Friday, April 16, 2010

The Story Of India.

Saw a wonderful 6 hour documentary, on the history of India. Presented and conceptualized by an Englishman called Michael Wood. This is an ambitious undertaking, trying to distill the entire history of India in a manner that is cohesive and comprehensive. He and his team do quite a good job of it. Shot on actual historical locales like Turkmenistan , Madurai, Khyber Pass, Harappa, Kurukshetra etc. The documentary offers a good panoramic view of different aspects of Indian history.

Starts with the pre-Aryan Dravidian history, Indus civilization, Vedic era. Then it describes the birth of religions like Buddhism and Jainism. The prominence of the Silk route and the Spice route. The Golden Ages of India under the Mauryan,Chola and Gupta empires. Followed by the Mughal era, ending with the British and the Partition. The narrator travels in trains by 2nd class or by road giving a very earthy feel to it, he is effusive and enthusiastic throughout, and seems to be an ardent Indophile. The documentary also borrows footage generously from various historical dramas on TV or Movies .

It was like the NCERT history books I had read at school had come alive. If I had seen this in school, it would have been so fascinating to co-relate all this information with the written stuff. I found the books for history in school well-written and exhaustive, but did not get the feel or involvement as with the visual and aural medium.

I would definitely recommend this documentary to anyone who is even remotely interested in Indian history.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Oscar Wilde Plays

From the treasure trove, that is the local library, I got a set of Oscar Wilde's plays on DVD. It was a BBC Production from the 70s, featuring some good TV actors. The plays were "The Importance of Being Earnest", "Picture of Dorian Gray', "Lady Wildemere's Fan" and "An Ideal husband". The wit, humour, satire, complex characterizations and the gentle twists in the plots make it worth the while watching these plays. Though set in the late 19th century, the plays still feel contemporary in the issues they deal with. The dialogues and repartees are fresh, they could be called the early sit-coms, but with much deeper significance. I also had watched the "Importance Of Being Earnest" live in one Off-Broadway play here in San Francisco last year, and found it fun. In fact that acted as the catalyst in my watching this set.

Wilde was an iconoclast during his time, had a tortured time due to his unconventional outlook of society, in part not helped by his homosexual entanglements. Had to spend time in jail, also died penniless in an indigent state in Paris.

But he truly was a genius, as he famously said when he arrived in USA for the first time "I have nothing to declare but my genius".