Great Indian TV Tamasha…

Having grown up during the 80’s and the 90’s I have seen the growth of the television Industry. From the fledging days of the Doorshan to the current times where we have multiple choices for the kind of programs we want to see. Humlog, Buniyaad,Mr. Yogi, Mungerilal ke haseen sapne, Malgudi Days, Ramayan, Mahabharat, Tara, Aahat, Neem ka Ped,Fauji, Chanakya, Bharat Ek Khoj, Byomkesh Bakshi, Shanti, Swabhimaan,  etc  are probably some of the most popular show ‘s that most of the folks growing up in late 80’s and the 90’s can identify with. This was an era where the Indian audiences sought or rather were provided with the option of moving beyond the audio medium (radio) and get access to an audio visual medium other than  cinema. The concept of home entertainment had germinated.

The 80’s were primarily the stepping stone for the Television industry. This was a period which saw a simplistic mix of programs which were focused on catering to the Indian middle-class, their values and aspirations.

Serials were penned by some quality authors, writers, playwrights, screenplay writers or adaptations of some good pieces of literature, historical shows, mythology, family dramas, comedy and chat shows. Production houses made an effort to cater to this by hiring quality writers like rahi masoom reza, Manohar Shyam Joshi, Gulzaar, etc wrote some of the enviable material to be then converted to serials. Film directors like Pankaj prashar, ramesh sippy, BR chopra, Girish Karnad, Mahesh Bhatt etc made programs which really had soul. But with the cable invasion post the 1990’s the Zee revolution began. Things were not too morose , Things were still good then content became contemporary showing the divide between the urban class and the rural. This proved to be a fresh lease of  many actors and writers struggling to make it at Bollywood made it big here. Experimentation with newer genres like horror, romance, short stories, musical competition made the audiences swoon and lap up most things on offer. TRP’s for the then new bee channels soared to new highs.

But post the late 90’s and 2000’s I believe the decline started. The concept of women dominating the home entertainment section was proven was further solidified by the success of “Kyun Ki “ and others such mindless capers like Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, Kasauti Zindagi ki, Kusum, Kumkum etc..the list is endless and the stories mostly revolving around joint families. The clutter of serials is now so much that eve remembering the names of each need a computer application.   Barring a few most programs but a charade or costume exhibitions with pretty faces making the cut as TV celebs. Men and other family members probably need to look for other avenues.  The era of the intellectually challenged TV has began. I’m certain that most sane people would prefer to see a rerun of an old sitcom/ a cricket match rather than to watch soaps which really just have the foaming agents and nothing else. Worse even today’s youth is really keen on content like “Emotional aatyachaar” and “Big Boss’ rather than watching something smart and sensible. I’m at times awed by the shocking behavior of the people (women) who can afford to watch a program which comes 5 days a week and hardly moves in terms of the script or the story. It’s all about the clothes and the glamour. Now models and wannabe’s can opt for serials instead of movies. This has spawned the growth of many channels and production houses which focus on making business instead of feeding quality programs. Yes there have been a few finds in the likes of Rajeev Khandelwal who did surprise me when he made his transition from TV to the silverscreen with the brilliant “Aamir”. But examples like these are far an few.

It’s really simple a game, you either bombard the viewers with a family drama, comedy or give them a dose of reality. Song and dance fest are also part of it. Gulzaar who was the creator of some of the best TV series specially on Ghalib commented that he was asked to submit his resume to get work from the serialwallahs. That’s a shocker considering Gulzaar being one of the most respected personalities of Indian cinema. 

What’s really wrong is the change of sensibilities of the audiences.  The Indian women majorly housewife’s and elderly women are not the only culprits. It’s actually the working women who are from smaller towns also are a prime audience. It’s true that the women characters are now central and that is the reason the male following drifted away to other fact based programs. But anyhow the characters like karamchand/Byomkesh/Waagle are no longer there. Blame it on the material oriented society, glamour scores over quality content. Cults are still being made with “Roadies” and new TRP benchmarks set.  . There were a few glimpses in the early 2000’s but it seems totally vague and inappropriate to watch TV programs which currently are on air. I hope for the good old times to make a comeback.


Readers InDigestion…

Reading magazines and periodicals is a rarity these days. The media invasion and the internet frenzy generation of ours has put a relative comma if not an absolute full stop to many mags.

