Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Short take: an Emmy for "Paterfamilias"

All competitive awards should be taken with a giant vat of salt, and it’s been decades since I closely followed the Oscars or Emmys (much less got excited about any of the results) – but I just chanced to hear that the Emmy for best direction in a drama series went to Stephen Daldry for “Paterfamilias”, a stunning episode of The Crown. I won’t say things like “right decision” or “well deserved” (that would be stupid on multiple levels; I haven’t even watched any of the other shows nominated), but I’m weirdly pleased about this, because I didn’t even know that “Paterfamilias” – an operatic, sweeping yet tightly constructed mini-film about the boarding-school childhoods (25 years apart) of Prince Philip and his son Charles – was nominated in this category. I loved it when I saw it last year.

Whether it’s Chaplin saying he wasn’t interested in Shakespeare’s plays because he didn’t care about the problems of kings and queens, or modern-day critics who won’t try to engage with a show like The Crown (or a film like Dil Dhadakne Do), there is a tendency to dismiss – or to at least feel sheepish or resentful about – creative works that try to present the conflicts in the lives of insanely privileged people. I’m far from enamored by, or even interested in, the British royals (though I enjoy the real-life Philip’s nasty, politically incorrect sense of humour), but all that was irrelevant when I watched “Paterfamilias”. It’s beautifully structured, performed and, perhaps best of all, scored (by Hans Zimmer), and combines grandeur with intimacy in a way that for me recalls the similar paralleling of the lives of a father and son in The Godfather Part II. Which, obviously, is a big compliment.

And a postscript, based on a Facebook exchange: yes, I know The Crown has been a celebrated show, winning Golden Globes and Emmys among other things. I suppose what I was referring to was the general, wary reaction to this sort of glossy show in some of the circles I move in -- among viewers who prefer edgier and more grounded material like Breaking Bad.
Also, in the Indian context, some of the reactions to The Crown are inevitably and understandably linked with our feelings about our colonial past. But for me personally, it's possible to (just one example) denounce the things that people like Churchill did to countries like India as gatekeepers of the Empire, while also feeling for Churchill the individual in another terrific episode, "Assassins", where his portrait is done by Graham Sutherland. (Everyone contains multitudes etc etc)

[More on The Crown near the end of this piece, where I *health advisory alert* stand up for Padmaavat]

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