Archive for the ‘television’ Category

Even if you ignore the hyperbole in the header, you shouldn’t miss the show. BBC’s Planet Earth II has come at the end of the year, and it straight goes to the top of my list. You probably have already seen this video of snakes chasing baby iguana, it went viral few weeks back. This is Mad Max on steroids! If this isn’t the best of the year, I am not sure what else can top this one.

And if you are addicted to gifs, you must have seen the funny gif of the bear scratching its back on the tree, too. That’s also from the same show.

I love reading year end lists. To see who has discovered what that i might have missed. And these days it’s more difficult to keep track as we are bombarded by content in different forms across various platforms. Strangely, i didn’t see too many people putting the show on their list. I quickly did a search on my twitter feed, too. Hardly any mention. And that’s why this post.

This show comes ten years after the original one was aired. A decade is a long time. Shooting technology has advanced, more natural habitats have been destroyed,  and David Attenborough is 90 now.  But what the show has achieved this time is unparalleled. Shot in 40 different countries, with crews making 117 filming trips, this is the result of four years of hard work.

The series is divided into six episodes – Islands, Mountains, Jungles, Deserts, Grasslands, Cities, and a compilation titled, A World Of Wonder. As you sit down to watch the first episode, you wonder two things simultaneously – what an ambitious show this is, and how the hell have they managed to shoot all that. Remember the docu, March Of The Penguins? This one is like a march in every sequence.

It’s breathtakingly immersive as the narrative glides from one sequence to other. Set to Hans Zimmer’s music, it’s the story of survival in extreme conditions. The story is the same in ever sequence – either struggling to find food to survive or a mating partner to produce babies. But shooting in the extreme conditions, and looking for elusive animals, interesting patterns, funny behaviour, rare breeds, and heart-stopping footage is what makes this show great. Add to that Attenborough’s voice-over. That’s not all, the shooting Diaries at the end of every episode tells you how they achieved those amazing shots.

The show has received some criticism for the way it has shot/put together some of the sequences by using archival footage in few places. But you will find genuine emotion when you watch it. I was on the edge of the seat cheering for the baby iguana to survive.  A sequence where baby tortoise struggle to survive or the one involving penguins on Zavodovski island is heartbreaking. It also makes you realise that as humans our life is such a luxury compared to these animals who struggle everyday just to survive. As predators turn prey in few seconds, it’s frightening to navigate through the wild.

Episode 4 and 5 seems bit weak compared to the first three. Maybe because of the terrain it explored. But the show gets its groove back in the last episode, Cities. Remember the picture of Leopard that was caught on cam in Mumbai, that sequence is in the last episode. Almost every episode has sequences from Indian terrain. As i try to rewind all the six episodes, too many astounding moments come flashing back – sloth looking for a mate in an island, bobcats diving into snow, wasp attacking eggs of glass frog, birds flying miles just to collect water for their babies, sequence of langurs, bowerbird with a red heart, and ibex climbing mountains, to name a few. Watch it. Because when nature is the showrunner, every drama is dazzling. This is the unscripted stranger things.

@notsosnob

(ps – watch it only in the best video quality. It’s out #ykw if you can’t find a legal streaming site)

(pps – it’s the only show that my cat watches, too. completely mesmerised.)

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It addresses the construct of gender and trans identity while shining a light on the messy journey of self-discovery.

A few days before I gorged on the second season of the American TV series, Transparent, I happened to read a column that made a case for turning away from fictions of the self. The writer went on to say that you must write what you know but if you have a story to tell, tell it like you know it is not your story alone. It was a fitting coincidence. Jill Soloway manages just that with the semi-autobiographical, Transparent – to tell the story of a transsexual parent, in a way that is so universal, that not only transgender people but anyone in the midst of transitions, living their truths and rocking a few boats in the process, would relate to. The scrutiny that comes with the act of ‘coming out’ is true not only of the transgender community in India, but also of someone who is gay, divorced, in a live-in relationship and others, to varying degrees, who dare to disturb the status quo. Soloway explores the tapestry of oddities that make the institution of family, and distills the alchemy of weighty philosophies through the prism of gender.

