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A cake left undercooked...

The first Indian MasterChef show with Akshay Kumar (Star Plus) was a bit like a cake that remained slightly undercooked. Specially when you compare it with MasterChef Australia (Star Plus), which is — and this is a truth universally acknowledged – truly masterful.

tv Updated: Sep 17, 2011 00:11 IST
Poonam Saxena

The first Indian MasterChef show with Akshay Kumar (Star Plus) was a bit like a cake that remained slightly undercooked. Specially when you compare it with MasterChef Australia (Star Plus), which is — and this is a truth universally acknowledged – truly masterful.

But the winner of the Indian MasterChef, Pankaj Bhadhouria (and that’s a woman — for the benefit of those who never saw the show and think Pankaj is a man’s name) now has a cookery show of her own, Chef Pankaj Ka Zayka, on Star Plus. Nothing wrong with the show, except that it has an afternoon slot and is targeted towards housewives. Both factors instantly make the show appear oh so dated – it seems to belong to another era altogether, in the days when housewives switched on the TV in the afternoons after their morning housework was over, and learnt how to cook some ‘fancy’ dishes (usually ‘Continental’) so that they could impress their husbands’ bosses or be one up on their sisters-in-law.

But given the fact that food from different countries and corners of India, is exploding all around us – in hotels, restaurants, malls, local neighbourhood shops – I suspect even housewives are ready to watch a more challenging show about food.

But then, who knows? Maybe the show is targeted towards those very same housewives who drape themselves over the TV set every evening at 7 to watch something called Saathiya Saath Nibhana. You don’t want to know about it but, as always, let me tell you anyway. There is a round-faced, simple and scared-looking girl (all right, let me say it outright – she’s so simple and scared-looking she borders on idiocy); her sour-looking husband (if you gave him milk to drink, it would probably curdle in his mouth), and assorted women, most of whom spend their time finding ways of getting Ms Round Face into trouble with Mr Sour Face. But, dear readers, this is the channel’s — indeed the country’s — top rated show, so clearly, what do I know?

I badly want to watch a fiction show that is so good, I can’t wait to see the next episode. But invariably, though some of the serials have a few nice moments/occasionally even entire episodes, they disappoint in their entirety. For one, they get into more story tracks than even Indian Railways, so the original story is all but lost and forgotten. After a while, I doubt if even the scriptwriters remember. (“Oh, this was supposed to be a romantic comedy? How did it become a story about a woman’s exploitation at the hands of her mother-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, husband, brother, sister, cousin? Er, have we left out anyone?”)

Second, the style template is the same for 99 per cent of the serials. And it’s not the best template in the world. The days when the camera zoomed in and out of a character’s face 697 times during a dramatic moment may have gone, but there’s a new technique in place. Now, whenever there’s high drama, the cameraman focuses his camera on one person’s face to record his or her expression of shock/disbelief/horror/etc. Then said cameraman rushes off to do his weekly shopping, comes back and moves the camera to the next character’s face. Then he goes out again on some other mission, comes back and moves his camera to the next character’s face. And so on and so forth. This can take up to half the airtime of an episode.

(And yes, I know, that’s a lot of characters, but most dramatic moments in serials take place with the entire cast standing in a semi-circle, and the cameraman must record the expression of each and every character in the frame. And sometimes maybe even those outside the frame — just for fun).

So perhaps the next time tremors are felt in Delhi, we won’t see what we saw on Wednesday night. When I — like lots of other people — switched on the TV after feeling the tremors, I was informed authoritatively by many channels that Delhi and the NCR had experienced a “major earthquake” which was 6.6 on the Richter scale. That this was complete nonsense became clear much later. In their haste not to be outdone by their competitors, many news channels put out this inaccurate figure without any verification or cross-checking.

I’m going back to Game of Thrones. At least, it’s bonafide fiction.