Since COVID lockdown in India in March 2020, we all have increased the contents we consume online – be it OTT platforms like Amazon Prime, Netflix et al, or Youtube, podcasts, learning courses or blogs/articles etc. The same is true for me. But in my case that proportion was high even before the lockdown.
I always look for interesting contents and something new. In the process I willingly expose myself to a lot of junk. However, over time you can quickly separate chaff from grain. So now I can decide for myself with just a quick glimpse whether I would like to watch something or not. In fact that allows me luxury to be open to any suggestion, anything thrown at me, because my internal filters are strong.
So let me share some of my current favourites here. It cannot be covered in a single blog post…so it would most likely be a series of blogs. But let’s start somewhere.
Interviews and talk shows is one of my favourite genres. It really helps you in understanding a person, his journey and many aspects of his overall personality which are otherwise not known to us. For example, a film actor is known to us as an actor but we might not know the person off camera. Same with sportspersons, and politicians and so on.
The longer the interview the better it is. Also, the host or interviewer plays a major role in comforting the guest and bringing out the best from him. There are few such shows, in Hindi, English and Marathi, which I closely watch.
The first one is a talk show in Hindi – Guftagoo hosted by Irfan on Rajya Sabha TV
Since last year Irfan has taken the show to Jashn-E-Rekhta Youtube channel. The reason I like Irfan’s interviews is that he has very soothing, non-glamorous and conversational approach towards interviewing. He let’s the guest talk and the guest also opens up. Apart from Gulzar his interviews with Jackie Shroff, Tom Alter and Naseeruddin Shah stand out (actually almost all are good – search for “Guftagoo Rajya Sabha TV” on Youtube).
I was wondering about the personality of Irfan himself and what’s his thought process behind his talk show. And then to my surprise I recently watched a long interview of his. Do check it once you start following some of Irfan’s interviews. Here is the interview:
Another talk show in Hindi which I like a lot is The Slow Interview or Slow Cafe with Neelesh Misra. As the name suggests, the interview is a long and slow conversation with the guests. Neelesh himself is a poet and story teller, but I discovered him as host of this show and liked his style – similar to Irfan in some ways, but different in some other ways. There are many which I liked, but the three I remember are with Udayan Mukherjee (former host on CNBC TV18), Varun Grover and Salim Khan (Salman Khan’s father). Actually just like Irfan’s talk show this is also ver very good with many outstanding interviews.
Moving on to English. I listen to the podcasts such as The Seen and The Unseen by Amit Varma – again very very good talk show and very long conversations (typically 3-4 hours). I listen on Spotify but it’s also available on Youtube. It’s a bi-weekly show and as of now there are 250+ interviews. I have listened to ~50 or so and want to listen to many more! The good thing about his podcast on Spotify is that he provides a lot of links and footnotes in the description section which leads to a new rabbit hole for the enthusiasts to explore!
The second English podcast is the Cyrus Says by Cyrus Broacha. It’s a daily show lasting between 30-60 mins and it’s very entertaining and informative as well! I have been following Cyrus through his various Avatars and I really like his sense of humor, wit and style. But what I discovered about him through the podcast is that how well informed, knowledgeable and curious he is about many things (which one wouldn’t associate with a TV anchor or VJ or comedian). It’s a matter of taste. He speaks too fast. He cracks PJs, sometimes below the belt and adult jokes. So one may not like him at all. But if you identify with his style of comedy and hosting, he is just a goldmine! Then there was a limited series of interviews which Amit Varma and the author/economic columnist Vivek Kaul did for 7-8 shows. It’s called Econ Central and it was on Spotify. Absolutely riveting! I like Vivek Kaul’s writing and follow him a lot – his columns in the daily Mint, other interviews, blogs on his website etc. He has even appeared on Cyrus Says podcast and those were really great episodes! Value investor and now an author and a Professor Vishal Khandelwal recently started a talk show called The One Percent Show on Spotify where he invites an accomplished personality from the world of Finance/Investing. I liked a few episodes however I didn’t much like Vishal’s interviewing skills. But contents are good. The other two interviews/talk shows which I do not miss are from The Wire – conducted by Karan Thapar and Mitali Mukherjee. Karan is very well known interviewer and I have posted many of his interviews on my blog. Mitali was formerly an anchor on CNBC TV18 and has now joined The Wire where she has donned a new avatar of an interviewer. I like Mitali’s interviews because they are similar to Irfan’s or Neelesh Misra’s style – calm, soothing and to the point. Here is one which I would recommend to all:
All these were English shows from India. There are many English podcasts or talks hows from outside India which I follow regularly. I will just mention the names here so that I don’t drag this blog – The Joe Rogan show, Berkshire Hathaway Annual General Meetings archive, The Daily Stoic, Chai with Pabrai, The Tom Ferris Show, any podcast featuring Naval Ravikant, including his own podcast, The Knowledge Project. All these are on Spotify.
Moving on from talk shows/interviews to other genres of contents to journalism, I don’t really watch any of the TV channels of late. 99.99% of them are puppets and cheerleaders of this Government (Godi Media), the remaining ones do not have that sting. So I follow few independent journalists. The first and foremost is Parakala Prabhakar – who is a JNU alumni and very effective in his analysis and articulation. He also happens to be husband of current Finance Minister of India Nirmala Sitharaman (who is also a JNU alumni). In spite of this connection, Parakala is very critical of the current regime and torments them clinically with facts, data and reasoning. Do watch his channel if you haven’t yet. I occasionally watch and follow Barkha Dutt’s Mojo Story and Shekhar Gupta’s series Cut The Clutter (though Shekhar Gupta is a closet Sanghi and a soft cheerleader, his analysis sometimes is poignant).
In movie reviews, I watch the Film Companion and mainly reviews by Anupama Chopra. I also watch reviews by Film Companion South’s Baradwaj Rangan’s The BR Review since I started watching a lot of South Indian movies. Check out his recent review here:
Now let’s come to Marathi. And the situation is dismal. I do watch Bharatiya Digital Party or BhaDiPa channel often, but’s it’s strictly a decent attempt and nothing great. The main reason is that they try too hard to be cool and funny, and often don’t get it. But it was a fresh breath of air in otherwise very low standards in Marathi contents. Same is true about Think Bank – the concept is good (and I had the same idea few years back, one of many ideas which I never execute), however the execution is poor – mainly because the host is average and the guests are often below average. So only a few interviews stand out. I have posted one in a post earlier which was an interview with Dr. Anand Deshpande. Nothing else is worth following in Marathi, though there are few individual episodes which could be good, but not as a series or program.
Lastly I’l mention the two special ones as representative only. One is a youtube channel for Chess i.e. ChessBase India and the other is a youtube channel for Books – called Chalachitra Talkies and Books on Toast. These are representative ones, but I follow and keep on searching for all great contents on Chess and Books. So do share your recos.
That’s it for now. Many more things to be added. But maybe some other day.