Season 1 begins with Mort Pfefferman, the patriarch of a dysfunctional family and a 60-year-old retired college professor, publicly transitioning to Maura Pfefferman. The family comprises three adult children – Sarah, Ali and Josh and an ex-wife, Shelly. Coming out to the kids is not depicted as heroic, as much as honest, taking into account the emotional universe of the family rattled by the admission. Transparent acknowledges the collateral damage caused while being unabashedly honest to oneself but selfishness is still hailed, over living a lie. The children’s reactions range from denial to reluctance to a gradual acceptance – a very real portrayal of an unconventional family experience. The uphill task of getting to know a person anew begins with something as mundane as the question of what to address the parent as. Ali, the youngest of the Pfefferman siblings coins an endearing term for Maura, ‘Mopa’ – a blend of Momma and Papa.

Maura’s confession fuels the process of self-discovery in the family members grappling with identity crises of their own. While in Season 1, the characters wave the flag of liberation as they attempt to find their voices, in Season 2, they are at their lowest ebb in their quest for personal truths.  Soloway plunges headlong into the evolution of these characters, where their ugly obsessions and dysfunctional reflexes are front and centre. The series deftly dispels the assumption that brave moments of confrontation dovetail happiness. Flinging open the closet of skeletons and following our truth is only the first of many challenges. Transparent shows how being at home within oneself is an ongoing struggle, which also opens doors to a newer world with lesser and sometimes fleeting, but authentic bonhomie. With wisdom, comes a peculiar loneliness.

The series intelligently illumines that gender and sexuality are not synonymous and that both can be fluid with a range of queer female relationships. A fascinating observation about the distinction between personal anguish and male advantage is highlighted by an instance, where we find out that Maura as a man has a slightly misogynistic past. We also see Maura stumbling into her gender identity like a teenager discovering her body, straddling a sense of adventure and confusion. This is evident in a conversation in a clinic, where the doctor asks Maura, “Do you plan on getting breasts?”, and Maura quips, “Two please.” When the doctor further inquires if she’s planning on undergoing a gender reassignment surgery, she takes a lengthy pause before replying, “I’ll have to get back to you on that one.” Maura also vehemently declares that she loves vaginas, a communication seemingly at odds with being transgender. While Ali tries to academically understand the constructs of gender, heteronormavity and patriarchy, Josh still refuses to come to terms with the loss of a father – the loss Mort to Maura. Also, Sarah, the eldest of the Pfefferman kids finds a sense of redemption in her kinks during her lonely phase following a heterosexual marriage, a lesbian relationship and a breakup. The scene where Maura pleasures the ex-wife Shelly, illustrates with masterly tenderness, their fiendishly complicated relationship and the yearning of the elderly, spurred by loneliness.  Long habit and a firm sense of belonging in case of ex-spouses can lead to a self-defeating return to the old, familiar ways, irrespective of gender.

The character of Leslie Mackinaw inspired by the legendary lesbian poet Eileen Myles says, “I don’t really teach. I like to talk about things I care about to people, who are ready”. Steering clear of a didactic treatment, Soloway has adopted a similar approach in her storytelling, tackling characters with a rare balance of objectivity and compassion. She presents to us the wonderfully weird Pfefferman clan with a healthy irreverence and hilarity; therein lies the triumph of Transparent.

Dipti Kharude

(Dipti just quit her corporate job and is having fun dipping her toes in a ton of stuff like binge watching TV and web series, doing movie marathons, gallivanting, and writing about her escapades. She tweets @kuhukuro)

Coke Studio

Over to our MusicMan Rohwit for some saturday musings.

After a near disastrous season 1 and an ‘almost’ salvaging Season 2, Coke Studio At MTV is back with Season 3. This time the season boasts of big names like A R Rahman, Papon and Amit Trivedi. Other musicians include the very talented Ram Sampath, Salim- Sulaiman, Hitesh Sonik and Clinton Cerejo.

We all know that big names do not cut much if they aren’t used well. Still, below is what we know for sure.

7 episodes with one composer each, out of which 6 episodes have 6 songs and 1 episode has 5.

Last episode with 6 different producers/bands putting up one song each.

47 songs in the season.

No composer gets repeated across episodes.

