Wednesday, March 28, 2007

The "Professionals" of Crime Fighting

Now that I have gone through the roster of “Private Eyes” on TV, I think it is time to recap the “Professional Wiis Eyes” (Note to self: This is 'eye', not I. So the plural is 'eyes' not 'we'). The professionals on (at least Marathi) television have a glorious tradition, which has names like “Hello Inspector”, “Ek Shoonya Shoonya” in the list. Even in the current scene, “professionals” score better than amateurs, given CID is perhaps the most famous show in this genre currently (of course, new Karamchand will soon amend that).

So, here goes:


The Name: Anti – Superstition Wing
The Men (and The Women): (can somebody help me here?)

OK, I have cheated a bit here. “Lekin Woh Sach Tha” was not exactly a detective show. This was the show which introduced us to such paranormal topics like “limbic system”, “astral projection” and investigated phenomena like ghosts.

Of course, being a DD show and as you can get from the name of the organisation, the main objective desi jodi of Scully and Mulder wants to fight superstitions prevailing in the public conscience. This they did by exposing babas and other assorted villains. But even they did investigate some crimes like murder as a part of their job, and so I feel justified in including them in the series. (And of course, I like paranormal).


The Name: Criminal Investigations Department (at least, that's what it officially menns)
The Men (and The Women): ACP Pradyuman, Senior Inspector Abhijit, Daya, and company
This is the show which started the series. This is perhaps the most famous detective show an Indian television today. Led by ACP Pradyuman, this team of brave, intelligent, weird and sometimes bumbling officers tries to solve cases from all across Mumbai, with the help of the latest technology and forensics.

Of course, don't be misled by the name of the organisation. They seem to reach each and every crime in the city, many times without the normal police being called in. On the other hand, if they are supposed to reach only most perplexing and difficult cases, it bodes pretty ill for Mumbai given the sheer number of cases.

But don't get discouraged. Once you get past the obvious “influences” from foreign shows and detective stories, the show makes for a quite a nice entertainment, if only to see if you can solve the case easily.

CID Special Bureau:

The Name: Criminal Investigations Department, Special Bureau
The Men (and The Women): ACP Pradyuman, ACP Abhimanyu and company
A “spin-off” of CID. This show follows the exploits of a group of select officers of CID who try to solve more complex and sometimes “file closed” cases. The officers are supposedly selected because each one is an expert in one of the fields like forensics, ballistics and so on.

What it essentially means to the viewers is that the cases are definitely different and more entertaining (I could not find any direct influences on any other stories I have watched, and the show does involve some comedy). Though that makes this show better than the original, the original CID scores better for acting.

Did I mention that the female officers on CID are worth watching out for?

Did I miss any shows? Hopefully not. So now I can take a sabbatical from the series, as I have covered all the desi detectives I could remember. If I have missed any, or any improvements to the series, commenced are welcome...

Quote of The Day:

"We have in our police reports realism pushed to its extreme limits, and yet the result is, it must be confessed, neither fascinating nor artistic."
- Watson, in "A Case of Identity"

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Kayda aur Suvyavastha: Television Detectives of India Part II

UPDATE: Corrected info about Jasoos Vijay.
This was supposed to be one post, containing a small review of all the desi detectives I had read about or seen. Due to that turning into a novel, had to split the post into two, literature and TV. These in turn turned into novels, and had to be split. Finally, this has turned into a whole series.

Presenting part II of the “private” detectives on TV:

Sam D'silva:

His Name: Sam D'Silva
His Watson: Gopi
His Moriarty: -

I guess the word “Tehqiqat” (Tehqueeqat, yeh hai tehqeeqat) will be better recognized. Vijay Anand's Sam was eccentric enough, and his sidekick played by portly Saurabh Shukla (regular Hindi movie-fans would know this comedy actor well) was funny enough. The serial was more humorous than thriller, though my almost only recollection of the serial is of the episode with the ghost of (as far as I can stretch my memory) John Parrera.

Again sorry, but I have only a sketchy memory of the show. Any ideas if it might be re-telecast?

Jasoos Vijay:

His Name: Vijay
His Watson: Gauri, his wife
His Moriarty: HIV(?)