I’d remember dad subscribing to a reader’s digest during my childhood days. Back then we used to have almost 8-10 periodicals every month. Of the memories I have of RD are the interesting anecdotes and interesting titles like “All in a day’s work, humor in uniform, quizzes and some detailed articles which referred to human triumph, covered common issues on health and other politically correct and feel good articles. Most of them cleverly cut paste from other books and mags. Amongst other mags RD was an out-and-out crowd pleaser.  It also featured a “Word Power” section. There are a few aficionados I know of who have collected volumes of these mags and have them binded carefully. Thus giving them a look of a behemoth epic or a Gita/Koran used to swear by at the court . Such was the popularity of the RD mag.

But with the change of times and competition from umpteen magazines which have feature similar stories. RD lost its ground to other mags. Although not many know that it is a postal lottery company and is published 10 times a year. Featuring the greek Pegasus as its logo for over 44 years, it has gone over a revamp in 2007. If you’ve read it, you’ll probably identify a few things with it, like the annual sweepstakes they spam you with (“You may have already won something! This is the first step to your USD1million, watch out for the next! Scratch and see if you’ve won a year’s free subscription!”), offer on those large encyclopedias or special dictionaries or first aid guide books people buy but never read, free watches / table clocks / diaries for renewing your subscription… and lots of articles to read when you’ve nothing else to do.

Recent “googling” might show that RD was always second fiddle to the India Today in terms of popularity. First published in 1954 in India, it had held the 2nd most popular magazine till quiet some time. But the current situation the readership is down from about 7.2 million copies to almost a half 3.94 million copies by 2009. Primarily the pricing and change of tastes of today’s readers habits playing a major role in it. The current price being a quarter short of a Rs. 100.  Size is probably is the one aspect which is constant for RD from the newsstands. But that too probably has dwarfed RD and has made it invisible . The content of the mag  has substantially deteriorated as suggested by its cult followers. Although I found the ‘What HR people wont tell you about the job interview’ the only bright and smart article in most of last year’s editions. At times it seems like a Research & Development Magazine which publishes articles like “Top 20 secrets” or “What not to do on..”. It’s morally correct and globally accepted Editorial team seem not to get the pulse of youth in India. RD though still enjoys one popular loyal subscriber- that of the dentists and the medicine fraternity, but they too now leave their copies in the waiting room….

Reinventing self-destruction “Dev.D”

Anuraag Kashyap is known as a maverick, accepted as an eccentric and lauded by many as an iconoclast. The reason why AK is considered to be worthy of such superlatives is evident from the very few initial scenes of DEV.D! So much so as even the film certificate is red too. The attitude is clear its bold, brash and on your face. That’s just the beginning. The film quickly clarifies that it isn’t your usual family wallah’s Devdas. Rather it’s one which is modern with times and at times even shocking. Switching gears is the Devdas in question, a selfish, inconsiderate and wuss of a guy but still a classic.

Made, remade and recycled with the same storyline over and over again, spreading across actors from K.L Sehgal, Dilip saab and SRK, Kashyap dabbles with a classic by taking the central plot and characters and staging them in a modern scenario. The major exception being this Dev is a Dhillion and not a Bengali as made by Shri Sarat Chandra Chattopadhya in the original novel. The narrative of the film breaks away from the previous versions and develops the three central characters the lovely Paro-played by Mahi Gill, Dev essayed by Abhay Deol and Chanda-the modern Chandramukhi by Kalki Koelchin independently but as a part of the story. The movie also dabbles with two infamous incidents- the DPS MMS Scandal and the BMW run over poor pavement dwellers by a rich young driver who has alcohol well over the accepted norm in his blood stream.

The freshness of the film is its essence. Post the first half an hour or so, Dev starts to break into what he does best drink, dope and abuse. The character is developed in a way that you actually do not sympathize with him rather loathe and despise him for his ways. Using songs as many as 18 of them to build on and show the pathos and self-destruction of Dev. Kashyap enthuse fresh blood into an ordinary and mundanely simplistic plot. Amit Trivedi and Amitabh Bhattacharya make the most and provide bollywood with a soundtrack to marvel with. It probably will not be out of place to say that the best debut award deservingly should go to him. The movie is both unpredictable, dark, gothic and uber edgy to the core-which is a hallmark of most of AK capers. Trivedi also lends his voice to most of the tracks which sum up the many hues and  moods like pathos, angst, allusions and comedy through a stomper of a OST. Thus there are no lines which you would really remember as dialogues but the music speaks volumes. Most songs will linger in your mind for a long long time. However the one dialogue which stays on ur mind is ‘Dilli mein billi mar lo , kha lo par palo nahi’!  