Some vocalists get repeat episodes including Kailash Kher (please innovate this time?) and Vijay Prakash who feature as singers on more than one episode.

Some musicians of the band including (but not limited to) Warren, Rushad, Jarvis, Darshan, Lindsay, Sanjoy Das and Tapas get featured in more than one episode.

Even the website this time round has a complete feel to it and that’s a good thing.

http://www.cokestudioindia.com

We don’t know the full details of who all will collaborate with Amit Trivedi and AR Rahman. The  ‘Zariya’ video with Ani Choying Drolma and Farah Siraj was just splendid to say the least! The arrangement, the fusion and the  overall presentation didn’t lack anything.No one was posing for the camera and the lights weren’t distracting at all. Gushfest allegations aside, my heart raced at around 6:32 minutes when Farah air-removes the evil eye on A R Rahman to which he smiles.

It would be exciting to see the collaboration and presentation this season because the buzz has gone into almost an overkill with too many youtube ‘session videos’ around. Amidst all the names, what intrigues (and quite frankly scares us a little bit) is the inclusion of Salim-Sulaiman and it is not because of the composers, it is because of the bollywood fest the season 1 turned out to be. We certainly aren’t looking at a long session of ‘Shukran allah’ from the composers and hope they are aware of it. We love everything about the folk that is Rajasthani and Punjabi. Still, there is much more left to be explored (even within Rajasthani and Punjabi) and may be they will present it to us.

There isn’t just one way to present ‘fusion’. While our neighbours have raised the bar very high in a quiet and understated manner, we hope that season 3 gives us a little more of music and a little less ‘hype’ around the names. Showcasing talent from across the regions and that too melodiously, is what Coke Studio is all about and if after the end of Coke Studio India season 3, we remember fondly at least 7 new singers and some genres that we were unaware of previously (Thanks to excessive bollywood-ized in-take of music), we think the job of musically erasing season 1 completely from our minds would have been accomplished.

Trivia – Last year, in this interview, Rohail Hyatt (the creator of Coke Studio Pakistan) hinted at a joint presentation of India-Pakistan artists in a Coke Studio India Session. Whatever happened to that?

Still. NO. FREE. DOWNLOADS.

WHY?

So what are your expectations from this season of desi Coke Studio?

Or is he really serious?

Like his film projects, his tv debut was also kept a secret till it finally came on air on Sunday at 11am. And it turned out to be exactly the same as we had told you earlier. It started with Aamir Khan’s voiceover (aha, the emotional modulation there, noticed?) talking about where we stand today. And then the chat show started where the topic was female foeticide. Case studies, tears, figures, tears, doctor, more case studies, more tears, more questions and finally a song by Swanand Kirkire and Ram Sampath overlapped with visuals of girl child, Aamir asking the kids to come sit close to him. Aha, if the last season of KBC was poverty porn, this is going one step ahead with just one mantra – we will, we will make you cry!

The set was tacky, production value made it looked like straight out of DD and graphics seemed out of CBSE school books. Who said serious issues need to look boring? Oh wait, our TA wouldn’t get it? That aside, i had two big issues with the show – First, the pitch and positioning of the show. Stand anywhere in Mumbai and you can see Aamir Khan staring into the void from one of the hoards. I am not sure why but i feel here’s our Aamir Jesus Christ. That look, that stare, the gaze, it’s all there in the stills, music videos, hoardings and the show. It’s so repulsive, so rehearsed and so bloody fake! The intention might be honest and i sincerely hope it helps in creating some awareness but one issue, one sunday, one episode – is it some kind of quick fix solution? Also, am cynical because he is the same actor who had suddenly felt about the Narmada Bachao Andolan during the promotion of Rang De Basanti and then vanished from the radar. Of course the release of RDB was just a coincidence. Blame it on my cynical mind!

My other issue is if he is really serious about endorsing social causes, why not let go your entire fees for it? Contribute to the cause and i will respect you for lifelong. There’s no harm in taking money and doing the show but i can’t digest the self-righteousness then. Doing 13 episodes for free isn’t a big deal, right? Go ahead, do it. Shut me up! Otherwise how different is it from NDTV Greenathon or IIFA Charity or such events which are organised by event management companies. Stars endorse the cause, gets paid, sponsors feel they have done their bit of corporate philanthropy and all happy. But is anyone really honest and serious? Aha, the cynical me.