Perhaps the first “interactive” detective serial, which asks people to solve the crime, where each episode is aired in 2 parts. Co-produced by BBC, with Om Puri as anchor, this is a fairly recent addition to DD.

I haven't watched much of this serial, but from what I saw, and from what I read on the website, though the “cases” are fairly easy for hardcore fans of the genre, there seem to be no overt “influences” on the story.

The only point I can say I don't like (but maybe not “unlike”) is that the show is used in typical DD style to send “social and patriotic” messages, the chief being educating people about HIV/AIDS (Vijay is shown to be HIV-positive). Now, what with the interactive format of the show, and Om Puri and BBC, this might be highly effective (indeed the many letters they get indicate that it is), but as a hardcore fan, I like my stories to be just about crime and detection.

I think the serial it still being broadcast on DD, so if anybody watching it? My recommendation: do watch and tell me how it is. Like all good serials, this serial is also off-air now. (Thanks DK)

I guess that about covers up the well-known and worth-mentioning “private eyes” we have seen on Indian TV. Know anybody I have missed?

Coming up: The “Professional” Eyes on TV

The Great Eagle has spoken...

Quote of The Day:

"Results without causes are much more impressive."
- Sherlock Holmes, in "The Stock-Brocker's Clerk"

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Kayda aur Suvyavastha: Television Detectives of India Part I

Being an Indianized reference to a famous crime-detection serial (Special mention for guessing which one, detectives)

As I have run out of Indian detectives in literature, I turn to another of media sources (I sound like an executive giving presentation, don't I?), to wit: television.

Now, Indian Television has a very long tradition of detective and crime serials. I must (honorably) mention marathi serials like “Ek Shoonya Shoonya” (meaning 100, titled for obvious reasons), the serial which started ACP Pradyuman's career, “Hello Inspector” (had an extremely catchy tune) and “Dhananjay” (don't remember the actor's name, though he is a good and famous one), which we used to watch in the days when the prime-time “regional” programmes were limited to 7.15 pm to 8 pm (after regional news to before hindi news) time slot. Perhaps, my fascination with detectives started with these, but my memories of them extend no further than the names (“A long time ago, on a TV far away” and all that you know...)

So, I will get to better recognized names. I have already talked about the televised “Byomkesh Bakshi”, and how a great actor backed by great story (and a nice casting) makes for a serial worth watching. There is another detective which confirms this:


His Name: Karamchand (full name, anyone?)
His (clueless) Watson: (Shut Up) Kitty (which may as well be her full name)
His Moriarty: -

Unfortunately, I don't remember much of the original, except that he ate a lot of carrots, and “Shut up, Kitty” (I was very young then, you know). But the serial was the first proof (being the first detective serial on Indian television) for the theory that Kapoors make great detectives (Pankaj in this case, Rajat in Byomkesh). Even the second innings currently going on is worth watching (and makes you put some faith in “sequels”).

Karamchand is your typical black-goggles and black coat-clad, cool-headed, intelligent, slightly bumbling and eccentric detective. In short, confirming to almost every prototype of a “private eye” (he eats carrots, you know) you can think of. Trivia: he is also apparently a practising lawyer.

Kitty is the cluelessness taken to the extreme, and given that you don't really need a chronicler for TV series, her role is only limited as his secretary (the main part of her duties I guess is to “Shut Up”). Quite different from other detectives, (at least so far in second season) Inspector Khan (played by another brilliant actor, Atul Parachure) is not your quintessential amateur-hating, egotistic fool, but works in tandem with Karamchand, and is knowledgeable and a good inspector on his own (of course, that does not mean that he gets everything or the brilliant Karamchand does not explain things after the climax).

The stories are mysterious enough to keep you glued to the seat (can't glue you to the screen, right?) and keep your interest alive for the entire hour. Again, as far as I remember, the original cases were limited to gharelu matters per se, and the second innings keeps to the roots (director is also the same, Pankaj Parashar), merely making the crime scenes more “exotic”, like a beauty pageant-training institute, reality-show shooting and all.

My advise? Though Karamchand eats less carrots due to inflation, he is no less intelligent or less interesting. Go watch...

Had to split the post in 2, because it kept getting longer and longer, so watch out for part II.

The Great Eagle has spoken...

