Remark not in good taste
Mannika Chopra

Mannika Chopra

On Monday night in a surreal, but completely believable way, there was terrorism both in real life and reel life. Most news channels carried a gunshot-by-gunshot account of a hijacking in Manila of a tourist bus full of Chinese travellers, and their eventual release after an 11-hour drama, leading to the death of eight hostages and the hijacker. The notable exception was Doordarshan, which plodded drearily about new export policies.

One hour later, the new season of 24 exploded on our screens (AXN). The riveting espionage series centres on terrorist threats that are intended to wreck havoc on ‘liberal’ America, and the ability of its Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU) to combat them. The series began in the year following September 11, and it built its fan base on the tensions evident in the Bush-Cheney era.

I have to say I was also a huge, huge fan of the show, which premises itself on 24 hours in the life of America. Each episode is one-hour long, and uses a ticking time bomb effect, during which the producers outline a plot, and its eventual solution by federal agent Jack Bauer. The show uses a combination of incredibly fast-paced interconnecting stories seen often through split screens and curt dialogues.

But after a while, fatigue sets in. For one, it was hard to keep up with the demanding pace of the drama.

The questions asked by the judges to the finalists of the Miss Universe contest were not that easy to answer
The questions asked by the judges to the finalists of the Miss Universe contest were not that easy to answer. Photo: AP/PTI

I mean, how many nuclear threats can one country face, and how many times can the President of the United States have assassination attempts plotted against him? And how many times can the ultimate villains get reduced to pulp by the ultimate terminator, Bauer?

This potboiler should have had human rights activists up in arms. Besides, this drama also carried a subtext of the “Big Fight” against Islamic extremism, which should disturb civil society. So I kind of disengaged myself from 24, and it stopped being on my “to do list” for a while.

But now the new season of the series has me involved again. And the reason is sadda Anil Kapoor. The Bollywood star plays the role of the President of the Islamic republic of Kamistan, Omar Hassan, a moderate Muslim, wanting to sew up a historic alliance with the US of A. OK, the role is trite but the thick-thatched Kapoor isn’t. In fact, Kapoor, aka Mr India, is pretty damn good. He has got the acting and the role down quite perfectly, especially his dilemma about being on the crossroads of personal ethics and national needs. Granted, I have only seen one episode, but the series has sucked me back in, and my 11 pm midnight slot is now booked.

 This week, my early morning was also booked as I groggily watched the Miss Universe contest being telecast live from Las Vegas (Star World). What is it that makes one watch the beauties of the world come together and get that elusive crown despite some strong feminist objections? Especially, when you are nowhere near being anything like the 83 contestants at 6.30 am? I haven’t got the answer to that one yet, but trying to work out the winner, based on one’s own sense of aesthetics, could certainly be one compelling reason.

I have to say that the final questions asked by the judges were also not that easy for the fab final five. Sample: how do you react to the position taken by some countries against wearing attire worn by certain religious communities?  Miss Australia answered with spunk and grace, as did Miss Ukraine on the issue of security. Miss India was nowhere in the picture; perhaps it was her disastrous gown which caused the judges to collectively balk and dismiss her. But being an Indian, you kind of hope she would have been up there with the finalists, but as Headlines Today, very unkindly said: “Miss India crashes out of the Miss Universe Pageant.”