The EPIC Channel slipped into my radar when a friend mentioned that it was screening stories from Rabindranath Tagore, directed by Anurag Basu of Barfi! fame. From then on, it has been a series of discoveries, as the channel turns out to be a veritable treasure trove of knowledge.
Watching this channel brings back memories of the Doordarshan of yesteryears — when DD blazed into our television horizons with its laudable three-point agenda, to inform, educate and entertain.
Basu’s direction of Stories from Rabindranath Tagore is especially charming in its portrayal of the Bengali milieu of those times. From the clothes worn by the protagonists (especially the women in their puff-sleeved, lace-trimmed blouses and the saris worn the Bengali way) to the period furniture and the locales, everything is picture-perfect, as is the casual dropping of Bengali words.
Whilst Basu’s take on Tagore’s tales is largely enjoyable, it would be prudent not to compare stories like Charulata, with the Satyajit Ray version. That would be setting oneself up for a level of disappointment with regard to the characterisations. Also, Basu in his promo reiterates Tagore’s progressive attitudes towards women, but one certainly does not see this in a Chokher Bali. Overall, the stories are well-handled, with Anurag slipping in a lip-lock scene as well, certainly a novelty for Indian television.
Javed Akhtar’s Jaane Pehchaane, which dwells on different aspects of Hindi cinema, from child artistes to the interpretation of mothers, to the lost and found brothers, is competent. It succeeds in holding one’s interest, as does Naziruddin Shah’s Mid-Wicket Tales, not to forget Epic ke Dus (Season 2), a half-hour show, on events that changed history.
But my personal favourites are Raja, Rasoi aur Anya Kahaniyaan, (Season 2). The programme travels to different parts of India, whilst food experts and historians give a background of the region’s history and how it determined the cuisine. Another take-off from this is a programme called Lost Recipes, where the anchor goes out in search of unheard of recipes and most often assists in the cooking process!
The channel’s intent to provide genre-specific entertainment has resulted in other absorbing programmes that cover history, culture and the myths and legends of India. In Ekaant, one is transported to abandoned places like the Kangra Fort, whilst the host recreates its history. An important aspect of this channel’s programmes is its authenticity, as experts are interviewed on every subject that is featured.
Another favourite is the little filler-programme titled Epicgrams, which provides in a nutshell the background on topics like Buddhism, saffron, turmeric, pearls, etc. Narrated with humour in a cartoon format, they are exciting and made for easy grasping, even by young children.
Adrishya, a programme about spies, is attention-grabbing. But one might need a strong stomach for most of these stories, as they are occasionally violent and rarely have happy endings.
EPIC is a family channel that parents can certainly enjoy viewing with their children. Whilst providing entertainment, the channel seems to have raised the level of television programming in India.