Serial Bus

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The Day ACP Pradyuman Will Outdo Jack Bauer!

with 5 comments

I never did drugs. But, the last few days have taught me a thing or two about what addiction is. I watched episode 1 of 24’s first season Tuesday evening. I had brought home only the first DVD of season 1. I wasn’t sure how much I would like it. I began watching and by the end of the first episode, I was hooked. And, without pausing, I saw all 4 episodes. By the end of it, I started exhibiting withdrawal symptoms. My stash was over and I was burning.

Amongst the American TV series, ’24’ is yet my strongest obsession. I enjoy ‘Law & Order’, ‘CSI’ and ‘Bones’ once in a while. I have been enamored by ‘House M.D.’ and ‘The West Wing’ in the past. These latter 2 are somewhat highbrow – 24 may not be as intellectually stimulating but it pumps up the adrenaline like no other. It’s like an unending edge-of-the-seat thriller that remains in climax forever.

I sometimes regret that until about 2 years back, I had not even heard of these amazing shows. The only non-Indian series I knew about were ‘Friends’, ‘Sex & the City’ and ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’. Given my inclination towards the thriller/suspense genre, I now realize how much I was missing. This loss is then magnified by the trash that’s served on the Indian television in the name of crime drama.

Bombay’s frantic TV/film industry is yet to produce something that is world-class in this genre. I can’t accuse them for lack of trying but the results so far are dismal. India’s counterpart of ’24’ is perhaps Sony TV’s ‘CID’ – the longest running crime investigation TV series in India (since 1997). CID (Criminal Investigation Department) is a team of sleuths, much like CTU (Counter Terrorism Unit) in 24. The teams are respectively led by ACP Pradyuman (Shivaji Satam) and Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland).

That’s where the similarities end. CTU’s focus is terrorist acts while CID will investigate all sorts of wrongdoings. 24 has a highly-acclaimed format that delivers a 24 hours’ story in 24 instalments every season, while CID is a sham of a crime investigation series. All its actors manage to look amateurish all the time – Satam still manages to exude some sincerity but everyone else around him alternates between a sleepwalk and a startle. The shoddy production values only magnify the ineptitude of the actors – a conical flask that constantly releases white fumes is a permanent fixture in CID’s forensic lab that even my school chemistry lab can put to shame. Combine that with the most incredulous situations, poor script, handicapped dialogues and wierd pauses accompanied by tense music – and you get a show that is unbearable. There is only one occasion when it can be watched with interest – when you want to laugh uncontrollably at the hamming. That CID is popular in certain circles as an unintended comedy is an irony its makers are perhaps unaware of.

This general lack of sophistication in crime/thriller/horror genres is not limited to Indian TV – it extends to Bollywood also. CID reminds me of the cult followership of Ramsay Brothers’ horror flicks which many people of my generation have begun to watch for kicks and laughter – their ghouls and ghosts are at best caricatures and their slasher situations tickle you endlessly.

Although better funded, the Bollywood films still lack the edge-of-the-seat quality that a thriller should possess. Our film industry has always excelled in romantic comedies, dramas, musicals but has always been wanting in thriller, suspense, horror and action. While increasingly higher budgets have helped with the action quotient, there aren’t many movies still that combine action with a very taut script and suspense. There have been some sincere attempts in the past; despite low budgets, some film-makers have created eminently watchable flicks. In recent times, I would count ‘Johnny Gaddar’ in this league, while some of the old ones are ‘Madhumati’, ‘Teesri Manzil’, ‘Dhund’ and ‘Khamosh’. Similarly, on the TV, in the context of 1980’s, ‘Karamchand’ was a fresh and a hugely popular show although the same can’t be said about its new avatar. However, ‘Byomkesh Bakshi’ was a truly original production – remarkable stories set in British-Raj Calcutta that maintain suspense without the need for modern gadgetry.

These successes are few and far between; mostly, there have been duds in the mix including the recently released Aamir Khan-starrer ‘Ghajini’. I think the problem begins at the source. Our writers seem utterly capable of a myriad themes but develop a block when it comes to the thriller genre. Secondly, the production houses always want to get away with a less-than-optimal technical finesse. Which is why, even after more than 10 years of a successful run, CID’s Dr Salunke has not bothered to upgrade his forensic skills, even to faintly resemble Dr Bones’. Finally, some blame can be apportioned to the easily-pleased audiences of India or else why would CID continue to be so popular! CID’s writers continue to create lame stories because the masses are willing to be hoodwinked. At the same time, the producers do not want to invest in making the car-chase or the shoot-out more realistic because audiences had nothing to compare them against.

That is now changing due to increased competition from makers in India as well as Hollywood productions that sometimes give desi films a run for their money. Some notable Bollywood denizens like Yash Chopra, Karan Johar, Ram Gopal Varma, Rakesh Roshan and Rakesh Mehra have taken the lead in upping the ante. More and more productions are putting money into technical expertise – sometimes hiring stunts coordinators, make-up artistes, grips, special effects coordinators etc from abroad. With this, the tastes of the audience are also evolving – what was exciting earlier is bland now. This is a virtuous cycle – producers must keep pushing the envelope if they must succeed and in the process, the bar keeps rising. So, I am hopeful that, in not-so-distant future, someone will write a brilliant thriller and a helluva script which will then be picked up by a visionary director who will be supported by a producer intent on leaving no stone unturned in creating a hugely entertaining show that will rival 24.

Until then, I have seasons 2-7 to feed my addiction.

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Written by serialbus

February 7, 2009 at 1:34 pm

5 Responses

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  1. Dude, dont you dare call indian television trash.

