Unless you have been living under a rock or are a self-obsessed selfie loving dunderhead or a Salman Khan fan, you follow events around the nation or the world.
And if you do follow current events, then you know that for the last couple of months, south Bengal has been under water.
Now everybody knows that as long as we have our daily McDonalds, we don’t give a rat’s doodah about the village people. They are some alien species we see on our television, that’s about it. So if they are under water, then meh.
However, its news when us hoity toity city folk have to wade through the water like some uncouth proletariat.
Which is why everytime there is an inch of water Mumbai comes to a standstill and there is national mourning about the poor dears.
We Kolkatians are built of sterner stuff.
Kolkata: A stray dog takes the support of a woman to cross a flooded street in Kolkata on Sunday. PTI Photo(PTI8_2_2015_000167B)
And that is why last month saw yours truly wade through waist deep water on Camac Street to reach the British Council Library. And just to prove that my priorities are set in stone, I had taken off my shoes and socks and carried them on my hands lest they get wet.
The issue with that whole thing is that whilst I am a strapping young healthy lad in my mind (you know the same guy who held the record for attendance in school 7 years in a row), in reality I have the body of an arthritic semi paralytic 96 year old zombie with a meth addiction.
There was always going to be only one result – sickness good people, sickness (plus a cut leg)
And in that sickness, I turned to Elementary – that American tv series about Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson.
And that got me thinking about the representation of Sherlock Holmes on tv -and of course I am ignoring all the portrayals done in the age of Humayun.
We have the Granada series with Jeremy Brett, the new BBC retelling by Mark Gatiss with the Cumberlord, we have Guy Ritchie’s movies with Robert Downey Jr, we have the American attempt with Johnny Lee Miller and Hugh Laurie as Gregory House.
But lets start the stories with the supporting actors and actresses.
Let me be frank – I absolutely hated that Watson in the Jeremy Brett series. Edward Hardwick played the role of a middle aged Victorian gentleman – no problem in that in itself – but John Watson is a millitary veteran with a desire for adventure, he most definitely is not a old fuddy duddy.
When he meets Holmes in A Study in Scarlet, he is only around 28 for crying out loud.
If one assumes that Watson entered the University of London around the age of twenty-five, he was born around 1853. He joined British forces in India with the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers before being attached to the 66th (Berkshire) Regiment of Foot, saw service in the Second Anglo-Afghan War, was wounded at the Battle of Maiwand (July 1880) by a Jezail bullet in the shoulder, suffered enteric fever and was sent back to England on the troopship HMS Orontes following his recovery. In 1881, Watson is introduced by his friend Stamford to Sherlock Holmes, who is looking for someone to share rent at a flat in 221B Baker Street.
Does Edward Hardwick look like a man in his late 20s/early 30s?
The producers portrayed Watson as a middle aged fuddy duddy primarily to light up Holmes’ character – they made Watson so boring that just by being in the same room, he would make Holmes look super interesting.
There is a Bengali serial on tv called Byomkesh. That has taken the same treatment, in order to focus on Byomkesh’s greatness, they have turned Aji into a hideous caricature of a man.
Jude Law was more of a glamour character, he had to play the solid foil to Robert Downey Jr playing Robert Downey Jr. Watson is supposed to be a character who will intervene only when absolute necessary, at all other times he will stay a solid fixture in the background. Of course, that is not the case in a couple of stories like The Hound of the Baskervilles. Jude law’s portrayal was more that of a friend, guide, doctor – and a bit of a bully – what with him punching Holmes and all.
Bilbo Baggins in my opinion was an inspired bit of casting. He managed to portray Watson’s role as described in the original canon.
Look at those sets of pictures. It looks like Jude Law is competing with Downey to be the focus of the screen; Bilbo Baggins meanwhile is content being a part of the background just complementing the Cumberlord.
Bilbo has the right set of curiosity, intrigue and fascination with Holmes (tinged with a hero worship) without becoming a namby pamby himself.
Elementary changed everything and gave us Joan Watson, a retired surgeon who now works as a sober companion. Lucy Liu has done splendid job as Watson here (albeit a female Watson). Particular kudos for never portraying some silly ass romance; the relationship between Holmes and Watson remains that of two close friends with Holmes being reliant on Watson for stability – just as in the books.
