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When will we get our own sweeping costume sagas?

Every time I see Game of Thrones on HBO, I wonder why we can’t make such a series here. Or more accurately, why we don’t, because of course we can. There’s no lack of talent in the Indian television industry; even if there’s a concerted effort to keep all this talent a big secret from us viewers.

tv Updated: Sep 09, 2011 23:23 IST
Poonam Saxena

Every time I see Game of Thrones on HBO, I wonder why we can’t make such a series here. Or more accurately, why we don’t, because of course we can. There’s no lack of talent in the Indian television industry; even if there’s a concerted effort to keep all this talent a big secret from us viewers.

Game of Thrones, as I mentioned in an earlier column, is a medieval fantasy based on the best-selling Song of Fire and Ice series by American novelist George RR Martin, or more precisely, on the first book of the series (Game of Thrones). It’s in the grand tradition of sweeping costume sagas, but it’s a grim and gory tale, with so many characters, you might need a flow chart to keep track of who’s who. War, death and betrayal are the mainstays of the story and even the love affairs, such as they are, are violent and twisted. But it makes for powerful, persuasive viewing, not least because it is visually so compelling – images of bleak, windswept castles; men on horseback galloping down mountain paths (I believe it was shot in Ireland); furious and fatal swordfights; savage warlords moving with their armies across waving grasslands; the works. Somehow, our own historical/mythological dramas on TV never have this kind of scale or conviction. We watch them because the stories and characters are so dear to us, or because we love the dialogues. But the palace walls always seem like they’re made of cardboard, the gilded thrones appear more tinsel than gold and the swords look like they wouldn’t cut a mound of butter.

Of course, we all know that this in itself is a certain style of presentation and bravo to that. But occasionally, we do want to see such stories told differently.

I guess it boils down to money. Period films are rare enough since they’re so expensive; what’s the chance that a TV channel will pour in the kind of money you need to make an ambitious, breathtaking series such as Game of Thrones? Back on our own desi channels, Sony’s singing reality show X Factor came to an end. Geet Sagar from Gwalior won, much to the disappointment of supporters of the other finalist, the stupendously gifted 17-year-old Seema Jha. Star Plus’ dance reality show, Just Dance, is also slowly moving towards the finale. The show is mainly watchable because of four or five unbelievable dancers, even though judges Hrithik Roshan, Farah Khan and Vaibhavi Merchant do their bit well enough. But where are the ratings?

And as we’re on the subject of ratings, the News Broadcasters Association has decided that starting October, news channels will move to monthly instead of weekly ratings. In other words, hopefully news channels will now pay more attention to giving viewers the news rather than showing what they think will fetch them ratings, never mind it isn’t news, never mind if it has not the remotest connection to journalism.

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 bona fide fiction.