Oscar awards: Royalty check

Who said anything about growing old gracefully or that courage has anything to do with age? If any proof was needed to the contrary those of you who, this week, haven’t seen the video of “Supergran” Ann Timson, 71, the “have-a-go heroine” using her handbag to bash up six young men trying to rob a jewellery store in Northamptonshire,

I urge you to do so. It is the funniest (and possibly the most uplifting) sight I have ever seen. Each time the news channels have played it I have fallen down on the floor laughing because she is so brave and incredible.
In fact, the whole video clip is almost unbelievable: six masked men are coolly breaking the windows of the store on a crowded street without anyone trying to stop them. The storekeepers themselves are huddled inside the shop, reluctant to do anything in case it leads to violence, and on the street the traffic carries on normally. It’s the usual city life where people are more concerned about their personal security than getting involved in a fracas that has nothing to do with them. The thieves are almost getting away when this “little old lady” in a red coat rushes in and starts swinging her large handbag at them. She sprints down the road like a guided missile with the sole intent of stopping them somehow. The amazing thing is that she succeeds. Within minutes the men are shown running for their lives and one of them even falls off his scooter as “Supergran” lands a felling blow on him. The other astonishing thing is that people are standing around taking pictures and filming the whole incident but no one comes up to help her till she has the men on the run. Then a few people come in and pin the robbers down and four of the six were caught on the spot thanks to this innocuous, frail-looking grandmother. Her first response was that she did not want her son to know about what she had done because he was always worried she was constantly getting into these scrapes.
But, in fact, the whole episode raises the question whether we are, worldwide, becoming “YouTube” addicts more ready to film anything happening with our mobile phones than actually participating in it or even trying to help in any way.
Ms Timson herself was extremely modest after the event and admitted that she didn’t quite know what got into her. Once she got home, she sent a wry message out to the media —which was anxious to interview her — that she was going to dye her red hair green and put away her “bruised” handbag. Yet, it was a fabulously courageous sight and an enormous blow to ageists all over the world.

Meanwhile, now that the Oscars are coming around, it’s as though this entire nation is ensuring that The King’s Speech (a rather mediocre film) sweeps the awards. (If Aamir Khan is really serious about reaching for the Oscars, he will have to learn the not-so-subtle art of impressing delegates, grabbing eyeballs and canvassing votes whilst not breaking any rules). Yet the film hasn’t been without its share of controversy, especially in the manner in which it has distorted history in order to whitewash King George VI and make him into the heroic figure required to make us sympathise with him. Otherwise, if we did not like his persona the entire premise of the film would fall flat. It has also been critiqued on its deliberate obfuscation of changing Winston Churchill’s role in the entire abdication saga.
Churchill is depicted in the film as being sympathetic towards King George VI, urging him to take over the throne from his rather spoilt brother Edward VIII, an admirer of Adolf Hitler. In reality, Churchill had supported Edward VIII almost to the end, even saying that the king would “shine in history as the bravest and best beloved of all the sovereigns who have won the island Crown”.
Further, in the film, King George VI is depicted as giving that brave last speech about leading the country to war against Hitler, but again historians point out that there has been some clever airbrushing. Actually King George was not as heroic in all his actions. For instance, when Neville Chamberlain had managed to hand over to Hitler the Czechoslovak people, he actually received a warm welcome from King George VI on his return and was even brought onto the royal balcony in front of cheering crowds. It has been noted that this “royal assent” was given even before Chamberlain could justify his actions in Parliament. Thus, not only did King George VI give his support to an action which would be later considered despicable, but he had also done something unconstitutional.
However, unsurprisingly, supporters of the film are sweeping these criticisms under the carpet using the oft-repeated argument that feature films are not meant to be documentaries, and that, in cinema, real-life situations and people are placed in plots which push the central theme forward. Those episodes which do not support the central theme are written out. In this case, the film is about how King George was cured of a terrible stammer and we have to be able to “feel” for him. We would rather be less sympathetic if we saw him as someone who had not been wholeheartedly in favour of Hitler’s early exit.
At the same time, many of us still remember the huge controversy when Shekhar Kapur made his film on Queen Elizabeth. At that time, reams of newsprint and many hours on the airwaves were spent discussing whether this “distortion” of history should be allowed. I am wondering if this was because Kapur was an Indian filmmaker attempting British history? Would people have been as kind as they are being to The King’s Speech if that had been made by a British filmmaker?
However, more importantly, the present Queen Elizabeth has actually liked this film about her father. The only condition which her mother had put on the making of this film was that it should be done after her death as some of the moments depicted in the film as the King struggles with his speech impediment were too painful for her to remember.
Overall, it is obvious that no matter how much one protests, it is apparent that the British still love their royalty… and for those of you who haven’t yet booked your tickets remember April 29 is when Kate Middleton weds Prince William.

The writer can be contacted at kishwardesai@yahoo.com

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