Binge-watch these Netflix shows over the weekend and keep thinking about life.
The year 2020 - for the most part - has taught us how to live well in isolation. We have picked up basic survival skills that we did not have before, we acquired new skills from baking to crafts simply because we are privileged. We watched thousands march homewards, in panic brought on by poverty and uncertainty.
We watched the Earth and sky clean up despite the dangerous virus lurking in the wings. Some of us paid our domestic help without cribbing, others questioned and complained. We realised how divided our situations are…
And, then, I got hit by a meteor of a show called The Minions Of Midas on Netflix.
What sort of blackmail story is this! I am horrified at the trailer, as mortified by the rich man who is being extorted and as baffled by the police who do not know why someone is killing people randomly.
What a fabulous premise. The story unfolds with the woman (shown in the trailer as someone who says she’ll publish this unbelievable story) trying to escape from armed people in riot gear. They look like policemen! But why are policemen chasing after a journalist?
Based on a story written in 1902, this show is as relevant to our current situation as it was when Jack London wrote it. Yes, the same author who wrote Call of the Wild and Wild Fang and several short stories, that made him one of the most commercially successful writers of our time.
As the journalist runs from the policemen I shout at the screen, ‘Oooh! You should have hit the ‘send’ button!’ then realise that within a couple of minutes I empathise with a woman who I know nothing about. The trailer has already made me choose sides.
I watch this rich man lose his sleep over the threat of random killings by unknown people. The cop, Inspector Conte (played by the inimitable Guillermo Toledo) is foxed too. How does he help and where does he begin? Even though the extortionists tell both the cops and the rich man Victor Genoves when and where the next victim is going to die, it is almost impossible to find out and save a life.
This show is set against a public unrest about the haves and the have nots. This makes the central conflict shine brighter: How can a rich man rest and not pay knowing some poor innocent person is going to die?
Should he pay unknown killers? Is he responsible for these deaths that seem to be so random? Especially because none of those people are directly or indirectly connected to him.
Think about it. Would you care for the life of an unknown person and pay up? How heavy would the knowledge sit on your conscience then? Would you worry about your friends and family only? If they were in your place, would they pay up if they were a distant relative?
The six part series one is riddled with such dilemmas. Love softens the rich man, but his love is a journalist. A woman who will pursue the truth, no matter what. Would she publish the truth? The story of King Midas whose touch turned everything into gold including his child is well known. Would Victor pay up and save his humanity?
The show begs for a second season, a new story of moral dilemmas. I hope Netflix commissions one soon.
For the second recommendation of the week, I give you The Liberator. A show that will take you back in time when you read Commando or War comics. Comics that celebrated sergeants and soldiers on the battlefield, brave officers who took the bullet for their platoons, Comic books that taught you about Mosquitos and P 47 Thunderbolts, stories about a lone Spitfire taking on the Luftwaffe… Stories of valour that shaped your friendships and dreams.
Now imagine those comic books come alive in a fabulous rotoscope animation technique and it will make your heart swell up with emotions you never thought you had. Here is a young officer, who has shrapnel inside him, who has been asked to go back to the relative comfort of home who chooses to go back to the wet, rainy and cold war zone to fight along with his soldiers.
This four part mini series shows us but a glimpse of the sacrifices so many young men and women make in the name of their country, to save the unknown millions who live in cities and villages. And these days mostly thousands of miles away from home, fighting in the name of freedom. What drives them to put at risk and even to sacrifice their lives for people who don’t even know the value of that sacrifice?
Who is not going to be at once touched and at once horrified by what the Colonel says, ‘In this war getting promoted is easy. The hard part is staying alive.’
How do so many young men have such big hearts? Who are these mothers and fathers and wives who send their sons to combat? Our armed forces do a thankless job: the peaceniks don’t like them, the disbelievers don’t credit them for saving a hill or two up on the unknown hostile mountains, we want to catch them napping to make another ‘trending story’… But then there are people like Sparks, Coldfoot, Cloudfeather, Otaktay and Michigan to make you feel a lump rise up in your throat and a hole in your heart because they can kill the Germans but save a little kid as part of a day’s work.
I have recently lost my brother Amit too. An army man proud to wear the uniform. And his death has unleashed all kinds of emotions inside. While his bravery was unquestionable and celebrated, his death is wrapped in so much red tape that you wonder why some of us should send our sons to fight for all of us?
I hope this weekend we will watch these stories and respect the choices men make. Jack London has said, ‘Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.’Manisha Lakhe Is A Poet, Film Critic, Traveller, Founder Of Caferati — An Online Writer’s Forum, Hosts Mumbai’s Oldest Open Mic, And Teaches Advertising, Films And Communication.