Thursday, April 05, 2012

PC-less Alice in Temporary TV-land

Our desktop went on the blink—again—and I rediscovered TV—along with certain attendant truths.

I happen to be a homemaker-reader-blogger-spouse-parent. The two offspring now reside in different corners of the world...and my time is more or less my own, to follow inclination and sense.

The daily routine generally follows this pattern—give spouse breakfast while he watches a bit of tv; mostly shut off tv soon after (unless there is a charming Farooq Shaikh speaking sensibly and mellifluously in Urdu to a pretty equally well-spoken interviewer, as happened the other day); have breakfast, clean up, attend to maid—and sit down at desktop for a session of browsing-blogging-skyping. The rest of the day follows as per work schedule—and at the end of the day, late evening or so, there is some more tv, whatever spouse has finally settled on after a manic round of channel-browsing (in the manner of many men; more on this later, another blog post).

Now from the afore-mentioned lines, one thing is obvious—tv is rather low on my priority list. Not that I shun tv totally, oh no; I am not one of those who declaim in supercillious fashion—“I don’t watch tv’. It’s just that my tv viewing is limited; I'm a specific audience, not a random surfer. Occasionally I get drawn into a particular show—like Masterchef Australia -- when a family member tempts and draws me in. But with daughter away for the nonce—my next session of dedicated tv viewing will be if and when I make the effort for something that catches fancy.

Well, to get to the point—my tv set has my attention again, for the present, at least. The late morning browsing session has been replaced by some rediscovery of tv-land.

And here are some revelations from within the box.

1. Private news channels are as banal as ever. Also, a bit of a fraud. More time is devoted to commercials, than actual news. Besides, to a lay viewer, the news presentation and content seem, umm, slanted perhaps.

2. Doordarshan and its sister channels are as quaint and charming as before. While DD news is just about ok, features are generally good, worth a watch at the least. Thus it was that I got re-acquainted with Farooq Shaikh.

And not just Farooq saab. Bonus add-ons included scenes from Farooq’s films. So one got to watch Poonam Dhillon in her very first film (Noorie), plus all those alternative cinema stalwarts from the nineteen-eighties—an actually slim Satish Shah, a kooky Neena Gupta doing a comic turn in one of Farooq’s zany comedies; a young Shabana Azmi good as ever…well, the whole class of eighties, really. Now I have this urge to watch Gaman, Rang Birangi, Bazaar and all those forgotten charmers from those innocent times.

3. Movies on tv—ahhh. How long is it since I watched a full film on tv? Very long, really ; but, here I was watching on two consecutive mornings, two films, almost completely—meaning, I caught the films after they had started—but watched to the end. Interestingly both films starred a filmi favourite, and equally interestingly, it was fun to note the transformation of an actor from effortless charmer in mid-nineties to a still-in-there-trouper.

And yes, the other actors…Karisma Kapoor could act very well indeed, even though her film Raja Hindustani managed to self destruct from a fun and musical first half to a Bolly melodrama in the second half . Still, overall, RH was a good watch in its own way.

Far better of course, was the second Hindi film I watched, on a weekday morning. I had watched Rang De Basanti in a theatre , Feb 2006, loved it, despite its questionable nihilism and climax. Since then I have watched it a couple of times on video and of course recently on tv. As before, the film managed to move and simultaneously engage my attention and admiration. I just love the whole ensemble cast, the varied characters but especially those of  the young Muslim  pacifist  Aslam and rightwinger Lakman Pandey ( who finds himself reconsidering his rightist leanings).  Plus of course the music…fabulous, absolutely thrilling.

 Basically RDB is right up there among my favourite films.

Must report though that tv-land provides only this much and no more; by the end of the first week, the tv remote was contiuously being used, channels changed--all in vain; an old sitcom elicited some smiles, but otherwise the procession of boring news and silly bolly item numbers—it simple had me reaching for the remote. Back to waiting chores, and, my good ol’ friends -- books.

4. Rediscovery of Discovery, Fox, National Geographic and all knowledge-entertainment  channels—as usual worth every minute. Thus it was that I watched Paul Merton in China and somebody else in Argentina. The feature on China was like revisiting an old friend, but the one on Argentina—something fresh and new, a revelation.

A couple of days back, it was Paul Merton again, in India now, entertaining his blasé much travelled self in a Hyderabad ice-land, where blazered and well-covered Indians forked out Rs 250 for a chance to experience an artificially created indoor landscape of ice, snow and blower-driven winds. If I am not mistaken my home town Chennai too, has one such  polar- place.

Vide Discovery’s Animal Planet channel, I found myself getting reacquainted with the Tigers of India, the few that manage to survive . A new revelation was the use of robot driven moving cameras for use in film-capture of tigers, deer, monkeys, wild boar, the tiger cub-hunting leopard… the magnetic cast of jungle-India. Fascinatingly, some of these robot-cameras are each attached to an elephant’s tooth! A group of elephants steered by mahouts spend the day in the jungles of Pench Forest Reserve in Madhya Pradesh tracking a tigress and her cubs, through a whole year of recorded observation. Some cameras are also fixed at certain spots, notably water holes where all jungle animals come to slake their thirst, splash about, and cool off.

Robot cameras--What a unique, clever yet unobtrusive tool to capture undisturbed, the glorious reality of Wild India.

And yet another fascinating discovery was the National Geographic Channels’s In the Womb show. This line from their website says it all—

Using ground-breaking photography, state-of-the-art special effects and amazing 4D scans National Geographic's In The Womb takes us on a series of remarkable journeys into the extraordinary world of fetal development.

5. Watching one good film and one bad film—all in the space of one afternoon.

So, well into the second week of PC-lessness, I decided to check out the movie fare available on tv and watch one worthwhile film  plus one cheap-thrill flick. Luckily, I managed to get a sample of each kind. MGM was showing a musical, ‘Tom Sawyer’, an American production from—unbelievably—Readers’ Digest. The film was of course charming , sweet, funny—as expected. The unexpected pleasant surprise came from watching a very young Jodie Foster, playing Becky Thatcher.

Now  anybody wishing to see  this  nice sweet ol’ film--please do-- check  it on video, or watch out for its appearance on MGM channel. Here is a link that gives information about this 39 year old production--

And to end this report about surviving-rediscovering tv—here is a bit of rant about one annoying Hindi film from recent times—Rascals, the BAD Hindi copy of a slight but charming American film—. the late eighties comedy, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, starring a favourite (Michael Caine) and a couple of Holly veterans . The Hindi abomination Rascals easily wins my Golden Kela/Rasberry for the Worst Film of period 2001-2011. Starring two Hindi film ‘heroes’ (one 40 plus, the other 50 plus) in their worst possible roles, plus a 25 year old Himachali beauty who here manages to look sexy in an ugly manner, this is the sort of film that needs to be taught in film school, under the subject—How NOT to make a film. Crass, silly, vulgar, cheap, loud—watch it if you want cheap thrills.

And thus ends my two week PC-less holiday. The desktop is back—and the tv set has been ignored more or less, over the past twenty-four hours. I am NOT an IPL fan, so the April-May cricket carnival will go on without my passive participation. I will of course continue to peep in and catch whatever the spouse is surfing; will also as usual, check out newspaper listings, hoping to chance upon a long-awaited show…the usual city-life circus, it rolls on.