But then the other point is our tv shows are pure garbage. There’s almost nothing to watch. At least this show is trying something new, it’s going to stand out. And in that process if it can serve a purpose, that’s great. Agree.

So i asked on twitter if anyone would be willing to write about the show. Posting two views on the same. First one is by Chintan Bhatt. From my previous interaction with him on twitter, i know for sure that he is a big fan of Aamir Khan.

I was not sure I was going to be able to watch Satyamev Jayate, though I had been waiting eagerly for it from weeks, because the night before which was full of drunken revelry, to celebrate the anniversary of another year of living, of yours truly, ended too late. But by some stroke of miracle, my eyes opened just to the tune of 11 am and with blurry eyes I switched on the TV. The show started and at least the format, the set, seemed nothing out of the ordinary. But as Aamir came on stage, giving a small speech, he did not sit on the sofa right away which was stationed on the middle of the stage. He slowly sat on the steps, just in front of the audience. I smiled and my hangover was gone.

He was not a superstar, or an expert, or a know it all and did not pretend to be one. He was like me, and everyone else. Surrounded by the problems, and people facing it, like we all are, and trying to understand it. Though this format, sets, was something we had seen before, this honesty and intimacy was something Indian television had not witnessed before. When he spoke of the problems, his style was not of preaching but was of self discovery, more than anything else, which let the viewers feel part of the show.

What was striking about the show for me was how all encompassing about the issue it was, or much more than anything I have seen before. Filled with facts and charts and statistics to supplement the emotional quotient and the true stories it presented, it attacked the issue right in its guts and where it hurts given the sense of denial, we as Indians have mastered to live in. The experts, the victims, their tears, the shock in the crowd, the silence that filled the room as they grasped the horror stories and the sense of disbelief on Aamir’s face, were all real and in a way reflected what so many of the viewers too felt.

A few days back I was watching Aamir’s interview on CNBC and the interviewer on being told by Aamir that he has invested 2 years into the show and has given up on the endorsements, crores of rupees he could have earned, of how his selection of show timing was termed suicidal, how to telecast the show on DD so that reaches the most commonest denominator of the population sounded impossible and unheard of, etc, she almost out of frustration asked him, which effectively was, ‘But why do you need to push yourself so much and keep such tough targets for yourself?’ And again, he smiled and shrugged.

My rage on seeing the views trying to demean him and the show on Twitter and elsewhere after watching the show, were gradually replaced by indifference of sorts. Fact which cannot be denied is that in a country obsessed with garbage in the name of entertainment and where smartness is equated with how manipulative and selfishly you can lead your life, he made the whole country talk about one of the most inhumane and disgustingly hidden practice which has become a commonality behind closed doors.

The anger towards the pointless and forced cynicism was further nullified by the thought I had of those thousands of families who would have done these heinous activities, which will be taken up in all the episodes of the show, who will now be forced to sit and think hopefully. Of all those silent voices, all those abused and assaulted, all those bullied and tortured who will now again have hope of fighting for their right to survive and live. Yes, its sounds good to say that we don’t need an Aamir Khan to tell us what is good and bad, we are too educated and intellectual for that, but as the biggest revelation of today’s episode was that education has nothing to do with goodness, intellect has nothing to do with being humane. We are living in an imperfect, corrupt and insensitive world, and we need heroes desperately, we need to face harsh true stories desperately, we need to know what being humane feels again desperately, and in this same imperfect world, this show does that. It forces the monsters in laws of the country to look in the eyes of their daughters in law, of their near and dear ones and face the truth. It makes the demonic husbands to feel ashamed and disgusted at themselves, if not from the inside, then the world in their immediate surroundings should have a collective voice to ridicule them, and this show will do that. We are living in a star obsessed country which silently breaths and breeds away from the confines of the cynicism of twitter and their likes, and that’s the nerve this show will catch, hopefully.

