". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Dariba Diaries

   . . . . Dariba Diaries,  as far as I can determine,

 was a single season series from Epic, a newish Indian television channel that debuted in 2014. Epic's mission is to air
"action, drama, comedy and narrative non-fiction programming with a focus on Indian history, folklore and mythology genre".  

Delhi 1858 before the siege that was part of the 1857 Rebellion against the British

     . . . . Dariba Diaries is an episodic mystery series, set in a vaguely -- extremely so --  Delhi of the 19th century, when the era of the Mughals in Delhi under  Bahadur Shah Zafa is rapidly being replaced by the British. The British presence is a social as well as political destablizing force, thus a rise in crime. Within the series Dariba is a street or area -- I'm not clear about this -- within the walls of old Delhi.

Fortress of Selim Ghur and Imperial Palace, Delhi, 19th century.
"Dariba Kalan (Hindi: दरीबा कलान, English: Street of the Incomparable Pearl), is a 17th-century street in Chandni Chowk area of Old Delhi or Shahjahanbad.[1][2] It lies within the walled city of Delhi, and connects the Chandni Chowk area with Jama Masjid."
It was there the bazaar was located that bought and sold the luxury goods such as silk and jewels for the inhabitants of the palace and other of the fabulously wealthy Mughal administrators and favorites. Today it's internationally known throughout India and the diaspora as the place to buy the expensive gifts and adornments for Indian weddings.

However, what we see on screen doesn’t seem very like anything of the sort beyond the facade of an occasional building. Nor have I yet seen a Brit, which is just fine, of course.  IOW, the show doesn't seem to live up to its billing as an historical drama to my eyes at least.  I took the advice of Indian diapora members in my acquaintance and skipped the first two episodes.  The talking heads were unbearable, they said. So sloooooooooooow.

The highest value element of Dariba Diaries -- and it is very high -- is the Intro / Credit animation – gorgeous and purely Northeastern Indian (Delhi).  The creator, Mahesh Sama, evidently used to work at Disney, which would explain that excellence perhaps, when the rest of the production is pretty low by western standards. The subtitles fly by so swiftly that even very fast readers can't finish reading the 6 - 8 words translating the action (never more).

Dariba Diaries' protagonist, Mirza Jaan Nawaz, old Delhi's own Sherlock Holmes,  played by Sid Makkar, who is well known for other roles such as in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films.
Well, besides the Credit / Intro sequence, there is another exception to the generally low standard production values -- the cast.  Even those who are not lovely always hold the viewer's eyes whenever they are on screen. That is no small thing indeed.

Not to mention how refreshing it always is to see television set entirely outside of the USian mindset and vision, that has emerged from its own culture and history.

Additionally it's a nice, non-intellectual engagement for my currently sick brain.  I can't think anyway so Dariba Diaries and I are perfectly matched.  Also, temps plunging and next week we are under a polar vortex.  We've already been groaning under the yoke of the orange chaos demon, and it will only get worse, far worse.  I feel pretty rotten all together.

Youtube promos for the episodes can be watched here.

Dariba Diaries season 1 is streaming currently on Netflix. And I applaud them for providing it -- and The Magnificent Century.  More, please.

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