Quote of The Day:

...any moment before the end might be the important one. This I believe.
- Agatha Christie

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Jagrit, Suvyavasthit Sahayak Part II

Why do most of the mainstream detectives in India come from Bengal? This is one of the questions which needs a Byomkesh to solve. Because, second in my “detective” series is also a Bengali “Da” (Not to be confused with Kannada "da" as in "what daa?").


His Name: Pradosh Chandra Mittar
His (biographer) Watson: Topshe (Tapesh Ranjan Mittar), his cousin
His (clueless) Watson: Jatayu (Lalmohan Ganguly), a crime thriller writer
His Moriarty: Maganlal Meghraj

I have already written about Satyajit Ray's science-fiction and mystery stories. I need not say anything about his movies. But he has also left his mark on detective genre, with his Feluda stories.

For the uninitiated, Feluda is a card-carrying (literally, he carries his business cards with occupation as “Detective”... I know, bad joke...) working detective. He is helped by his cousin in his cases (when his school permits), who is also encouraged to write about them by Feluda. On one of these adventures (Sonar Kella/The Golden Fortress), they meet Jatayu, a crime thriller writer who later becomes their friend and accompanies them. Despite being a bestseller author, Jatayu is as clueless about real-life crime as Watson on his worst day (or maybe as Lestrade is on his best day). Feluda's best source of information on anything under the sun is their uncle, Shidhu Jyatha, a living encyplopedia who has clippings and books on every subject on the earth.

As for the bad boys, Maganlal Meghraj is a smuggler, has his own gang, and is a thoroughly sophisticated and dangerous criminal. He crosses sword with Feluda many times in his career. In almost all these cases, it's Jatayu who suffers the most (and Maganlal seems to take particular pleasure in targetting the hapless author), but all their lives are in peril more than once.

Feluda gets involved in high-profile crimes, like theft of a historical stone, smuggling, murder. So, unlike Byomkesh he finds himself in mortal danger more often, along with his associates (which explains his carrying a gun I guess). He is also probably the most energetic detective I have ever seen, as he is roaming all over India and abroad (with Topshe in tow when the schools permit). Among other places, he travels to Agra, Ajanta, Rajasthan, Mumbai, Lucknow and even Kathmandu for his cases, or the cases find him on one of his travels.

Also unlike Byomkesh, there is a clear influence of Sherlock on Feluda. Among other things, he frequently refers to Sherlock as is “Guru”, and his cases as well as his techniques show that clearly. I guess, I can safely say that he is Sherlock to Byomkesh's Poirot.

Unfortunately, I haven't seen any of the movies or telefilms as they are in Bengali, but if they do justice to the stories (which they should, given that Ray himself directed at least some of them), these feature high on my list of “Movies I Won't Understand but Will Read Subtitles For”... Can somebody convert them in Hindi TV serial?

As I said, in Indian literature I have come across only these two cases of fairly famous detectives. Of course, the only languages I read include Marathi and English, and I have tried reading Hindi once before. So my main source is translated-into-English versions and Marathi literature. Even in Marathi, I have come across famous detectives only in kids' literature, the detectives being kids as well. So please feel free to tell me about any famous detectives in your language, and direct me to the books.

The Great Eagle has spoken...

P.S. The "Title Contest" in the first post's P.S. is still on... So, if you want to have a chance to tell me the topic of my next post, tell me where the title of this series comes from.

Quote of The Day:

Oh dear, I never realized what a terrible lot of explaining one has to do in a murder!
- Agatha Christie

Monday, March 12, 2007

Jagrit, Suvyavasthit Sahayak Part I

A bomb is ticking away, and there is no chance that anybody can diffuse it in time. Two brave officers volunteer to take it out in a helicopter and let it blast over the sea, so that nobody will get hurt.

Now if you think I am talking about a Dan Brown novel, think again...

Oh well, I am one of the people who (try to) watch CID every week, without cracking a smile (or cracking the TV, whatever). Trying to figure out which story (or show) has influenced the episode is a real nice fun. But when the officers start brandishing their weapons (I know, wrong choice of words) on the street and start firing across Mumbai streets in the middle of afternoon, even I feel something is wrong. Incidentally, one of the recent episodes was copied almost completely from “Murder on the Links” (Of course, the copy was not complete as the victim/murderer's wife was not shown to be bound by the assailants).

