Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Television, Movies, and a Lack of Indian-ness

I like to make these comparisons, now that my writing work can resume. The laptop has come back after repairs with a new keyboard, there’s a nip in the air, the dam where I go for a walk-cum-trot is chilly early in the morning, and I relish what little winter we get in Bombay.

This was then; when an idealistic nation doted on inspiring national figures, and movies (the India twentieth century pop art) used to be all about Raj Kapoor’s clowning philanthropist Raju, the brooding patriot Bharat played by Manoj Kumar, an idealistic Dilip Kumar playing Sagina Mahato, and even Balraj Sahni playing the role of a poor farmer in “ Do Bhiga Zameen” – which is one of the best Hindi films I have ever seen – is also a commentary on Indian society. Even Guru Dutt’s films were full of idealism and the national spirit a newly-born nation on the brink of great things, I don’t know what.

Where’s all those patriotism and idealism in movies gone? These days we ape the west with unoriginal movies like “Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge” (this is a refrain from an old Shashi Kapoor film, again, showing the lack of imagination on the part of the writer and director) and other Khan-capers turning ourselves into poor caricatures of our more worthy non-resident brethren. And television programs are either saas-bahu stuff, singathons, or stand-up comedy shows where the performers and judges try their utmost to be funny – in a nervous and edgy kind of way, you know. Sometimes I feel the "mind blowing", the "fantastic", the "fantabulous", "want to take you home" all said with smiles - as if their botox will come apart - are all scripted.

Sunday newspapers in those days discussed national issues, and featured literary oeuvres like short stories and poems. Debonair had a poetry double spread and Youth Times and Illustrated Weekly of India published poems. These days none, onnum illa, oru rakshayum illa (nothing, no escape), as my friend Kuriachen Kuriakose would say.

I was reminded of these and many more things when Christina Daniels asked me to fill in a questionnaire (which I gladly did) asking me about my identity as an Indian in the Doordarshan days and now.

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