links it to the Apollo 11 moon landing. The conspiracy theory claims that Kubrick had been hired by NASA to film the footage, starring Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, which was used to prove the moon landing. In other words, there was no moon landing in 1969; it was a hoax the US pulled off at the height of the Cold War and their one-upmanship with the USSR in the space race. Later, Kubrick made The Shining, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall, as a confession about the alleged faked moon landing, according to these conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theorists claim to see a number of signs that betray Kubrick's confession. For instance, the haunted room in the Overlook hotel: In King's novel, the number of the room is 217, but in Kubrick's movie, it is changed to 237. Why? Apparently, because the distance between the earth and the moon is 237,000 miles (Actually, it is 238,857 miles, but that's close enough, right?). Kubrick has a more pragmatic reason. Asked by film critic Michel Ciment why he changed the number of the room, the director said Timberline Lodge, where the exterior of the film was shot, had a room 217, and the proprietors feared that guests might not want to stay in it after watching the film.
But, that's not all. The son of Nicholson's character (Jack Torrance), Danny, roams around the maze-like corridors of the Overlook hotel, where Torrance is a winter caretaker, on his bike wearing a sweater with an Apollo 11 pattern sewn on it. There is still more: King's novel has only one girl who was hacked to death, but in The Shining, Danny sees twin sisters. Those with a fertile imagination claim it is a nod of the hat to NASA's earlier space programme Gemini (twins, get it?). Kubrick has, of course, never accepted such claims, and there is some speculation that his extraordinary 1968 epic, 2001: A Space Odyssey, had sparked such outrageous theories.
Of course, The Shining and the conspiracy theories surrounding it have nothing to do with India's space programme. Space, of course, has a lot to offer to India, especially in the field of communication and defence, but sending a man to a low-Earth orbit is hardly what the doctor would recommend. In the end, it might prove to be only a hell of an expensive ego massage for the nation. When former US president John F Kennedy made his famous "We choose to go to the moon" speech, he faced a plethora of earthly problems — an escalating Cold War, the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the Soviets being way ahead in their space programmes. For Modi, the project of putting a man in space serves as a nice symbol of the country's scientific progress, especially a few months before he faces elections. One wonders if the government or Isro have thought what will happen after that — a concrete plan is still to be made public.