No, no one is claiming that this show will solve all the problems of the country. No one is that naive, but it’s worth an attempt, if it gets people to start talking. That’s all. And if that’s the minimum it can do, then be it. As the gentleman sardar who featured in today’s show with teary eyes said, – EVEN IF I CAN SAVE 1 GIRL, ITS ENOUGH. Some battles are worth fighting for, to win or lose is immaterial.

At the end, my bout of anger was gone completely when after about half hour after the show was over, the maid in my house came with a black eye and after few days of not coming to work. On coaxing by my flat mate she revealed that our husband is a drunkard and beats her in front of their two kids incessantly. From the fear of not telling anybody, she does not even scream, she takes it all on silently. And she is too scared to go to the police. Who will tell her and millions of other such stories? Will the cynics look in her eyes and crack a joke on the color of her wound? Well, you never know, they may. But this show talks about these victims, and will give countless number of them the tiniest bit of hope to fight back. By the end of the show Aamir said the biggest contribution was to be done by the youth of this country. And my rage towards the cynics was shifted to anger towards bastards like the maid’s husband, and attempts will be on to do something about it, like they have been from long. As they say there are those who say and crib, and there are those who do. Its very simple.

I remember debates with my father, who used to enjoy the so called escapist cinema which I despise. After a long heated debate, I simply used to ask him, ‘Why do we need to travel to a world unknown to find beauty and strength? Can’t we explore the same around us in our films?’ That is the biggest gift the show has given me. It has given me heroes who exist around me and us, whose beauty lies in their bravery, like all those women who were in the show today. They are the real heroes with real stories. Agreed, there may have been other shows who would do that, but for the first time I felt their bravery and strength, and that is why I thank Aamir and the channel for the show through this small insignificant post. All is not lost, yet.

                                                                          ————–

And here’s the other view. This one is by someone who calls himself The Pucca Critic.

After almost a month of promotion as “Har Baat dil pe lagegi toh hi baat banegi” by Aamir Khan, Satyameva Jayate’s first episode was aired on Star Plus, DD National & also Star Pravaah (with Marathi subtitles) today at 11 a.m. Let us see kitni baat dil pe lagi!

The show started with some scenic shots and Aamir Khan blabbering about himself as an actor and a human being. And that’s what he tried to do throughout the show: I’m The Aamir Khan. I’m India’s inspiring role model. The idol of the common man. I’m here to change your life with this TV show for which I’m charging hefty sum.

No sooner did the show started, we learn that it’s kind of talk show dealing with sensitive social issues. Aamir Khan pretending to be appealing enough for the aam – junta does gigs like sitting at the stairs of the dais while delivering his speech to expect Oh-look, this-superstar-doesn’t-mind-sitting-on-the-floor reaction.

Moving over, we are introduced with 3 ladies who narrated their ghastly tales about how they were tortured after delivering a baby girl. So that’s what the topic of the day was: female foeticide & how it is related with other criminal happenings like ignorance of women in society, sexual harassment and flesh trading. Their emotions were raw. Enough to give you a gulp in the throat.

While discussing a case, crude pictures of the lady being victimized of physical assault by his husband were displayed without a blur (which is how news channels are made to show). A leading daily once made a gore picture of a bomb blast victim to the headline to which their readers irked by remarking them as selling information porn. OK. So this is how Aamir Khan wants his words to touch the hearts?

All through the interview, you can hear Aamir interrogating silly questions. “Aur kaisa feel hua aapko tab?” “Aur kya hua tha?” Genuine thoughtful questions were lacked.

And more irritating were the reactions by the audience. “Haawww” “Ohh noo..” “Ohhff” That’s how general interactions with the common audience were lacked instead they were focused for their shocks and tears as if they were expecting the public watching on TV to cry too.  The flawed direction is made deliberate when a lawyer (part of the related case) interrupts midway of another interview and the interview is carried no further but diverged by the host. I don’t know how many retakes were needed to shoot this!

They also ended up with some marketing of 3G technology of a telecom network by a video conference with some bachelors of Haryana who discussed bachelorhood of Salman Khan. Don’t tell me this wasn’t rigged!

This is how the show meant-to-be inspiring ended with the uninspiring host who asks his audience to send SMS to a number if they support the cause. Do you really think sending SMSes will help?

