• Mohana Prabhakar

Are we what we watch

Updated: Apr 22, 2019

While reading an article on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the face floating around in my head was that of Joseph Fiennes. This is despite having read most of Shakespeare’s offerings in my younger days. Then in the middle of the ESO Ball last week, when the news went around that Prince had died, no one said, ‘Which prince?’ You just knew it was the Purple Prince. R.I.P.

The fact is that entertainment makes the world go round. It doesn’t matter what each one of us considers as entertainment, but without it we would wither and die. Or to be less dramatic, we would be miserable. There is nothing like watching an episode of Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D to take your mind off ridiculous things like a recipe website of the Conde Nast Group (Bon Appétit) being blocked in Oman.

Then, if I had to choose between Citizen Kane and Star Wars, I would opt for the second in a heartbeat. I like good films, but I also like to be entertained. The only reason my son is not walking around with the name R2D2 is because he had one sensible parent.

I read Anna Karenina and A Stone for Danny Fisher when I was barely 13, mainly because I was told not to read either on account of being too young. I still remember the latter and how my heart bled for Danny Fisher. Anna… was just annoying.

Luckily I was too young to know that you were supposed to be reading meaningful stuff to be meaningful and that Tolstoy should always rate higher than Harold Robbins. They say that your reading choices reveal something about you. I’m not so sure. I loved the Harry Potter series as a grown woman, and I am determined to go see Diagon Alley, but it hardly means that I am unable to read a balance sheet.

I know that and yet I find myself being judgmental. Of myself, and others.I remember being unable to hide a smirk seeing multiple copies of 50 Shades of Grey in the hands of women lounging around a hotel pool. Would I have had the same reaction had I seen them reading an opinion piece in The Economist?

Probably not. I would’ve thought they needed to get a life (a pool, a tall glass with an umbrella and… socio-economic debate?), but I wouldn’t have questioned their intellect.

Somewhere along the way while growing up, we pick up the baggage of needing to be purposeful and weighty in our choice of art. What happens then is the common, but weird scenario where people feel the need to specify feeling guilty about enjoying a piece of entertainment. Once it comes under the heading of guilty pleasure, you may no longer be judged as a person with bad taste.

There is one Hindi movie that I have watched possibly 80 times. If I am travelling in India and it’s on TV, I watch it. And I cry copiously, often even before the scene unfolds as I already know what’s going to happen.

This is not seminal work by a great director. It’s Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, which for the uninitiated, is your typical Bollywood potboiler, full of beautiful people, beautiful jewellery and songs of course.

It’s not even a sad movie: No one dies, nothing horrific happens. Completely cheesy scenes, like the one where a child, London-born and bred, sings India’s national anthem for his mother with the rest of his posh English schoolmates, have me sobbing.

In fact, I looked up the scene on YouTube as I was writing this in the office. And I cried. Twice. God help me!

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