    Looks like you are unaware of the the channel called INDIA TV, it is – crime, drama, emotion, news reporting, suspense, thrill, science, religion, mystery – everything in one sweet & neat package, that makes for the kind of edge of seat viewing that you can ever hope for. All the intellectual stimualtion comes as bonus.

    Shashibhan

    February 9, 2009 at 12:58 am

  2. Ditto to shashibhan.
    The writer considers that his(or her) view is the ultimate.Oh yah,to you CID is trash ,and why?Cause they dont mimik some USA thriller, cause dr Sawanke dont behave like doctor bones,cause they put 3 days story in 1 episode, how ridiculous! Your favorite show 24 shows 1 story in 24 episodes, so that had to be more detailed than CID.And most hilarious thing is car chase and shootout.In India,how many car chase and shootout occur to arrest a criminal,in comparison to USA?If he could think clearly he would understand that if most viewers watched it for laughter, they would not watched it for so many episodes.He thinks only he is smart and all other who’s thought dont match with him,are fools.You may not like a show,but if you blame the viewers for making it popular then you are making a big mistake,cause if the show runs continuously for 10yrs, with rising popularity, then it must have material (not necessarily car chase or copying foreign serials).A show may not be perfect,and better show may be there,but if a large fraction of people watches it,you must not say”oh ,they are just fools that they watch it”. To the thrillers of Hollywood,I would rather say,they many time have a single man,puppet,dwarf,vampire,pumpkin man,psycho etc, killing lots of people one by one,while law enforcers come and the first thing they do is to split up so that they can be hunted.Yet we do not say that who watch these are fools,cause any show is just a show,it is not a live telecast.

    ninja100

    December 13, 2009 at 12:54 pm

  3. I wonder if you’ve ever heard of the phrase ” changing times” Mr. It’s good that you’ve good vocabulary and an even better sentence formation power btu that by no means gives you the right to be opinionated about something you’re clearly biased about. People admired and still do, Karamchand, byomkesh bakshi and the likes but i believe you havent grown out of your own shell or rather shall i say you’ve been a little too busy blowing your own trumpet, that it probably didn’t occur to you at first. Times have changed people dont demand the same old things. Let alone television, dude, people dont even want the same old food. Grow out of your biasism and you’ll probably realise that though House M.D. is addictive, there are some productive things on Indian television too unless you truely want to explore them instead of choosing to see and stick by the first thing that you see when you switch your television on. I bet you, yourself dont ever, and mark it DONT EVER watch DD national and the assorted ones any more, and pity do we know that there are hell loads of educational programes (AND ORIGINAL ONES, COPY THAT) that a lot of our rural population depends upon and I dont just mean uneducated or illiterate people from some remote village ( considering how high do you think of Indian television and how biased you’re towards the other countries. You’re then pretty much yourself unaware of the fact that villages in India (a lot of them) have grown beyond the conventional idea of unaware illiterate people in India and some of them are more sensible in their sayings and doings than someone like you.
    Cheers!!

    Rashi

    February 24, 2010 at 2:59 pm

  4. Well, it is obvious that the writer of the original article is biased in favour of ’24’, ‘House M.D’ and the likes of it, and he has every reason for being so. I have watched every season of ’24’ and I have to say, there is hardly a better action series(I can hear ‘Prison Break’ fans screaming :-)). But mind one thing. ’24’ ain’t perfect. Watching it for seven seasons has made me aware of obvious and glaring flaws in Hollywood productions. Literally, they have made a Superman out of Jack Bauer. Also, the dialogues tend to become repetitive and the outcome somewhat predictable. But the way of execution of the series is still commendable.

    Coming to Indian serials, well, they can’t compare to the quality of Hollywood, atleast not in comedy and action. But some recent series, attacking social prejudices, have really been outstanding and I admire the producers for taking a break from the usual tripe of ‘saas-bahu’ sagas.

    Talking of Bollywood, well, it is still a far cry from the original film-making industry. There isn’t a better movie than ‘Schindler’s List’ in my opinion. But, oh god, does ‘Mother India’ also kick some ass? It is a cult classic, and I rate it much above than the ‘seemingly best’ Hollywood product ‘Citizen Kane’. The plot lines in Bollywood are still stunted and blotchy, but, well, even Hollywood churns out crap.

    There is no obvious winner. 😛

    Amal

    March 11, 2010 at 3:04 pm

  5. i like your style of writing, but dont agree with what you say! 🙂

    I love Sony Television for bringing over a decade of CID to my life. CID gives Agatha Christie a run for her money when it comes to the storyline of each episode, brings Jackie Chan to shame when it comes to its stunts, and the Scotland Yard to humiliation for how slowly they solve their cases while it takes Mumbai CID to solve the most complex of cases in one episode of forty-fifty minutes (sometimes it takes two episodes ) Incidentally, it also gives Rohit Shetty and David Dhawan leases of inspiration for their movies in future

    I love the way ACP Pradyuman leads his marvel team of Daya, Abhijit, Fredricks, Vivek and some random brave woman (usually Muskaan or Lavanya these days) with a zeal and madness to hunt down crime, mujrims, khoonis and bring them to justice at the end of every episode. And not to forget Dr. Salunkhe (the “Boss” man) who with his lady fellow docs (Tarika comes to mind at present) assist the team with their wizardy with science, medicine, nuclear studies and computer technology in their super equipped labs.

    For those interested in CID check out my blog 🙂

    earnestbanter

    May 18, 2010 at 2:01 pm


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