CS Sharada Prasad | 2014 June
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What makes Malgudi days special?

Yes, all episodes of Malgudi days are now available on YouTube. So what?

Click here for the playlist

Why should I watch an old TV series half of whose actors are either dead or about to die? Why should I spend my precious time on Malgudi days when there are so many TV shows to watch ? Why should I care about a TV series which does not use computer graphics, loud background music or is not aired everyday of my living life?

I am not calling Malgudi days as is the greatest show on earth. I am sure there are several shows which are awesome. But Malgudi days matters to India, it holds a huge lesson to the directors and viewers of today’s soaps.

Malgudi days oozes with art. The immersing nature of the series makes Malgudi days a hybrid between a book and theatre. Just take a look at the first episode. So much effort has been put in to create a sense of space and time. The camera does not always focus on the face but zooms out and pans to show how people dressed, how the buildings looked, and how people interacted with the surroundings. Malgudi days makes us enter new worlds and minds.  It is a visual treat.

Today’s TV shows are replete with background music. A loud background music stifles the voice of the artists. Dialogue is what should drive a scene, facial expressions are what should convey the mood of the characters, not some loud music. The screenplay is what makes the delivery powerful and not the constant flashing of lights or crooked camera  angles. Sadly, the plots are recycled with a filling of cliches.

Today’s soaps are made by lazy directors for lazy viewers. Setting the drama as contemporary is convenient. Not much attention has to be paid to the details – No need to build a new set, no necessity to think about what should stay in the frame and what should not. All artistes, wearing a thick makeup that makes their skin look smooth, fair, and soft, appear far from real characters in life. Where is the stained teeth, weather-beaten skin or the shadow of other imperfections that are the reflection of a struggle called life? When characters seem real, they connect better with the viewers.

The last aspect I want to highlight is that of light and sound. Every face is brightly lit and there is always a background music trying to mute the sounds surrounding the characters. The shadows, the darkness, the sound of that river flowing, that bird chirping, or that spinning of the washing machine is what brings the drama closer to the viewers life.

Just seeing someone making coffee with a loud background noise makes the scene look fake and coffee unpalatable. The irregular lighting in the kitchen, that ticking of the lighter that does not light the gas on the first stroke, the that clinking of the steel pot placed on the burner, that sizzling of the milk, that crackle of pouring the coffee into the steel cup, and that cup brimming with coffee of brownish white froth.

Directors, just as writers, should focus on showing and not telling or killing with sound, for that matter.

I am grateful for the works of RK Narayan, the author, and Shankar Nag, the director of Malgudi days.

Pissing tanker, I piss on you!

Please watch the below video and make a note of your reaction.

Either you were amused by it or you felt a pain deep inside your heart.

Who are the people who pee in public? It’s mostly the people who work in the informal sector i.e. people who don’t work in offices or inside any building for eight hours. 94% of India’s workforce is linked to informal sector which includes construction workers, rickshaws pullers, coolies, courier boys, drivers, roadside vendors ( the list is endless) . The people who laugh (mock?) in the above video might not have engaged themselves in any activity that keeps them outdoor 8-10 hours in a day. They all appear to be either middle or upper class Indians who have the luxury of toilet access both at their residence and workplace. If empathetic enough, one can see harassment, borderline violence rather, in the above video instead of the intended amusement.

In a country with 400 million people working in un-organized sector, public toilets must be found within minutes of walking distance. The problem with urban India is that sanitation is never a priority. The municipality or corporation has no pressure from the public, especially middle class and upper class, to maintain the existing toilets, and has no money to buy/rent  space in a newly developed financial neighbourhood to install toilets.

Even the toilets in railway stations and bus stations are not well maintained as there is no accountable structure in the organization to provide basic sanitation services. You will not see the phone number of any officer who is responsible to keep the toilets clean. The officials hide behind the thick veil of bureaucracy.

Yes, providing good sanitation facility comes at a cost. But lack of provision costs much more to the society. The social and health cost of lack of sanitation is not borne by all sections of society equally. The poor mostly bear the burden while the middle class or upper class insulate themselves from such woes. India cannot come out of the mess of lack of sanitation in public areas unless there is focus on accountability and enough political pressure from upper and middle class.

Dear “Pissing tanker” – Your understanding of public urination is distorted and your actions perverted. Please stop making fun of people who don’t have access to toilets. Your insensitivity towards the helplessness of people is appalling. Most people who are peeing in public are already vulnerable. You don’t have any right to humiliate those people further. If you can, please give them directions to the nearest decent public toilet, if you can find one. If you are so inclined to pee, try peeing inside a public office instead of aiming water cannons at people. You might get the attention of right people!