In terms of performances it’s a Mahi who makes a spirited debut as a fiery tongued Paro, whose as bold as to shedding her clothes to send Dev a bina kapdo waali snap or carry a mattress to the fields on a cycle just to floor Dev to submission. Hopefully, God makes such dames and let men have more encounters with them! Abhay deserves a pat on the back for certainly choosing to play the unconventional and edgy role. He does justice to his part. Sadly Kalki has a  ‘great character” but an average performance is a letdown.

The movie  for a change is not a crowd pleaser, but is experimental and unconventional. Just to mention a few instances – Watch Dev send shivers through an old garrulous woman when he gobbles up her DTC bus ticket or the scene where the Chunni Lal character, played by Dibyendu Bhattacharya with elan, is having a bout of drinks with ‘pardesi’ playing at the backdrop. I would say that off late the national capital has generated quiet an enthusiasm amongst the filmmakers, but most of them are content sticking to the good parts. DevD transcends this line and gives us a sneak peek into the hitherto shunned but existing world of drugs, sleaze and flesh trade, giving the business a nouveau identity. Extra marks for this content and detailing. All in all a guilty pleasure one cannot ignore.

Session2: Revolutions and new beginnings.

 The group John butt, Aman Sethi

The session began with excerpts with each of the three panelists, who really gave in their own opinions on the various revolutions. The focus shifted on to the nature of revolutions and there causes, consequences. Taking of sides in a revolution. Failed revolutions and successful ones. Media coverage and subsequent impact, and how the world views revolutions.

Many references were made to films like Zee and Algeria as well as books by greek author Sophocles whose works on Oedipus is considered the mother of all books on revolutions and ‘War and Peace’. John stressed that it is the media which really covers the bombings and the destruction in Afghanistan but a few blocks away life goes on and people try to shut themselves from all the negativity. He also stressed that Afghanistan needs awareness campaigns like India where people are made aware about bombs put in various places. Mr. butt was of the opinion that sides in revolution should not be taken and books, movies should not be preachy.

On the contrary other authors were of the opinion that any art form can be used to create awareness should be used to do so a moral responsibility. Most authors were of the opinion that failed revolutions attracted more attention as compared to successful ones. This was a public mindset and is a tried and tested genre. Reporting a non-fiction genre like this one also was difficult as compared to the fiction genre. The culmination of any revolution was that it is primarily caused by oppression or pressure from the groups.  The trick according most authors was not to be too much involved in the revolution and then write, as it would be a unbiased version of the scenario. But is actually hard to achieve.  Thus many great works are actually marred by lack or originality and honesty.

Lit for Life Session 1: New Wave Cinema (Featuring Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra (ROPM)

The discussion began with the history and the transition of the Indian cinema. Post independence our films reflected a mood of euphoria. Thus we had films which showcased the celebrations of independence. Songs like ‘saathi haath badhana ‘ were examples of the mood. Then we realized that everything we have is imported, songs like ‘Mera joota hai jaapani” sermonized that excepting the heart rest all was imported. The mood slowly mellowed down, and gave way to cynicism, where one used to imagine that independence was actually not what the nation had aspired. Songs like “jinhe naaz hai hind pe who kahan hain’ summing up the mood. This gave way the filmmakers to ideate and give us escapism, Shammi Kapoor being the first star to show us how to shake a leg. Since people were alteady sad enough, films shifted gears and presented a rosy picture and larger than life cinema was born. This continued till the 70’s until Big B changed it all. Where the system was the villain and somebody had to challenge the status quo. This also made the shift from quintessential good boy image to the anti hero image as well. This was really followed by cinema which depicted real and believable cinema, where the life of the Indian diaspora was explored.

The rise of filmmakers like Nihalani, Benegal, Sidhir Mishra etc changed the cinematic landscape. Bold hard-hitting subjects were treaded into and met with success. This was the so called new wave, but essentially the history of new wave was French cinema, where people who thought that the society needs to be documented and shown to the public to make them understand the current issues. Random cameras were put to use and to record the lives of people and were exhibited at various cinemas across France. People paid to watch them. This was real new wave. According to ROMP any cinema which can create a movement and has the power to move the audience in a major way and have a ripple effect can be termed as new wave cinema. On being asked about RDB, Aks and Dilli 6, and his inspirations to write them, he said that Aks was essentially the good and evil residing in oneself and their conflict. This philosophy was really followed and is the crux of the film. For the influences for the cult RDB, he says this was a result of all the various events in his life. Staring from the model MIG’s at his school at “Airforce Bal Bharti’ to his school days and his gradual advance to the college. Here he was mostly aloof from the reality of india and used to complain about India being a country gone to the dogs. Then during his college there was a change in him and he and his fellow mates considered that they have to take the onus of changing the society.

