Now, witness World War II in colour

Given the number of channels available these days, finding good programmes (yes, they do exist) is a bit like finding a long-sleeved salwar kameez in Rakhi Sawant’s wardrobe.
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Updated on Jan 28, 2011 10:53 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | By

Given the number of channels available these days, finding good programmes (yes, they do exist) is a bit like finding a long-sleeved salwar kameez in Rakhi Sawant’s wardrobe. But earlier this week, I found one such programme on, what else but Discovery. The channel has started a 23-part new series, World War II — in colour. Archival footage has been colourised, giving the series a rich, true-to-life, slightly startling look. We are so used to seeing this kind of footage in black and white that we forget the real world was not a black-and-white world. The Nazi swastika symbol was red, not black. Soldiers’ uniforms were not grey, but blue or olive green or khakhi. And so on.

I saw the first episode, The Gathering Storm, about the events which led up to Hitler’s invasion of Poland, the final trigger for the war. And I was enthralled, in a can’t-keep-my-eyes-off-the-screen sort of way. (That doesn’t happen very often. Mostly you tend to watch in a can’t-keep-my-eyes-on-the-screen kind of way. Even the colony phone directory can be more interesting. You can, if you want, find out who lives in house No 420).

The Gathering Storm had riveting archival footage of the momentous events and political leaders of the time. Some of it was actually quite comical (if it hadn’t been so frightening) — such as the clips of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini making speeches. Both the fascist leaders indulged in so much posturing and cringe-inducing over-the-top theatrics. But since the series is about World War II, much of the footage, while being dramatic, was also disturbingly telling. Such as the footage of Mussolini’s invasion of Abyssinia (modern-day Ethiopia), or Hitler’s troops marching into Czechoslavakia, or the Spanish civil war.

The best part about the series is that it puts all the pieces of the jigsaw together in a gripping, clear, easy-to-follow (even if you are a complete ignoramus and think that Franco is a kind of Bombay mutton roll) manner.

Not to be missed. (Even if you’re as interested in history as Hitler was in democracy).

As you probably know by now (and if you don’t, you aren’t reading your newspapers, so you’re most likely not reading this either), Shah Rukh Khan is back with a new reality show, Zor Ka Jhatka, early next month on Imagine. The show is based on the international hit, Wipeout, which is currently showing on AXN. I caught a couple of episodes of Wipeout and it is — as the hosts themselves cheerfully admit — one of the most ridiculous shows on TV. Basically, a bunch of contestants go through an obstacle course and the one who completes it the fastest wins. Sounds quite normal and regular? Well, check out the obstacles: you have to jump over four giant balls placed on water without falling into the water; you have to stand on top of a pillar and dodge the bristles of an enormous toothbrush (“the Spikes of Doom!”) as it sweeps past you; you have to spin round and round on a fiendish version of a merry-go-round called Dizzy Something or the Other etc etc. Parts of Wipeout are quite funny. But parts of it are also quite gross. (As the contestants spin around madly, one of them shouts out to the others, “Don’t throw up on me.” Then the show hosts fall about laughing because one of the men does throw up. Right, watching someone’s lunch come out is so hilarious. I really don’t get the humour).

But I guess we should wait and see what Shah Rukh Khan brings to the show. If experience is anything to go by, he should make Zor Ka Jhatka fun.


    Poonam Saxena is the national weekend editor of the Hindustan Times. She writes on cinema, television, culture and books

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