There is a dish in Adyar ananda Bhavan (that’s an eating joint close to my place.) called mixed chat. It’s all-encompassing (hmm, does this word exist?) chat where every possible ingredient on their large table gets tossed in. Little Puris, lemon, mint, coriander, every one of the 11 kinds of colored powder (seasoning, masala whatever.), aloo, bhel, etc are added in good measure. Even by chat standards, it’s a quixotic dish.
Watching TV with my mother is remarkably similar to choking your way through this dish with watery eyes.
“Why can’t you ever let us watch a single channel without interruptions?” is a painful refrain addressed to her. Her beady eyes wouldn’t even narrow and turn in my direction whenever I said that, as her unchallenged reign over the remote control continued. And I’ve always wondered why we’ve never asked her to relinquish her hold over the TV during weekends (only days the TV was switched on. Yes my household doesn’t approve of excessive TV viewing.)
The rubber squeak of our ten-year-old remote as her sharp nails dug into their long suffering buttons always sounded like “ouch.” to me. This is an account of a typical one-hour TV session with mom.
First channel on the list, Sun Tv with its Saturday special movie. Some regular trashy sathyaraj action flick. Ouch. KTV a sister concern. Madhavan’s desperate and absurd attempts at wooing some pretty girl (regular Bombay import.) in JJ. I winced. Mother, mistaking this sound for approval looked at me, “Do you want to continue watching this?” I shook my head, “I’ve seen this movie before. It’s really bad.” Even for a Madhavan admirer, JJ (filled with his ridiculous roadside Romeo antics) was painful to watch, probably his worst movie ever. Ouch. CNN IBN. An over enthusiastic anchor was energetically arguing that West Zone was exercising an unhealthy influence over Indian Cricket. The guilty faces of Sharad pawar and Sunil Gavaskar loomed intimidatingly in the background. “Regional politics. Boring.” Ouch.
Suhasini (Mani Ratnam’s wife by the way) was deep in conversation with a cinematographer about the merits of a certain lighting technique in movies. I sat up, since when did Vijay TV start dwelling upon technical nuances… “and this method was used in Shivaji.” Our faces wrinkled in disgust, when will Madras ever get over the Shivaji hype?
Ouch. Sun Music. A romantic chartbuster was playing behind smses being flashed on the screen at regular intervals. “I love you Jothilakshmi- Loganathan.” “this song is for you my dear- Susheel.” “Appa, where are you?- Abhi” the miscellaneous nature of these inane messages and the sheer incompetence of their anchors made me wonder why the channel provided this service at all.
But the remote didn’t go “ouch.’ perhaps my mum liked the song. When it ended, ouch. DD sports. India-Ireland. Saurav was….
“Wait.” I cried out, but too late. The mere sound of bat on ball would summon my father from the other room to watch the match for the entire night. My mother’s paranoia about cricket channels is justified. Ouch. Raj TV.A Rajnikant movie mad twenty years back, this was Rajni, young and wrinkle-free, lean and fit, before he acquired his “GOD” status in the industry. It was one of the few good movies he’d acted in, early in his career when he was an actor rather than a hero, and his performances would sparkle with spontaneity, energy and depth. No superhuman stunts .No politically loaded dialogues. He was just Anand, a tormented lover who sought to rescue his beloved from the depths she was plunging into.
Both of us liked this movie, the plot might be filmi – young lovers separated by circumstance (read -her father!) reunite after an agonizing hiatus of a few years. But the treatment was really natural, save the action filled climax when our man pursues the woman’s train through thick jungles, rocky terrains and thorns and boulders all on a motorbike! (an allusion (inserted to appear clever, they didn’t succeed if you ask me.) to the way they had met the first time, after he'd won a motor bike race organized by her.)
Variation of typical climaxes where the hero runs along with the train and boards it to get his lady back.
And at the end, the woman falls into his bloodied arms after some hesitation and cries over Anand’s wounds etc. ‘Now watch.” My mother said, “His blood will get smeared on her forehead to signify the end of her widowhood and their new beginning.” Luckily her worst fears didn’t come true, the movie ended without any further melodrama. “Vanakkam”
Ouch. Sathyaraj again. “NOOO ma!”ouch. madhavan playing the violin. Ouch. CNN IBN. “Kaun Banega Rashtrapathi?” “Isnt it obvious?” I snorted. Ouch. Sun news.Ouch.Ouch Ouch. Ouch
My mother’s fingers were now working so fast that the images were appearing and vanishing in a blink, all I could perceive was a blur of speeding visions, each more unsatisfactory than the other. Then the TV powered off in a final ouch, with a relieved whoosh, like an intake of breath from a sprinter at the end of the race.
Maybe we should get DISH TV, or TATA Sky, our TV experiences were being restricted due to Conditional Access. Madras is so apathetic; any other city would have repelled the onset of CAS with the force of their vociferous protests.
And I’ve decided that I like Mixed Chat after all, you get a sprinkling of every single thing- things that wouldn’t taste good if you added more than just a sprinkling.