Saturday, November 12, 2005

Game, sex and drama

When I switch on the TV and accidentally channel-surf my way into one of those soap operas or the mil-dil episodes that cast such a spell over the Indian viewers, I can’t help wondering why people go for such inane and insipid fare when an entire repertoire of action-packed, real-life based films with absorbing plots are available on the National Geographic Channel.

Take this typical story on NGC. For days, the cheetah and her cubs haven’t had anything to eat. After several failed attempts, she had successfully hunted down an antelope yesterday, chasing it at a speed of 100 km/hour – only to be robbed of the catch, within a few minutes, by a pack of hyenas. This morning, she sets out on her hunt, aware that her cubs would die if she returned without food today. It is a desperate kill-or-die situation. After a few hours, she manages to pin down a baby gazelle, separating it from its mother. The last shot shows the mother gazelle walking away dejectedly while the exhausted cheetah watches its hungry cubs devour the baby gazelle to the last bone. The voice-over fades off with the words “ One mother’s loss is another mother’s gain”. Can any scriptwriter come up with anything more packed with tender love, parental care, action and pathos?

Or take this poignant story centered on a small lake, which is the only source of water for miles. The deer, zebras, wildebeest, – all make a beeline for this lake to quench their thirst, with the hot African sun beating down on them relentlessly. The lake is home to several crocodiles that wait patiently to pounce on these mammals at the edge of the lake and pull them into the watery grave. The rains have failed this year, the streams are not re-charged and the lake is gradually drying up. Quite a few of the deer and the zebras that venture deeper into the lake, desperate for water, fall into the waiting jaws of the crocodiles. But, ironically, with the water level shrinking steadily, the crocodiles also perish, one by one. As the film draws to a close, we see a solitary crocodile crawling away from the barren lake towards the shade of a distant tree. It is a tribute to the powerful story-telling technique that, by this time, the viewer gets emotionally drawn to the crocodile and is eager to know if it managed to survive the crisis.

A film on the “King Cobra” shot in the Nilgiris can keep you engrossed for many hours. As the story builds up, the King Cobra is shown constructing its own nest (uncharacteristic of snakes) in a rather elaborate fashion, preparatory to laying its eggs. Then it stays guard over the eggs for days together, not relaxing its vigil even for a second. Just as you start to admire the motherly sacrifices of this reptile, it leaves the nest before the first egg hatches and the baby comes out – because it intuitively knows that if it stays around, its pre-disposition to eat other snakes will take precedence over its maternal instinct. What ethological drama!

But, if you are under the impression that snakes don’t have to fear other predators, watch the “The Eagle and the Snake”. These eagles live on an island in the South China Sea. Their only source of food is the striped snake that inhabits the waters. The striped snakes are excellent swimmers but, once in a few hours, need to come up to the surface of the sea for their oxygen intake. Now, the eagles which hover several hundred feet above the water need to know exactly when and which of the snakes will come up to draw some air, so as to swoop down at the precise moment, grab the six-foot long snake and fly back several miles to the island to feed its young. You would think that, in a vast sea, the statistical probability of a particular snake (which comes up to the surface only once in three hours), being snatched by an eagle is quite low. Yet, this drama unfolds everyday and the eagle has to get its catch of snakes to stay alive and the snake has to keep coming up to the surface to stay alive..

Are you looking for the sex motif? Take this story about the male warthog which has to demonstrate its loyalty and intentions by courting the female of the species determinedly for three full days, following it wherever it goes, before the latter relents and allows the ‘mating” to take place. Happy ending? Not yet. The male warthog has to continue to keep watch over the female for the next few days to ensure that she doesn’t fool around with other males and deprive him of the opportunity of multiplying his own genes. For sheer perseverance and amorous wooing, this cannot be matched or bettered in any man-made love-story.

Spare a thought for the photographer from National Geographic following the particular warthog for days together in the wild and capturing the whole sequence and drama. Or keeping tab on the King Cobra as it builds its nest, hatches its eggs and moves away just when its young ones come into the world? Or setting up his camera next to the lake for several weeks till the solitary crocodile moves away. Or waiting for that split second when the eagle will swoop down and grab the snake. Not in controlled conditions that prevail in a movie studio, but in hostile terrains such as a marshy swamp or a remote island.

That is why when I feel the need for moving melodrama, pulsating action and gripping story line, I turn to these animal films. They never disappoint me.


Pareshaan said...

NG the magazine as well as the channel absolutely rox!

rauf said...

I was in a cab on my way to Hosur. The cab driver was playing loud film music
which was getting on my nerves. I was just about to flare up, when I realised poor chap wanted me to enjoy the ride afterall and he is my God untill I reach my destination. I had to shut myself.
I say his taste in music is poor but there will be some out there who will find my taste pathetic.

Unknown said...

Another good alternative to the saas-bahu melodramas is the Travel & Living Channel. I watched about 6 hours of the channel during the Diwali holidays and now I am hooked.

Harini Sridharan said...

So true. The world of animals never ceases to amaze you with all its beauty and action-packed thrill.
Also, a well-written entry with apt citations :)

L said...

Yup seen some real moving sequences in NGC and Discovery... Truly they can be gripping ..!! and some living habits of special eological conditions ... really makes u doubt if they are less intelligent..!!