Arts and Entertainment

PS Zindagi: For a Better World

  • The latest episodes intervene in a system geared towards exclusive monetary gains an holds out hope for a future
- Kurchi Dasgupta
There is no escape from the fact that the age of networked information economy is upon us and decentralised individual production is its hallmark

Jun 19, 2016-Musumusu TV recently released two new episodes of PS Zindagi. Created and developed by Kavita Srinivasan and directed by Utpal Jha and Hyolmo Pasang Dawa, the new episodes are on an upward curve when it comes to cinematographic expertise and performance. The acting by Rajkumar Pudasaini, Kavita Srinivasan, Sujata Koirala, Kalsang D Lama and Utpal Jha remain consistent as the webseries meanders its way through the everyday realities of four young inhabitants of two apartments on successive floors. Vincent Gionatti, Menuka Pradhan, Hemanta Chalise are exciting additions. Also, the end of Episode 5 finally reveals the face of the sultry landlady, around whom the mystery has been building up. And since PS stands for post seismic, the earthquakes, whose fallout many of us are yet to recover from, remain a recurrent point of reference.

The series is almost bilingual with English and Nepali enjoying nearly equal dialogue space with smatterings of Hindi thrown in. I find the usage of English very interesting from the perspective of differentiation of a webseries from a regular TV show. The fact that a webseries addresses a niche viewership almost by definition necessitates that shows like PS Zindagi to make use of linguistic strategies to firstly create and then relate to the audience it seeks for itself. Srinivasan has explained that the bilingual nature of the show probably stems from the fact that she writes the screenplay in English and then lets the cast translate it into Nepali as and when the characterisations demand, which allows the actors the freedom to respond spontaneously with quirky dialogues. Also, she feels the bilingual content will help garner a global audience. I myself think that the frequent usage of English is actually the marker of a strategic creation of Nepali modernity today, a strategy PS Zindagi uses to perfection. Even a cursory look at the language-product pairings in television commercials aired in Nepal will reveal the demographic profile of its target audience. Khagendra Acharya’s ‘Modernity and English mixing: A Study of Nepali television Commercials’ reinforces that ‘English use in any discourse signifies orientation of non- western traditional society’s population towards westernisation and thus modernity,’ and Nepal is of course no exception.

PS Zindagi, geared as it is towards the urban Nepali youth, would necessarily require a certain amount of English content since the urban youth experience here is derived from and created through the language to a large extent. I find the pacing of the recently released episodes—be it camerawork or action—a little erratic. It picks up at spots and flows well. But at others, it languishes and forces the viewer to engage with the content instead of just skimming over it. A number of webseries seem to be functioning at a similar erratic pace. When we watch a show on our personal computer or laptop or mobile phone, instead of a television or cinema screen, we are always on the move in our minds. We are ready to click on another link, ready to switch windows, or try out another app etc. This requires that the content be much faster paced than what would be expected of a television show or film. Our brain has already come to associate ‘faster’ and ‘multitasking’ with these screens. And so the slowing down at times might come across as irksome. But it is necessary for a more in-depth viewing experience at any point of time. By alternating between the two, PS Zindagi actually manages to deliver meaningful content at a web-paced rhythm.

There is no escape from the fact that the age of networked information economy is upon us and decentralised individual production is its hallmark. But this also means that when it comes to funding, individual producers need to organise their own resources and find their own audience. Which of course allows for an immense amount of autonomy and freedom—they do not need to rewrite their screenplays to meet the demands and requirements of brand promoters or channels. And so they can bypass the market mechanism and offer ideological resistance to entrenched, regressive values and notions. For example, it is unlikely that PS Zindagi would be allowed to have two young, Muslim women as its core characters had it been created for a television channel even though the country has a sizeable Muslim population. Or that love would have blossomed between JP and Kokab.  Or the Rabelaisian treatment of ‘shit’ and ‘amreeka’ would have happened in Episode 4, either. These are just minor instances of how a content produced for the web can bypass the ideology supported by market mechanisms and allow us extraordinary freedoms. And this ‘new freedom holds great practical promise: as a dimension of individual freedom; as a platform for better democratic participation; as a medium to foster a more critical and self-reflective culture; and, in an increasingly information dependent global economy, as a mechanism to achieve improvements in human development everywhere’ (The Wealth of Networks, Yochai Benkler, 2006). 

Democracy is a word that supposedly defines our reality today. But to keep democracy functional, we need vigilance or surveillance from the masses. The Internet provides the possibility for the activation of such masses on a scale that is un-thought of and therefore un-comprehendible till now. Thus, instances in PS Zindagi stand out as episodes that intervene in a system geared towards exclusive monetary gains and holds out hope for a future when representative entropy and dysfunctional institutions can be held more accountable to the public. From a connectivity perspective, Nepal is a belated Internet adopter. But we need to remember that this is a decade that will see the transformation of the global Internet from an arena dominated by the advanced-market economies  and their businesses and citizens to one where emerging-market economies are predominant (The Global Information technology Report 2010-2011). We have about 61 emerging economies that fall in the category of belated adopters – less than 5 percent of their population has Internet access. Very low broadband penetration in these countries is the result of a low percentage of fixed telephone lines. But the good news is that wireless technology like the mobile phone has undergone extraordinary growth in recent years. For example, Ncell does not offer landline telephone services but provides mobile Internet to about 3.9 million customers (NTA-MIS Report Series). This means that Internet connectivity is indeed on an exponential rise here and we can therefore hope that webseries like PS Zindagi will continue to push our boundaries for a better world.



Published: 19-06-2016 09:54

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