And that leaves Wilson, House’s partner in crime, his only friend and the beacon of morality in House’s life. House needs Wilson the same way Holmes needs Watson.
- Lucy Liu
- Jude Law
- Edward Hardwicke
In the books, Holmes did not have a very good opinion about either Lesrade or Gregson. So that gave rise to the idea in the reader’s mind that they were bumbling incompetent buffoons.
There is a problem with that – these guys are Scotland Yard Detective Inspector – geniuses they might not be, but idiots they most certainly were not. We only think they are buffoons because that’s what Holmes thinks of them. Barring Holmes’ opinion, we do not get any objective or neutral assessment of their abilities.
Both Grenada and Guy Ritchie fell into this trap and they made their inspectors pitiful incompetents.
BBC did a much more balanced job. We see Holmes’ condescension towards Lestrade. At the same time we also see a police inspector highly respected by his subordinates, trusted by his peers and a nice guy who is friends with Watson.
Elementary followed in a similar vein but went one step further. Not only is Gregson a respected competent inspector, but he is also Holmes’ friend and someone whom Holmes likes and respects.
- BBC Lestrade
- Elementary Gregson
- Movie Lestrade
- Grenada cops
Irene Adler is a very successful criminal in her own rights. Moreover, she beguiles and beats Holmes.
Rachel McAdams’ character in the Guy Ritchie films was that of a small time crook, not an intelligent super criminal. Do you really see here seducing and stealing jewels from Bohemian princes?
Dr. Cuddy was a woman harried and bullied by House, so the least Irene Adleresque Irene Adler out there.
So we can safely say that neither of those two characters fit the bill.
Elementary, as usual, went way out there and combined and made Irene Adler Jamie Moriarty. The concept is mind boggling, refreshing and fantastic. Unfortunately, its let down by their decision to cast Natalie Dormer. I like Natalie Dormer but she plays the same character everywhere – a variation of femme fatale. Tudors, Game of Thrones or Elementary, its all similar, its all boring.
- Lara Pulver
- Natalie Dormer
- Rachel McAdams
- Lisa Edelstein
We can safely discard the Elementary Moriarty with all that relationship and love rubbish.
We have two contrasting portrayals. We have Jared Harris’s portrayal in the Game of Shadows and we have Andrew Scott playing a semi deranged whackjob is Sherlock.
Both were magnificent, it comes down to individual preferences – do you like a no frills no nonsense performance (one of the hardest things to do on screen) or do you like an extreme dramatic one?
Of all the characters, Moriarty is the only one Guy Ritchie got correct.
And so finally we come down to the man himself.
We all love Jeremy Brett. But I fear we do so more because of nostalgia than for anything else. We have a tendency to see everything from our childhood in rose tinted spectacles. And we were in our toddlerhood or teenage years when we first saw the Grenada series and fell in love with it.
But was his performance really that excellent? He was good no doubt but did he manage to portray Holmes’ addiction or his physical prowess or his dependence on Watson properly?
I am not so sure.
Robert Downey Jr’s portrayal was an abomination upon man – the less said about that the better.
Jonny Lee Miller has managed to successfully capture Holmes’ dependence on Watson, his deductive reasoning and his oddball nature with no time for social conventions. He has also done justice to the addiction and infatuation with Irene. Its just that he is neither too physical nor a sociopath. he is way too respectful and polite to people. Fine margins I know but still.
When it comes to being a sociopathic deductionist, Dr. House is numero uno. He has all of Holmes’ negative characteristics. But Holmes has some redeeming qualities and he is never cruel, House does not and House is.
Which leaves the Cumberlord.
It was an inspired piece of casting, now when you think of Sherlock, his is the only face which comes to mind. He has managed to capture the essence of Sherlock to a S. Plus we see a sort of character growth and development over the course of the seasons (in his treatment of Molly and Mrs Hastings for example).
Never mind the modern age, it is my firm believe that the Cumberlord and Bilbo Baggins will be excellent Victorian Holmes and Watson as well.
So there you have it.
An exhaustive and highly unproductive analysis of Sherlock Holmes.
p.s. Elementary has Sebastian Moran as a serial killer who is an Arsenal fan. What is it about Arsene Wenger that attracts all the looney psychos? First Osama bin Laden, then Piers Morgan, then Jack Wilshere and now Sebastian Moran.