Netflix — My Friend, Philosopher, Guide & Foe

I confess, I am a Netflix binge-watcher. I am hooked on to one particular genre — crime thrillers. Netflix has tons of it. Mostly American-made.

Series like AHS are to me, quintessential American potboilers that have a specific role to play in my routine life — they provide me with a steady supply of mindless entertainment without the need to think and reflect. The sight of endless seasons of blood, gore and soulless, mechanical sex is strangely calming. Perfect for unwinding after a busy day at work. Even if it means re-watching a part of the episode wifey hasn’t yet caught up with.

As the sun sets, I curl up on the sofa, tea and snacks by the side and fire up the latest episode on the 48-inch Sony Bravia flat-screen placed at exactly 10 feet distance from the sofa for maximum “home-theatre effect”. Oh wait! 2 more things — one, draw the curtains since my TV faces the neighbor’s balcony who has a 6 year old kid. Two, make sure the remote is at an arm’s length for muting the sound on a steamy scene that might just suddenly pop up on screen. In any Indian apartment complex, an accidental glimpse by the neighbor of what you are watching on Netflix can make you a target of ridicule on the Residents Association WhatsApp group, swiftly degenerating into unholy debates about media censorship and protecting our culture from excessive “exposure” — which sometimes can be the raison d’etre of self-appointed cultural custodians in the apartment block.

Even if it doesn’t apply to me and my wife (no kids), I empathize with parents of young kids burdened with “Parental Guidance responsibilities”. I hear, Netflix isn’t doing much in this department…

But I digress.

As the sun sets, I curl up on the sofa, tea and snacks by the side and fire up the latest episode on the 48-inch Sony Bravia flat-screen placed at exactly 10 feet distance from the sofa for maximum “home-theatre effect”. Oh wait! 2 more things — one, draw the curtains since my TV faces the neighbor’s balcony who has a 6 year old kid. Two, make sure the remote is at an arm’s length for muting the sound on a steamy scene that might just suddenly pop up on screen. In any Indian apartment complex, an accidental glimpse by the neighbor of what you are watching on Netflix can make you a target of ridicule on the Residents Association WhatsApp group, swiftly degenerating into unholy debates about media censorship and protecting our culture from excessive “exposure” — which sometimes can be the raison d’etre of self-appointed cultural custodians in the apartment block.

Even if it doesn’t apply to me and my wife (no kids), I empathize with parents of young kids burdened with “Parental Guidance responsibilities”. I hear, Netflix isn’t doing much in this department…

But I digress.

Whenever I do get weary of the very tempting combo-meal of Strong Language, Violence, Nudity, Sex, Drugs — yeah, I know…how can one get tired of such a potent calmer-of-nerves? — I start my hunt on Netflix for some “intellectually stimulating” content, and I usually don’t have much issue finding it.

Netflix does have an eclectic mix of original binge-worthy documentaries, some of which have led to positive changes to my health and nutrition. I mean it. Like, What the Health, and Game Changers made a serious bid at making me give up meat. Give up I couldn’t, but reduce I did.

Several insightful, investigative and engaging narratives about real-life crime in Mindhunter, conmen gurus, celebrity fugitive Yogis like the recently released Bikram: Yogi, Guru, Predator:

or the exceptionally crafted docuseries on Osho — Wild, Wild, Country, an eye-opening commentary on human greed and exploitation . If not for Netflix, I wouldn’t really know about the dirt behind the shiny facade.

Mind-expanding stuff like Our Planet, historical biographies, and stuff I can never have enough of — British police procedural crime series like Broadchurch — if I dare say, with lot more character and soul compared to American ones.

I have also come across and watched with relish some very poignant content that can tug at your heartstrings like the recent season 2 of The Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories. Each episode is named after a dish. And just like the sometimes salty, sometimes sweet dishes, the stories are sad, funny and happy;

Stories don’t have to be Asian to be poignant. I loved the all-American tragic western The Homesman, for the superb performances from Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones.

The Midnight Diner: Tokyo Stories reminds me of TV serials like Nukkad, Yeh Jo Hain Jindagi and many others from the 80s and 90s that I grew up watching. So despite being vastly different culturally, I could completely relate to the Japanese stories I have been binging on, of late. The characters in these stories are familiar, easy-going, simple but with depth. The slower-paced stories emphasize the mundane with subtle humor that always stays with us. For the typical Indian lower middle-class urban family, Nukkad had struck a chord. Wholesome family entertainment is a thing in India. Even some of the newer generation of Indian filmmakers are masters at this genre. Indian-made Made in Heaven on Amazon Prime Video is one such production. Give me more of this for those moments of quiet introspection when I am in a mood for some mental and emotional enrichment or just plain old nostalgia.

Like me, if you have been overdosing on the shallow and mindless, try watching something deep and mindful once in a while. Let emotion well up and give the adrenaline rush a bit of rest.

Happy watching!


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