Aesthetics of a Dystopia: Representation of Cityscapes and Environmental Crisis in the web series ‘Leila’

Shubhda Arora

Indian Institute of Management Lucknow, Lucknow, India

Leila (2019) is an Indian dystopian drama web series produced as Netflix Original and is based on a novel by the same name. It is set in the year 2047, in the fictional nation of Aryavarta, a heavily militarised fascist state obsessed with the ideas of purity. The story unfolds hundred years after India’s independence, where India has been replaced by a techno-centric totalitarian regime with strict boundaries dividing the rich and the poor. The constant haze, fumes, darkness and the inability to see the sun, looms over Aryavarta. Visuals of destroyed ecosystems and extinct wildlife inform the narrative of Leila. Water is rationed and sold at Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) and fresh air is available only to the rich ideologues of Aryavarta. Huge garbage mounds cover the ghettos where the doosh(lower castes) live in abject grime and poverty. The futuristic city has no space for doosh or mishrit(children of inter-religious marriages between Hindus and Muslims) and plans to build air conditioner domes for only the rich to be able to survive the inhabitable environmental conditions. Using Lefebvre’s (1991) idea of spatiality, this paper explores the futuristic aesthetics of this city, its social stratification and its techno-centric worldview.


Shubhda Arora is an Assistant Professor of Communication at Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow. She is a media sociologist working in the area of Disaster and Environmental Communication. Shubhda completed her doctoral degree from Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA) in 2015.


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