Archive for May 2012

BBC Period Dramas: My Latest Obession - Part I

An inveterate TV watcher, period dramas are my favourite. Be they Indian or western, I simply love watching movies, serials, dramas that are set in ancient, medieval or even early modern times. Watching period dramas (the good ones, not the Ramanand Sagar variety) is like being in a time machine. They allow you a glimpse into a world that exists only in books and the imagination. Within this genre, I think period dramas produced by the BBC are par excellence. In the last few months, I've watched at least four period dramas which I enjoyed immensely. I'm going to write about two- North and South and Downton Abbey.

The first is a four part mini series called North and South. It is based on a novel by Elizabeth Gaskell, a British novelist and short story writer during the Victorian era. I'm ashamed to admit that though I call myself 'well read', this was the first time I had heard of the good lady. North and South, written in 1854-1855, is set in the fictional town of Milton in the North of England, where the Industrial Revolution is changing the city, the economy and its social fabric. Into this town comes Margaret Hale, the daughter of a priest, from the South of England, generally considered to be more cultured and advanced than the North. Hence the title North and South - to indicate a divide. 

Margaret soon meets John Thornton, a rich and handsome cotton manufacturer who has risen out of poverty through sheer hard work. Thornton seems rough and harsh to the more genteel and soft Miss Hale. Their differences in upbringing, culture and social status often brings them into conflict with each other. Despite, or maybe because of this, they are attracted towards each other. The rest of the story is about how they fall in love and unite in the end.

What I liked about this series is how they have woven what is essentially a love story, into the socio economic conditions of the time: child labour, urbanisation, working conditions, organisation of labour and the rise of trade unions form the backdrop against which the story unfolds. There is a touching scene inside the cotton mill, where a mother and her little daughter are taking a break from work. When Mrs. Thornton - the hero's dragon mother - reprimands them for falling behind, the mother pleads that her child is sick. To which, slightly moved, Mrs. Thornton asks if there is another child at home who can take the sick child's place. When the mother answers in the affirmative, she instructs her to get the child into the mill and working within the hour or 'loose the place' as there were many more to take her place. In today's world, this would have been heresy. But during those times, child labour in mills and sweat shops was common and has been dealt by other authors like Dickens also. 

But of course what I liked best was the chemistry between the lead pair and the scenes where I felt like I was watching a Hindi movie! There is the scene where Miss Hale rushes
out in front of an angry mob to save Mr. Thornton, getting hit by a stone on the head for her troubles. Then there is the scene where she's leaving the town, and Mr. Thornton, watching her drive away says 'Look back. Look back at me'. Very intense yes? And very SRK in DDLJ saying 'Palat! Palat'!!!

And the last and true-to-bollywood-tradition scene - the railway station scene where they declare their love for each other. On a more serious note, I could also see similarities with my all time favourite novel Pride and Prejudice. The basic plots are almost the same - of first impressions, dictated by the social attitudes of the time, then the shift in perception and finally uniting for love. Watch this 'proposal scene' and tell me if you also see any similarities.

If you're the sort that likes romantic period dramas, I highly recommend the series. The casting is good. Richard Armitage is superb as John Thornton. Handsome, with dark brooding looks. Yummylicious! Could also play Mr. Darcy and Heathcliffe - gentlemen of the same league as John Thornton. Look out for him in the upcoming movie The Hobbit. Daniela DanbyAshe as Margaret Hale is equally good. Pretty and a little chubby. Reminds me of Kate Winslet in Titanic before she became a stick insect. You'll like her. Other actors have also done a good job.

So go ahead and watch this mini series. You won't regret it. I promise!

Update: I've recently learned how to do podcasts. My first podcast is a reading of this very post. Let me know what you think.

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Days And Nights Of Nightie

About ten days ago, I had put the following update as my FB status: "I find a most peculiar practice in Chennai - women wearing their nighties all over the place - from strolling around the apartment complex to supermarkets. I understand it maybe on grounds of comfort clothing - but nightie? really?!!"

The numerous comments that followed that update made me realise that not only is this a pan Indian phenomenon, it has crossed Indian borders into Bangladesh and even gone as far as the U.S.of A! Women across Mumbai, Bangalore, Bhopal, Ahmedabad, Lucknow, Kanpur...all seem to favour the nightie as their preferred item of clothing.

Need to pop downstairs quickly to buy veggies from the the bhajiwala? No sweat! Just throw on some lipstick to brighten your face and run down in your nightie. Surprised? Don't be! I'm told that women in Bhopal do it all the time.

In Bangalore? Not sure if you're nightie shows you up in good light? Set your mind at rest. Just grab your bath towel and drape it over your shoulder and you're all set for a visit to the local super market.

Expecting guests for lunch and don't know what to wear? Relax. Throw on your nightie - a casual and welcoming look if any. Draw the line at appearing in front of guests in the clothes you wore last night? There is a remedy. Bathe and exchange that nightie for a fresh one. You would be emulating our sisters in Bangladesh and Kerala.

Want to step out for an evening stroll with your better half? No problem, put on your nightie and set off. If its good enough for the women of Sunnyvale, USA, its good enough for us desis!

So you see, the nightie is really a versatile item of clothing.There is no need to turn up your nose or point the finger of scorn at women who wear this wonderful garment, even in the most unexpected of places. In fact, let us join them and make it a movement. Let us demand that nightie be included as part of the dress code in offices. Team a well washed nightie with hawaii chappals, and watch your confidence soar. I'm sure you can 'climb every mountain and cross every stream' - but be sure to hitch up that nightie to your ankle lest it get wet or trip you up!!

PS: This post is written in jest. No disrespect is meant to those who wear nighties. I believe and advocate that women should wear what they like and feel comfortable in. I'm an inveterate nightie wearer myself - although I have not yet found the courage to wear them in the public domain.

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