This was the time when the mandal commission happenned, to the mass movements during the mandal commission made him also participate in candle light marches and people standing up against the system. Then there was the system which reacted in a way no one ever expected. In the midst of that he also used to booze and jump into surajkund and the other places shown in the film. Influences of Bhagat Singh were there where Bhagat singh at the age of 21 knew that they were not fighting the foreigners but were rather fighting the exploitation and the suffering which was brought about by them. The HSRA knew that Indians would be free from the British only to be governed by another group of tyrants. So they had a vision of a nation building rather than that of fighting the british. All this khichdi as he puts it translated into RDB. The only case being the parallels of the 30’s and the 2000’s.

The question was really what made the guys /youth like bhagat singh a student, Bismil and Ashfaqullah who were poets put their pen down and really take the gun? The reason was exploitation. The enemy within. All these were forces which helped him develop RDB. On delhi he dabbled with the topic of good and evil residing in oneself, his experiences of the class and religion divide which he experienced during the Delhi roits. The local boys loosing their manhood to jalebi an outcast. All these were primarily personal experiences which he wrote about and later made them into films. On being asked that earlier Hollywood studios majorly investing in writers almost 10-15 people per script to develop it, ROMP replied that a story that needs to be told will always be better than a one which is tried to be made. For screenplay writing one needs to think like an editor, his job was created because of writers and filmmakers. Thus screenplay writers need to think like an editor before writing. Interesting tips were writers need to experience life, depict experiences they have gone through, inspirations. Basically a pictorial story is a film, so it has to have all ingredients.

He also said he was looking about a modern day script of Karn which really made the journey of the 2000 0r 3000 years and his version of the Karn of today. He also spoke about Indians being a poor copy cats, we have our own culture and can have original ideas but still ape and make really pathetic versions of Hollywood cinema. He lauds the fact that foreign authors and filmmakers do a better job at making films with an Indian backdrop. Will write about the other two sessions later..

Environmental Pollution

With the changing times, and the progress, specially Industrial made by humans in the due course, there have been many problems which have threatened to cause the wiping out of the living creatures from the very face of earth. Environment pollution is one of them. Since the early 1900’s man with his quest to have a better life and to grow as a civilization, created his own plans, and in the process started interfering with nature and its way of functioning. It was the industrial revolution which gave rise to the factories and also spurred the excessive usage of coal and other fossil fuels, which contaminated the air. To add to it the hazardous chemicals discharges added to the growing human waste.

The world over especially in the European and the American nations this interference has resulted into to the reducing of the forest cover and depletion of the flora and fauna drastically, subsequently causing climate change. Nature always maintains a balance between things and has its own way. Contrary to that man for selfish reasons and his own greed changes this balance by Industrialization and dangerous changes in the environment.

Pollution literally means to make something dirty and to destroy the purity and sanctity of a place. During the genesis of our earth nature had its own way of doing things, which allowed the survival of the fittest and thus helped the evolution of various species on earth. But with growing population and the need to provide the human species a better and secure future led to the further exploitation of the natural resources and paved way for the activities like mining, hunting of animals, conquering the ocean and the skies. Thus damaging the overall eco-system to an extent where there were visible signs of danger of the life earth being finished. The major ways in which the earth was damaged was through air, water, and overall atmospheric pollution. Dumping of garbage, increased use of conventional and fossil fuels, cutting down of trees for building cities and for others purposes, further helped the cause. A situation has so been reached that, nature is beginning to get back at the humans by ways of Tsunami’s earthquakes, floods and epidemics. Pollution is responsible to adversely alter the environment and is a major reason for the genesis of many diseases. Air and water contamination, soild waste mishandling are some of the majors contributors of pollution.    

