Crawlers - The Sequel

Remember the joy of watching pirated movies on local cable?

If you don't, you are obviously underage, so go away! This is no place for a kid who is legally allowed to vote but can't order a beer.

Back to the joys of movies on local cable. The video quality was grainy, so grainy that Dev Anand in the 1980s looked like Dev Anand in the 60s, or 90s depending on the print.
Not all movies that came on cable were pirated though. But legal or not, the grainy nature of the video, as if the magnetic tape of the video cassette had been scrubbed with a wire brush, was a constant. The scratchy picture didn’t bother much, the thrill of watching the latest movie without buying a ticket in black was compensation enough.

What bothered us most was what happened at the bottom of the screen, especially since the standard screen those days was a generous 21-inch that fitted snugly into a wall cabinet containing trophies won at school competitions and various articles called ‘show pieces’ that had entered the house disguised as gifts at weddings or souvenirs bought on trips to exotic locations like Matheran.

The bottom of the screen, to use a bad pun, was the pits. It was filled with creepy, crawly words that advertised all the businesses in the neighbourhood – sari shops, jewellers, sari shops, tuition classes, sari shops, the occasional chemist shop and sari shops. With clarity that seemed amazing in comparison to the picture above, they ran merrily from one end of the screen to the other, jumping, dancing, pirouetting and doing cartwheels. They covered the legs of the hero as he walked into the frame, made the fallen villain invisible and supported the heaving bosom of an about-to-be-violated heroine. She got saved of course. Probably because a particularly colourful logo of a sari shop reminded the villain of the traumatic hours he had spent in one buying a sari for his wife.

Not that the commercial breaks in the telecast were any better. They were full of ads shot with a hand-held video camera bought as spare parts and put together by a plumber for brands of – refer list of crawlers above. We preferred them to the crawlers of course; the breaks were long enough for the entire family to visit the bathroom and stop to wash hands on the way back.

Cut to present day. Local cable is dying. Not dead, my friends who know these things tell me, 80% of India, the shining one, still watches its TV thanks to the local cablewallah. But TV is so my age. The today thing is youtube. It is what the vote-enabled, alcohol-disabled generation is watching. From movies to music videos to cricket to slapped politicians, if it is a video, it has to be on the net. The logic now is, ‘If it gets hits, it’s a hit.’

And therein lies the sequel to Crawlers. Log on to youtube today and click to check out a video. And there they are – the crawlers – disguised as pop-ups at the bottom of the screen. Usually, the video quality is not grainy; it is pixelated. Which is a ‘today’ word for scrubbed with a wire brush. Well, there is a little cross sign at the corner on the top right that gives you the choice to turn it into a pop-down. But heck, at the heart, it is the same thing – A Crawler.

Like someone said long before video was invented; the more the things change, the more the same they remain. 


  1. Your blogs are very refreshing. On this cold winter evening as I go through your blogs that I have not had a chance to read - this stands out for me. Hope you are doing well my friend and wish you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. Will call you in a few days - its been a while since we connected.


  2. you said it... the more things change, more the same they remain !


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