An Idiot's Tale

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An Idiot's Tale

Cacography of a madcap story teller, JAYEETA GHORAI

One of the recent screenplays I’ll miss never writing is Grey’s.

I’m surprised at its huge popularity with the Indian audience. Like Sherlock.

Ty’ash, the intellectual Bengali’s favoured term for ‘Anglophile’ was labeled against me so many times I’ve lost count.

So what, I contend?

Am I supposed to like Saas-Bahu serials in Hindi or the pyaen pyaen’e (read, soppy or mushy) Bengali tele soaps to prove my Indian-ness? What rubbish! If English channels have better – read that, thought provoking, genuinely funny and/or indefinably touching – entertainment, I’m all for getting my cable TV’s money’s worth. Ever the practical, there is always sound logic in pure economic sense.

I’ve had my share of rushing home to not miss any episode of Mahabharata on Sundays.

My drawing school had actually started commencing a good half hour earlier to accommodate this mass mythological craze; sis and I would race down the fifteen minute distance of the hurriedly vacated lane (ripped off a post-apocalypse Will Smith drama) , ears pricked for the opening bars of the credit tune floating through the house walls we passed.

A similar epoch was reached for Ramayana, Buniyaad and Hum Log, in a receding timeline.

Dekh Bhai Dekh on prime time, as Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, signaled the happy end to study hours on most week days; I lost my taste for Indian slapstick past those. Sarabhai vs Sarabhai, after years, delighted with its chiseled humour and fine histrionics (not to mention Ratna Pathak Shah’s well cut blouses and admirably maintained frame.)

Karamchand, the maverick sleuth, his carrot and imbecile secretary in tow, filled the need for both immature rib and brain tickles.

Malgudi Days, ahh…Laxman’s broad indolent canvas was the sole resident of its exclusive club.

Nukkad I never watched, living firmly surrounded by one.

 A real slum, its shrill vocal pitches, ear-and-dignity shattering expletives, baby bums voiding gooey yellow bodily waste on stolen manhole grates and throat-choking eye-itching coal oven fumes leaves no further inclination for screen ones. It had been savagely stripped of recreational benefits.

Depending on the volume of homework, the seriousness of the next day’s test, the fright index of the teacher – for all our treatise against corporal punishment, it is amazing how much more the strict ones could extract in terms of effort, even from chronic defaulters like me – how hated or loved the subject was, then towards the end, the growing number of private tuition sessions and the impending doom of a public exam (more my parent’s panic than mine) caused a permanent rift.

I didn’t have time to mandatorily catch every episode ever again this life, but increasingly find myself drawn before the TV set at 10, sitting down to a peaceful, albeit dramatic, dinner with myself, Meredith and the surgical gang.

Not Sherlock, no, that is not a screenplay I could ever master.

 It is too quick, and sharp for my slow hazy brain. That is adaptation par excellence, sarcastic wit beyond measure, an inimitable mélange of ideas. Steven Moffat, man, please take my humble obeisance; if Conan Doyle could be improved, between you and Cumberbatch, you’ve proved the impossible doable…what intellectual cocktail!

Detective stories aren’t my stronghold. Not yet (?)

But life, on the slicing edge, viewed from the precipice of its finiteness is a reality I’ve witnessed umpteen times. This is a philosophy I know well, I think.

Human transactions, the chemistry of psychology isn’t unknown to me.

‘The writer has seen Life. She knows what she’s talking about,’ I figured, impressed.

I marveled to learn, not Shonda Rimes, the eight seasons have seventeen writers between them. As an exclusive pen woman, idly stroking the keyboard in my silent tower, such perfect artistic collaboration blew my breath away. There is even a particular website shared by the team called, no free passes to shoots for guessing,, where individuals blog about their beyond production sentiments, under the sapient title: Grey Matter.

Writing is weighty business; I can understand why they might have yet more to say after the script has been submitted and signed off.  We storytellers are hopelessly garrulous, so much never makes it into the precisely crafted finished piece, so many trimmings, like fancy lace and misfit baubles, that kill us to throw away.

Wasted lines. Excess baggage.

Meredith’s narration, self-importantly know-it-all, in quick clever whip cracks, sums up about half of what life is. Or can be. Like a torch beamed into ice crevices, like a head ducked over the fissure blinking rapidly at the shadow bottom.

The ugly. The jubiliant. The confused. The sunlit.

I have known deaths, repeatedly, till each tug-of-war has battered the significance of mortality into my jaded cranium. Yes, they were dogs. And some cats.

Human smugness be cursed, a death of a beloved, a snuffing out, irrespective of species, is still death. The irreversible.

It opens the proverbial third eye. That thin blade verge brings epiphany like no other. You stand there and the whole knowledge of your cumulative years, and all of civilization’s, drops to dust. Literally. The mind draws blank.

The very white sheet, of paper or shaken screen, draws blood.

I find my pen take off often from some Grey narrations or dialogues. Either in concurrence or contradiction.

Each of these metaphysically overdosed writers couldn’t have known death, couldn’t have been brought to their knees by life-or-death crises. Yet, their amazingly unified voice echo with the stillness of Life, acute observations from the brink.

So I salute their inspired intelligence. And genius.

As I wistfully demur not being one of them.




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