Friday, June 23, 2017

Romance, Violence, Supercops and Shape Shifting Snakes

I've been a miserable git all week.  Maybe it was the heat.  Maybe it was all the depressing stuff in the news.  Then again it might just have been the sheer shittiness of another week in my job.  Whatever the reason, my posts here have been ill-tempered all week.  So, this time, as it is the end of the week and a forty eight hour wank-a-thon (or, as you may call it, the weekend), beckons (yeah, that's right, I stole that from an incredibly obscure Adam and Joe series they did for Channel Five), I thought I'd instead write about something that, lately, has been bringing unexpected joy into my life.  Thanks to the magic of Freeview, I now have access to no less than three Hindi language TV channels: Rishtey, Rishtey Cineplex and Colors.  Now, despite not speaking a word of Hindi, the programmes these channels show have always fascinated me.  Watching films and TV shows in a language you don't speak is always a fascinating experience, as you try to discern meaning from just the images and intonations of voice.  Watching films and TV shows in a foreign language and set in a completely different culture is an even wilder experience, as all the regular (from a European point of view) cultural references and signifiers are absent. 

Of late, a particular favourite programme of mine has been a drama series running on Colors, in which some characters started turning into other characters and, eventually, turned into giant snakes.  Well, sometimes they were all snake, at other times they were only snakes from the waist down.  There were clearly all sorts of conspiracies going on and it seemed that the snake people were the good guys.  To my eyes, it was all just so amazingly surreal.  The bright colours favoured for both sets and costumes in these Hindi productions just added to the air of unreality.  Some research revealed that what I'd been watching had been a recent, top rated, TV series in India, involving a shape shifting snake ( a creature from Hindu mythology), who was seeking those responsible for her mother's death, in order to take revenge upon them.  As it turned out, some of my confusion over the narrative had stemmed from the fact that I'd seen episodes from both the first and second series (in which the same lead actress plays her character's daughter), without realising it. 

My viewing experience has improved somewhat recently, as some of the movies shown on the three channels have been run with English sub-titles.  That said, in a lot of the films the cast actually speak a mixture of Hindi and English, meaning tat even without the sub-titles, you can often get the gist of what's going on.  Anyway, thanks to these developments I've been able to enjoy several contemporary Hindi romantic comedies.  Actually, to be honest, I've not watched them in their entirety, as shown on TV with commercial breaks, they generally run up to three hours long, but I've seen enough of them to get the general idea of what's going on.  Earlier this evening, for instance, I saw the better part of The Bride of Humpty Sharma (I'm not going to even attempt to type the original Hindi title), a tale of the titular character falling in love with a girl from the country who is betrothed to a doctor an a marriage arranged by her father.  Much hilarity ensues when Hunpty and his friends turn up in her home village and try to persuade her father that he is a more suitable potential son in law.  Actually, for a romantic comedy, there seemed to be a lot of beatings up of the hero and his friends by the girl's male relatives.

Last weekend I caught most of Postmortem on a Romance 2, which was a bit like Men Behaving Badly, with bachelor flat mates all becoming romantically involved (with different girls) but ultimately deciding that they preferred their single lioves and the company of their male mates.  More than a little misogynistic, it was, nonetheless, reasonably entertaining, with all the, to me, alien cultural references, making it fascinating.  It's not all romantic comdies, of course.  The other night I caught part of a non-subtitled epic involving (I think) an Indian army officer battling terrorist incursions in a mountainous border area.  Tonight I've watched parts of what seems to be, in part at least, a parody of  rogue cop-type films, also without sub-titles.  Not that sub-titles were needed to understand what was going on - the hero was some kind of tough unorthodox cop (with a natty Errol Flynn-style pencil moustache), who thinks nothing of taking on entire gangs of heavil armed bank robbers single handed.  All the other cops are buffoons and he emerges from furious and hugely violent fights looking impeccable, not even a hair out of place.  So, there you are, my new fixation: Hindi-language films.  I have to say that, of late, watching them has entertained me immensly.  If you have Freeview, you should give them a try.



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