Cities like Cincinati and Chicago were the initiators of laws on pollution, as the unprecedented rise of pollution caused a threat. Besides the incidents in England called “The Great Smog which killed 4000 people, were serious warning signals, thus grabbing public attention. Though post world war II the awareness on environmental pollution gained momentum. But the introduction of nuclear warfare and the testing of weapons of mass destruction caused the introduction of new pollutants like radioactive material to the atmosphere. Some major catastrophes like the Bhopal gas tragedy and the Amoco Cadiz oil tanker off the coast of Brittany in the 70’s and the 80’s which demonstrated the universality of events which were responsible for major pollution as well. It also clarified the degree to which damage can be caused and the level of efforts to really curb these situations.The borderless natures of atmosphere and oceans inevitably resulted in the implication of pollution on a planetary level with the issue of global warming. Though their effects remain somewhat less well understood owing to a lack of experimental data, they have been detected in various ecological habitats far removed from industrial activity such as the Arctic, demonstrating diffusion and bioaccumulation after only a relatively brief period of widespread use. Pollution is of various types air, light, littering, water, noise, radioactive contamination, soil contamination, thermal and visual pollution. About 400 million metric tons of hazardous wastes are generated each year. The United States alone produces about 250 million metric tons. Americans constitute less than 5% of the world’s population, but produce roughly 25% of the world’s CO2, and generate approximately 30% of world’s waste. In 2007, China has overtaken the United States as the world’s biggest producer of CO2.  Some of the more common soil contaminants are chlorinated hydrocarbons (CFH), heavy metals (such as chromium, cadmium–found in rechargeable batteries, and lead–found in lead paint, aviation fuel and still in some countries, gasoline), MTBE, zinc, arsenic and benzene. In 2001 a series of press reports culminating in a book called Fateful Harvest unveiled a widespread practice of recycling industrial byproducts into fertilizer, resulting in the contamination of the soil with various metals. Ordinary municipal landfills are the source of many chemical substances entering the soil environment (and often groundwater), emanating from the wide variety of refuse accepted, especially substances illegally discarded there, or from pre-1970 landfills that may have been subject to little control in the U.S. or EU. There have also been some unusual releases of polychlorinated dibenzodioxins, commonly called dioxins for simplicity, such as TCDD.

Pollution can also be the consequence of a natural disaster. For example, hurricanes often involve water contamination from sewage, and petrochemical spills from ruptured boats or automobiles. Larger scale and environmental damage is not uncommon when coastal oil rigs or refineries are involved. Some sources of pollution, such as nuclear power plants or oil tankers, can produce widespread and potentially hazardous releases when accidents occur.

In the case of noise pollution the dominant source class is the motor vehicle, producing about ninety percent of all unwanted noise worldwide. Having said all of this pollution is a major threat to the existence of the mankind in the near future. Although there has been enough concern shown by various nations, there really has not been enough which has been done to battle pollution. With the evolution of various bodies like the “Green Peace” and the likes, there has certainly been an upsurge in the awareness of the issue.

Secondly corporate and the Government have taken up many initiatives to curb pollution through various programmes and foundations, but the success of these has been really limited so far and inspiring stories are far and few. Promotion of the use of clean-technologies like wind, solar, hydro etc by the generators is one such step, planting of trees, reduction in the felling of trees and proper awareness amongst the masses as to how each can really contribute towards reducing pollution and encouraging them sufficiently. Drives and initiatives from various walks of the society is another important point to control pollution. It is a reality which everybody has to deal with, thus it is important to really be the change and help reduce pollution.

Harry cleans up the dirt…

This Harry ain’t dirty…

Watching the entire Dirty Harry collection was sure fun. Clint Eastwood essaying the role of Harry Callahan, that would be regarded as a cult and an inspiration spawning a number of film. Eastwood blazes the screen with his cold blooded cop act and his smooth and slow dialogues, adding a dash of elan to the otherwise run of the mill cop films. The film series also shows the dare devilry and the risks which are involved in a cops life. With unforgettable dialogues like “do u feel luck punk” and scenes with harry blowing baddies with the Smith & Wesson. 44 Magnum, are a treat to watch. It also helpd Eastwood establish his iconic status as an action hero. 

Harry Callahan aka Dirty Harry c’se he does all the dirty police work for the police department. A series of killings and a threat note to the police department, make the PD turn to Harry Callahan to rescue the city from this killer. Though Callahan is not our typical by the book cop, he is rather a person who is regarded as a result getter but unruly and a rebel cop. The film exposes the shortcomings of the system by the culprits, who use the media, law and the system to actually get away with murder.  Harry with his unconventional means gets the victim who escapes due to lack of evidence and frames Harry instead. But Harry finally gets the better of him eventually.

The film was followed by other films like Magnum Force, Enforcer, Sudden Impact and Dead Pool. The films , which were successful at the box office. The film also reflects the social protests, as the film shows the law to be lop sided towards criminals through a system which can be manipulated.

The series marks and also shows the changing attitude of the Police department. With the topics of vigilante justice in magnum force, where young cops led by a police senior form a striking squd bumping off mafia and other baddies at will. This is followed by Enforcer where Harry is forced to train and is assisted by a female cop, which marks the changing face of the Police Deptt.  The next two films in the series are Sudden Impact and Dead Pool have revenge as their central theme. The last in the series also marks the arrival of the actors like Liam Neeson and Jim Carrey in small roles.

All in all this is an exciting series which certainly makes for an engaging watch for Eastwood fans.