Prof. T K Thomas

Prof. T K Thomas

As a kid one grew up with films; watching films in one’s grandfather’s theater on a village road which had a petrol pump and a series of shops. During summer holidays all of us, almost two dozen of us first cousins would congregate in grandfather’s ancestral two storied home nestled amidst almost a veritable little forest of exotic fruit trees like rambutan, mangosteen, chikku or zapota , guava besides huge local mango and jackfruit trees.

After playing the whole day in the sprawling lush green compound all us would have a refreshing bath in the river flowing in front of the home, ready to go to our Hindusthan theater which showed mostly Tamil films as very few Malayalam films were released in those early 1950s. The family had a ‘box’ at the rear furnished with sofas, easy chairs and a couple of cots. We would see almost the same film for a week or so after the first or second interval of the first show [it was a single projector theater] and then the second show from the beginning. By then we will wait for our dinner brought from home in large baskets packed for each one of us in banana leaves. The smaller kids would go off to sleep on the cots and many of us around ten years old would continue to watch. We would have a whale of a time learning even some Tamil dialogues and songs. We were in splits when the popular comic pair N S Krishnan and T A Mathuram appeared on the screen. Such memories of watching films in childhood linger on.

So last week when we decided to go to a theater to watch ‘’The Lion King” in Connaught Place with three grand kids, all below ten, the excitement of the boys knew no bounds; one felt nostalgic about our daily visit to our theater. The recently concluded World Cup matches actually had given one an opportunity to enjoy them in the company of the threesome, who knew a lot about cricket and about important players. While the elder was an ardent Dhoni fan, the hero of the second was Virat Kohli. The youngest thought Rohit Sharma would always hit a century when he came out to bat. When New Zealand knocked out India in the semi finals they were devastated. They were sure that India would bring the World Cup home. They had tears in their eyes and their voices choked as India lost the match. How can we lose the Match? Aren’t we the best in the world? One couldn’t disagree with their logic!

The children had seen the 1994 version of ‘The Lion King’ and knew every character by name and each sequence in the film. The 1994 film was an animated one where as with the great advancement in technology, last week’s release of the Lion King directed by Jon Favreau bears the stamp of vertical reality, what is called, ”a photo-realistic computer animated musical film”, a reboot of the 1994 animated version. Everything looked almost real, the breathtakingly beautiful African savannas and all the characters from the lion King Simba to Timon, the meerkat. At least the children thought that it was not animated like the earlier one. Not exactly fond of cartoon films, one was not very enthusiastic but joined the family. One’s spirit was further dampened when we realized that by mistake we had booked for the Hindi version and not English. When the National Anthem was played the little boys stood in attention and sang it loudly. When Simba’s friends Timon and Pumbaa sang to a crest fallen Simba “Hakuna Matata” meaning “There are no problems or worries here” in the Swahili language , the kids joined them and kept the rhythm.

For some reason the dialogues by Simba’s friends were in typical Mumbai ‘Tapori’ style. Those unfamiliar with such language would have missed the nuances, but for this old Mumbaikar it was enjoyable. May be, Shreyas Talpade who voiced Timon gave it a Mumbai slang style which seems to have worked.

But when one heard Shah Rukh Khan voicing King Mufasa the lack of enthusiasm ebbed; one did not miss James Earl Jones, the original voice of Mufasa. Similarly Shah Rukh’s son Aryan Khan did justice to the grown up Simba. Scar, the villain who eliminated his brother Mufasa, voiced by Ashish Vidyarthi was convincing. Veteran comedian Asrani voiced Zazu, the red billed hornbill and was an instant hit with the kids. Every time the funny meerkat Timon [Sanjay Mishra] spoke’ the kids were laughing. The kids could not follow the romantic scenes of Zimba and Nala. They probably were wondering from where the cub Kion of King Simba and Nala suddenly came from!

Most Hollywood films dubbed into Hindi and other Indian languages have been huge financial successes. The Lion King, released last week in English, Hindi, Tamil and Telugu and nation -wide simultaneously in 2140 screens obviously was a huge hit and the box office collection on the first three days of the release was a whopping Rs. 54 crore, according to trade circles.

The three fellows have been keenly interested in space, space journeys, aliens and spacecraft. They knew about the GSLV Mark III Rocket From the time our Chandrayaan 2 was announced, they would very attentively watch the news and rush in to see whenever a rocket launch is shown. They gathered a lot of information about the GSLV Mark III Rocket, Vikram lander and Pragyan rover and various other details and when it would land on the south pole of the moon in September etc. When the July 15th launch of Chandrayaan 2 was delayed for a few days they were very disappointed. On Monday [22nd July ] the PSLV was to be re-launched, they wanted to know the timing. When they were told that it would be at 2.43 in the afternoon, they were elated that they could come back from school by 2.30. As one was watching the pre launch broadcasts they came, changed their uniforms and joined me. As the countdown started they joined the lady scientist who was counting and there was tremendous excitement when the rocket took off. The kids looked bored as two Doordarshan “commentators” started reading out from some script as the launch progressed.

With due deference to the ‘commentators’ one has no hesitation in pointing out that their commentary alternately in English and Hindi was not suitable for such a momentous occasion about which almost every Indian was interested. One does not know who these ‘commentators’ were. The least, one as an old radio commentator would say is that they were just not cut for the task. Of course they seemed to have a script full of technical jargons which they just read out like complete green horns. Such a historic occasion needed seasoned, trained professional commentators who would help the viewers to have a better understanding of this indigenous scientific marvel of our ISRO scientists and engineers. Commentaries on television and also radio need thorough backgrounding and preparations. A professional, need not necessarily be an expert on rocket sciences, but a generalist with proper general knowledge about the subject and well versed in the art of speaking on a microphone. What they did was a staccato vocal relay in English and Hindi alternately with neither any style nor enthusiasm in their voice. Television is an audiovisual medium where a commentary would only assist the viewer to have a better grasp of the event and keep up viewer interest- and they failed to do exactly that.

When the 300th anniversary of Shri Guru Granth Sahib and 300th death anniversary of Guru Gobind Singh ji were observed in Hazoor Saheb, Nanded in 2008, one was asked to do the English commentary by AIR. Not very familiar with the Sikh faith and their Gurus, one had to take a sort of a crash course on the event and had written down all the information to do the extempore commentary. Commentators need to do thorough home work on however unfamiliar the event may be.

One recalls another momentous occasion when Rakesh Sharma became the first Indian to go into space aboard the Russian rocket Soyuz T-11 taking off from Baikonur in Russia on 2nd /3rd April 1984. He spent almost eight days in space with two Russian cosmonauts in the SALYUT Space station. All India Radio sent its most experienced Hindi commentator Jasdev Singh to Russia to cover the event which he did in his usual style. On his return to India one had a long chat with him on his experience in covering Rakesh Sharma’s space journey. Jasdev gave a detailed account of his experience as a commentator on an event almost alien to him in a place where only Russian was spoken. He showed me copious notes he had taken down based on information given by the Russians, using sometimes interpreters. One wishes, the two Doordarshan ‘commentators’ on the 22nd July launch of our Chandrayan II had read Jasdev Singh’s autobiography in Hindi,”Main Jasdev Singh Bol Raha Hoon” !