From calling ‘honking’ as India’s unofficial language to making critical remarks about Indian Railways, this docuseries has a bunch of questionable comments.
James May: Our Man in India poster
We know that India stands out as one of the world's most diverse nations, boasting rich religious and ethnic tapestries, and harbouring some of the most profoundly devout societies and cultures. Recently, famous television presenter and journalist James May tried to understand this statement in depth. He wondered places to discover what makes India different from the rest of the countries via his latest docuseries ‘James May: Our Man in India’. His efforts, however, have no masala in them and just appear like a re-edited version of other popular travel documentaries.
In the series, we saw James May who embarked on his most daring adventure to date: a 3,000-mile coast-to-coast odyssey through India, the world's most populous and arguably most extraordinary country. Beginning at the Arabian Sea and concluding at the Bay of Bengal, his expedition traversed awe-inspiring landscapes, ranging from the scorching deserts of Rajasthan to the breathtaking foothills of the Himalayas. Along the way, he delved into diverse environments, from the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans to the bustling metropolises of Mumbai, Delhi, and Kolkata.
I must say that if you are an Indian, this series has nothing new to offer to you as a viewer. James May, as the British might expect, largely focuses on how people survive in slums/poor areas under the umbrella of pathetic traffic abidance.
In the first episode of the series, James travels from Mumbai’s Dharavi area to Rajasthan’s Amer. Dharavi, as you might know, stands as one of the largest slums globally, covering a geographical area slightly exceeding 2.39 sq. km. Despite its modest size, it accommodates a staggering population ranging from 300,000 to a million people. Consequently, Dharavi ranks among the most densely populated residential areas on the planet. James and his team travel through this densely populated area and unravel how people work in dilapidated conditions on bright sunny days. After wrapping up the slum visit, James mentioned the positives and negatives of the area.
He even says that ‘honking’ should be declared as an unofficial language of India. Personally, I feel that this is a very harsh comment, and the feelings could be expressed in a slightly milder tone. Later, he joins famous stand-up comedian Aditi Mittal – who too had no valuable content to offer to the viewers despite being an Indian. Aditi even makes fun of James and his British origin on a stand-up comedy show (featured in the series) – a development that I do not like at all. I feel disrespecting anyone’s place of origin is not polite at all.
In the second episode of the series, James covers parts of Rajasthan and later travels by Maharajas Express to Delhi. In Rajasthan, James explores how kite flying is practiced in the state. Additionally, he even discovers how Indians celebrate the festival of Holi. As the episode progressed, the visually vibrant views were hampered by the dull narration of the script.
At the end of the episode, James boarded Maharajas Express to Delhi. Describing the train journey, he remarks that India is hypocritical in promoting elite experiences like those he found in England. The incident is, on the contrary, a reflection of the stereotypical western mindset that deems India to have always been a poor country of forest dwellers. It completely discounts that Indian Kings and Queens too lived an elite lifestyle throughout the course of history.
Later, James lands in Delhi and only covers the Chandni Chowk area. Common, Delhi is more than just Chandni Chowk! Later, he visits Meerut along with entrepreneur Vikramjit Singh. Singh’s outlook towards life is bothersome to me. Singh – via a comment that I feel hesitant to write, conveyed that cricket or playing any other form of sport professionally is a waste of time. This ideology is completely problematic. James wraps up the episode after giving a quick visit to Agra and Varanasi.
Later, in the third and final episode, James discovers Darjeeling, Kolkata, and the Sunderbans. He was again accompanied by Aditi. This time, Aditi leaves no chance and makes fun of Britishers and their cuisine at the breakfast table – a development which again raised my eyebrows.
Questionably, I wonder why the makers of the series did not cover any state located in Southern India.
For those who don’t know anything about India, this docuseries can be given a one-time watch. However, I feel that this series is not an apt description of India and its diversity.