Given the current condition, I felt it was necessary to have a review of tradition of great detectives we have had in India. Let’s start with the most famous of them:

Byomkesh Bakshi:

His Name: Byomkesh Bakshi

His Watson: Ajit, an aspiring writer

His Moriarty: --

This is the first name anybody thinks of when you think of “India” and “Detective” in the same sentence. Now, Byomkesh is not really a detective, but a “Satyanneshi” (Seeker of Truth). The combination of Rajit Kapoor and great stories made for a real entertainer. Of course, as the series was based on original stories, there were fixed number of episodes after which the series ended. The series was pretty faithful to the original story, apart from a few bits which really did not take away anything from the suspense.

For those of you who have not read or seen the stories, an aspiring writer Ajit takes up a room in a not so fashionable part of the city. There, he shares his room with a young man. There is a murder on their doorstep and in the next room. After the young man is suspected of committing the crime, he is revealed as a detective who is helping the police catch a drug racketeer. After catching the criminal, Ajit moves with Byomkesh to his house and joins in his adventures later.

Even though sometimes we can detect a small influence (not “influence”) from Sherlock or Poirot, the stories are completely Indian in every sense. The stories are mainly about crimes like murder, theft and other domestic problems. But, as Sherlock says, “...strangest and most unique things are very often connected not with the larger but with the smaller crimes...”, and the mysteries are not trivial. Of course, given that the stories take place in the pre-independence Calcutta, it would have been hard if not completely impossible for him to get involved in crimes of State Importance like Sherlock or Poirot does living in the capital. He does help police take on crimes of local importance like a drug racketeer, a (kind-of) serial killer etc. He also has run–ins with at least two ghosts that I know of.

Like most of mainstream detectives, Byomkesh is clever than people surrounding him. But unlike mainstream detectives, he is very human. Apart from his Sherlockian humour and a bit of secretive nature, he comes out as a pretty straightforward person. Unlike Watson, Ajit knows a lot about his plans after he joins the detective as a biographer and a friend (He even knows when Byomkesh is playing the dead). Also unlike most mainstream detectives (and I'm not talking about Paperback detectives who get a girl in the middle and at the end of every story), Byomkesh gets the girl at the end of one of its adventures and marries her.

The best part? Byomkesh Bakshi episodes are back on the air…

The Great Eagle has spoken...

P.S. 1. All the reviews and comments are based on the english translations of the stories and the few episodes I have watched recently. Any Bengali speaking people who have read the original are requested to correct me wherever I am wrong.

2. Anybody who tells me where the title comes from, gets to choose what post comes next... Hint: "Bahut limited hai aap ka knowledge"wink

Quote of The Day:

“It is your commonplace, featureless crimes which are really puzzling, just as a commonplace face is the most difficult to identify.”

- Sherlock Holmes (“The Red Headed League”)

Thursday, March 08, 2007

A Toast To Women

On the International Women's Day, I propose a toast to all women, starting with:

  • My mother and my sis, for being what they are

  • My niece, need I say anything more?

  • My friends
    • For having the honor to be called my friend

    • For aiming their boxes at other friends even when I am the one with naughty comment

    • Not for not helping me in my l'amour(Sorry, toasts only contain good parts, I guess)

  • JKR, Enid Blyton and many other writers who help keep the child in me happy, and have written a lot many books I like

  • For my blogger friends, for writing nice posts which keep me entertained and thinking (if I start writing names here, the post will go on and on and on, but you all know to whom this toast goes)

  • The women who have proven that they are not second to anybody with their merit, in all walks of life

My friend also wants to add a toast to all the girls who have left a mark on his life (and not their fingerprints on his cheek) and “left footprints on his heart” (by not using their sandals and other assorted footware on him). I won't give his name, but he knows who he is... [There, now don't say I am not a true friend]

A special thanks to Silverine for pointing out the technical problems in my halo. This is a part of my series to polish my halo back to its original brightness. On that note, I hope the old specs-cleaning strategy of blowing on the glasses and polishing with your sleeve or shirt-front (ok, hanky if you are too particular) works on halos too... Any tips there?

The Great Eagle has spoken...

Quote of The Day:

What would men be without women? Scarce, sir, mighty scarce.
- Mark Twain