Finally, Aamir calls up his friend and musician Ram Sampth along with Swanand Kirkire to perform a beautiful, lyrical song “O Re Chiriya.”

What we expect is some improvement in the direction of the show with retaining the raw emotions of the subject and uplifting the enthusiasm of the audience as the show ends.

P.S: If  you really want to see inspiring Aamir Khan, watch Sarfarosh or Lagaan. And if you hate Aamir’s face, watch Anoop Soni on Crime Patrol. He’s terrific.

———————-

And here’s a video review to end the post on a lighter note…

…But were afraid to ask? Well, that doesn’t quite work out. Let’s say, But you were not sure whom to ask.

First came the teasers (Here, here and here).

And then came the official song where we saw Jesus Aamir Christ, who is here to save us.

But what is the show about? Well, like Aamir Khan’s movies, the show is also being guarded as a top secret. No details are being given out anywhere. And that’s why you don’t see anything about the show in the teasers or the song. But we suffer from a strange disease – the more you want to keep something as a secret, it makes us more curious. If you belong to the same tribe, we got all the answers for you. If you are not, skip the post.

– Satyamev Jayate is basically a chat show with guests and case studies from across the country.

– The first season will have 13 episodes out of which 10 have already been recorded.

– The idea is to pick one subject and discuss it from every possible angle – social, political, economic and such.

– The subjects include health, water, marriage, child issues (abuse and other), addiction and other social issues.

– The duration of each episode is 90mins.

– Each episode will end with a musical performance of a new song. All songs have been composed by Ram Sampath and lyrics are by Prasoon Joshi, Swanand Kirkire, Munna Dhiman and few others.

– The series is directed by Satyajeet Bhatkal (Aamir’s friend and director of Zokkoman) but every decision is taken by Aamir Khan. The final edit call is also his. Nothing is finalised without his approval.

– The series was earlier produced by Big Synergy. But they wanted to make it more commercial and Aamir wasn’t in favour of it. Currently it’s being produced by Aamir Khan Productions.

– Imran Khan and Sridevi will appear in two different episodes of the series.

– The pilot episode of the series was rejected by Aamir himself after it received negative feedback from test audience.

– The first episode is on girl child discrimination and female infanticide. Not sure if they have changed the sequence.

– Do expect lots of rona-dhona was they discuss sensitive issues. Aamir will be in full Oprah Winfrey avatar.

Anything else? If you have some more dope on it, the comment box is all yours.

WHAT : Pitchfest is an opportunity for writers to ‘pitch’ their television ideas to Walkwater Media! It is an open call to writers all over India who want to write television content and have an interesting idea germinating in their mind.

QUALIFICATION : If you’re over 16 years of age and have an interesting idea for a TV show, you qualify! Pitchfest is open to new as well as experienced writers.

GENRE – Walkwater is open to ideas across various genres be it children’s content, daily soaps, crime thrillers, comedy, or any other genre for which you want to pitch! You can also turn in your ideas for non-fiction television content including reality TV!

HOW : You will need to upload your material, written in English or Hindi in the following format –

a. Logline – a 2-3 line brief about your idea.

b. Concept Note – not larger than 2 A4 size pages.

c. Character sketches of all important characters – not larger than 2 A4 size pages.

d. 5 episode story arc.

DATE : Entries open on February 1st 2011 and the competition closes on February 28th 2011.

CONTACT : If you have any questions, you can email at pitchfest@walkwater.in

WEBSITE : Click here to know more about it including the option fee and the assignment fee which the writers will be paid. And click here to know more about Walkwater Media.

– Don’t forget to check out the Terms & Conditions page. ( And yes, point No. 8 )

Happy writing & pitching!

Here it is – The list of 14 inmates who are gonna entertain us for the next few weeks in Bigg Boss’ house. Two models to serve as eye candy, superchor, super dacoit, lawyer, two MMS scandal toppers, one motormouth, one beefy boy who made national headlines for wrong reasons, a cross-dresser, an actor & actress who were linked once, a non-controversial actor & actress to play the nice guy/gal roles – wow! It can’t get more colourful than this. And add Salman Khan as the new host of the show. Perfect.

Put the cursor on the pics to know more about them and their claim to fame.