Izaat Ki Baat (A Matter of Honor)
A Television Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Honor. As a snippet of verbiage, the word has stood the test of time as a marker of respect and character. The points of view in regards to the characteristics of said honor are often conveniently ignored, fitting into whatever definition is convenient. But what is honor, for whom is that honor, and in what circumstances does the very pursuit of honor itself become dishonorable? The pursuit of imperialism, for all of its myths about spreading civilization and the impeccable word of a fairly specific God, was cloaked entirely in the thoroughfare narrative of greed and tenable profit. If your childhood Disney dreams haven’t been ruined already, Rudyard Kipling (the author of The Jungle Book) once wrote a famed poem entitled “The White Man’s Burden.” It’s a burden of the white man to bring civilization to the poor savages, the burden of the superiors to bring the inferiors out of their abyss of absolute misery, the burden of God’s chosen people to bring the poor brown souls a step closer to heaven. That was the honor behind imperialism, the honor of subjugation and oppression of an entire state for the sake of profit. It was the honor for the British Empire, sold as an exercise in benevolent unity. The mythology of a benevolent empire is just that, a mythology that serves purely as a euphemism for people who choose to believe the banality of evil without acknowledging the very evil that is right before them.
The uncovering of any benevolence behind the British Raj remains an integral part of the series even if the characters are rightfully moving their way to the center of a much more controlled narrative. Dalal remains injured from the bullet meant for Ralph, not that his recovery has been made any easier. At opening glance, the hospital from the exterior seems decent enough, if a bit suspicious in its neatness. One would be forgiven for assuming that Ralph had shown some decency despite all of the hints that he was anything but a decent human being. But Dalal is shuffled away into a corner, a dingy, dimly lit room that was smaller than a supply closet. There was dim light, the walls looking grim and grimy, the bed simply lying on the floor since an actual gurney and bed would seem to be far too much trouble for a nobody. The doctor’s dismissive attitude cemented the sequence in a perfect, chilling fashion. If Ralph is displaying a callous lack of understanding towards the man that saved his life, Alice is doing the opposite. Partially perhaps out of kindness and out of an as of yet unknown sense of guilt as to where her brother is concerned, Alice goes to visit Dalal’s family, unaware that his father had no knowledge that his son was in a pathetic excuse of a hospital room. His dry wails brings that sequence to an abrupt end, but Alice comes back to see Dalal, this time with Sita in tow.
The expansion of the characters and their relationships allows the series to take fascinating turns, building upon a sort of tepid pilot in ways that a following episode should. The premiere was heavily reliant upon narrative streamlining at the expense of deeper characterization and the second installment begins to correct that in several promising ways. Sarah, who primarily came off across as racist and selfish last week, garnered some sympathy as she looks about in a foreign land in absolute loss. In a win for subtlety, Alice and her companions were climbing the steps at the highest rungs, leaving Sarah and her husband at the bottom of the proverbial social ladder. Isolated and alone in more ways than one already, she feels the walls of her marriage crumbling apart, drifting through the winds of Simla. Ian, the Scottish inheritor of last week, tries to overcome the politeness he’s been told nonverbally is beneath his station by puffing out his chest both literally and figuratively. The effect is amusing, but effective it is not. The inherent social structure of the British Raj is evident even to those who know nothing about it and to see it reversed here is quite neat. Mr. Masood arrives at Ian’s uncle’s plantation, amused at seeing Ian’s attempts at machismo, at inserting his “superior” position. The twist of Ian’s uncle owing money to Mr. Masood is a fantastic role reversal, a twist whose reverberations I’d like to see far and wide.
The most enthralling plot thread throughout the hour continues to be the fallout from the word “rakshas” that was yelled by Chandru Mohan as he had attempted to assassinate Ralph. Ralph is clearly rattled for his own sake and the potential Viceroyship that is now at stake. His most despicable moment arrives when he leads investigative reporter Naseem Ali Khan to an injured Dalal, making sure that not a single word escapes out of his mouth that could implicate him in any way. And the story he wants written is not one in which he was the target of an assassination, but how brave Dalal nearly gave his life for the sake of loyalty. The underlying message of how great Ralph must be to inspire that type of loyalty isn’t lost. His assault by Chandru Mohan in the prison was a less subtle, but nevertheless, effective moment of how the power dynamics were so fantastically flipped and in this case brutally at that. The entire investigation is conducted with a fantastic sense of suspense, buoyed significantly by the shadow nature of the entire affair. There is the obviousness of Ralph’s fairly shady character, but that alone is hardly enough information. As to what the relationship between Ralph and Mohan was, that remains a secret further enshrouded behind numerous veils and the series is taking full advantage of the suspense that creates.
Great/Not So Great Moments Not Mentioned Above:
+“Local morale is as undaunted as forever.”
+A Gandhi cap
+The Adam subplot was heartbreaking.
+The aghast expression over roller skates and the “immodest clothing” in accompaniment was fantastic
+Alice coming face to face with the beggars in the streets to Dalal’s house
+“Never steal. Acquired.”
+“I only want to do my duty.”
Episode Title: Episode Two
Alternative Title: Izaat Ki Baat (A Matter of Honor)
Written by: Paul Rutman
Directed by: Anand Tucker
Image Courtesy: The Guardian