Category Archives: Development
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Those of us familiar with Indian television shows are accustomed to a certain look and feel. In much of it there is something missing, if you are spoiled by Hollywood standards. Rarely will you find the elusive combination of high-quality screenwriting, acting, direction, editing, lighting and film technology to call an Indian TV series world-class. In an interview Bollywood actor Prashantt Guptha told me that screenwriting in India is the weakest link in the chain.
This is especially disappointing because in so many ways, India is a more interesting setting for film than most places in the world. With cultural, religious, ethnic, and breathtaking landscape diversity both rural and urban, the ancient and ultramodern juxtaposed bizarrely, and humans and their problems literally overflowing onto the streets with fantastic food everywhere. The music and the clothes are as intense as the food. Add a potent crush of political and societal issues such as #MeToo and gang rape always in the background, and India is ripe for a global television audience. Netflix’s Delhi Crime is a must-watch television drama based on true events, that exhibits the awesome potential of mating Western technology and expertise with Indian artistes and an Indian city as itself the main character in the show.
I was not expecting much from Delhi Crime when I began watching it- expecting some hackneyed themes from the Indian true crime police procedural, especially because Bollywood has done tons and tons of police film. Yet Delhi Crime is a true masterpiece and stands not as a great Indian show, but a great show period. Too many times I have seen Indian actors mailing it in while the story drags on and broods on its own wannabe profundity- such as Netflix’s first Indian offering, the less watchable Sacred Games, which wasted the talents of a number of fine actors. I don’t even remember what this show was supposed to be about after watching most of the season with a now-crushed desire to review it on this site.
Delhi Crime is on the other hand hard to stop watching from beginning to end. It’s not just binge-worthy. It is the best Indian television I have ever seen. We start with a gruesome crime in the nation’s capital, much worse than just a run of the mill gang rape, with highly realistic and honest portrayals of the involved Delhi police officers and officials- heroism, incompetence, workaholism, corruption, warts, and all. The political overlords were not lionized or demonized. The show is much more raw than most Indian cinema with its escapism and desire to paint everything in black and white: the cop as either hero or devil, without nuance. In this the show reminded me favorably of HBO’s classic, The Wire: criminals and cops alike are shown as complex individuals with troubled but relatable personal lives and pasts. With the wide array of philosophical differences between the various characters, the show provides a competent bird’s eye view of the Nirbhaya case which stained India permanently. As the icing on the cake, the music is fitting, and the food looks so good at times I was salivating.
Shefali Shah acted so well in the lead role, I almost thought that she was the real life Delhi Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the investigation- in turns managing the team brilliantly and misfiring easy decisions. The bad guys were so greasy and disgusting, I thought they just may have pulled the real life villains out of prison to be on the show. The actress who played the victim Abhilasha Singh had a small but memorable stint. Overall, none of the acting was bad. This is just about a first for Indian TV in my experience.
There are only two facets I choose to criticize in the show. There are shockingly piss-poor translations between the spoken Hindi dialogue, the overdubs, and the subtitles. Secondly, the storyline of the DCP’s troubled daughter is trite, unnecessary, distracting and poorly executed.
Most of all, kudos to Canadian-American director and co-creator Richie Mehta. Let’s hope Netflix, Amazon, and other Western based studios will continue their deep dive into Indian film. There is much that is worth watching in modern India, a misunderstood rising superpower whose welfare has increasingly critical ramifications for the rest of the world. Put this one at the top of your queue, or better yet- turn it on now!
Mahanth is Editor of usindiamonitor
One of the most fascinating and strikingly bizarre aspects of the Pervert Orangutan Presidency (POP) and its Fourth Reich happens not in America, which is the least great we’ve ever been, but in rural India where poor, uneducated Hindu nationalists have latched onto this Pervert Orangutan as if he is some kind of god. As a Hindu, I’ll be the first to admit that we’ve got some issues. If you need proof, just watch this brief video by Ruptly…
I don’t blame these people, who clearly have very little in their lives; I blame the United States for creating a long con where the poorest in both America and India are the most cruelly victimized. The rest of us can only look on with horror and disgust until the nightmare mercifully ends.
The irony? These poor brown folk and Hinduism surely disgust Pervert Orangutan far more than they could ever bother you or I.
Mahanth S. Joishy is Editor of usindiamonitor
Imagine the extraordinarily low odds for any poor American rural kid to be able to make it to the NBA. Those odds need to be multiplied many times over for a rural kid- even a gigantic one- from the state of Punjab in India to achieve the same goal. And yet Satnam Singh Bhamara now stands on the cusp of finding a roster spot in the National Basketball Association. The 7-foot-2 gentle giant was drafted in the second round of the 2015 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks, and currently plays in the Developmental League. His epic rise, and the massive challenges he has had to overcome, are well-documented in the documentary film, One in a Billion, available as of this month on Netflix. By no coincidence, Netflix is making major inroads into India.
One in a Billion does a fantastic job of laying out this story of someone who most basketball fans in the United States have not even heard of yet, a story whose ending is not yet written as Singh is just 21 years old. The filmmakers gained access to a diverse bunch of people, including Singh’s family members, youth coaches, trainers, and teammates in both India and the United States, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive, and Indian hoops journalist Karan Madhok.
The hero of the story could not possibly be easier to root for, regardless of your interest level in basketball. Satnam’s relentless focus on improvement and positive energy in the face of obstacles, coupled with his desire to make family and country proud above all else is nothing short of inspiring. He had to learn not only basketball but also English at a late age, which caused him major academic troubles in America. The gym where he learned to play the game in India had a leaky roof and pigeons interrupting practices.
Satnam also faced inordinate amounts of homesickness and culture shock coming from a remote North Indian village to Florida for high school, leaving all of his friends and family far behind. In the film even the NBA, which is a giant profit-making machine, shows that it has a bit of heart despite the fact that high-level institutional support for Satnam is very much about tapping the 1.25 billion person India market for money.
There are moments that I really loved. The Indian farm scenes are poignant and sad, despite the upward trajectory of one of the village’s favorite sons. At one point Satnam’s black high school teammates at IMG Academy in Florida joked around with Satnam about dancing and impressing girls, and probed him about what India was like. There are moments where Satnam’s high school coach praises him, and others where he yells at him. Satnam’s workouts, drills, and game footage are also interspersed into the documentary and show his progression. Satnam gets fitted for his first suit and then the draft-day hijinks are very intense, and well-shot. I got chills in the scene where Satnam shook hands with Larry Bird, who runs basketball operations for the Indiana Pacers, my favorite team. Satnam in a Pacers uniform would be My. Dream. Come. True.
“People may look back on that date, and say that was the tipping point for basketball in India,” says Silver about Satnam’s drafting in the film. I tend to agree. India is too big to have just one major sport. It’s possible that at some future date, basketball might one day give cricket a run for its money in India. Personally, I can’t wait for that day to come, and for Singh, the Bhullar brothers, and others to pave the way for more Indians in pro basketball in the NBA and around the world.
In the meanwhile, this movie is the definitive account of how it all started. Credit director Roman Gackowski and the whole crew for that.
Mahanth S. Joishy, Editor-in-Chief
The Avengers are not the only action heroes around. Bill Gates, Ratan Tata, Azim Premji, and other philanthropists are participating in a top-secret conclave in Bangalore today to discuss the best ways to harness their private wealth for charitable development work. The meeting was set up at the initiative of Indian billionaire Premji for a change, marking an unmistakable shift from the way things used to be (see article attached below which I wrote in May 2011).