THE ROMANOFFS (2018) : A MASTERFUL INTERPRETATION OF PRIVILEGED LIVES BURSTING AT THE SEAMS.

I had given you a fair idea about how THE ROMANOFFS steered clear of a historical recreation of the erstwhile Russian dynasty and instead has its sights on individuals who occupy privileged lives bursting at the seams. That’s exactly what it is: an examination of people who didn’t have to descend from royalty really to warrant material comforts as they do here as part of the majority ilk ( in terms of the colour of their skin) even though they are a tiny minority amongst the population as we know ( owing to their wealth of one percenters). Just a name or lineage hence is not enough to sustain this upper class bubble. The episodes interpret ideas about class consciousness and intertwine them with other branches of life. After all, privileged lives too have to finally crystallize themselves to form a common bedrock of existence with all its pratfalls, highs and lows and petty matters.

A commonality is that somehow or the other they all belong to this royal lineage( or atleast claim to be; in episode third one influential being claims to have fibbed about it while in episode 5th, another substitutes his own modest life with that of a Romanov for mere big talk) . But the clever idea to make their ancestry a default trait is because the creative fuel to this series is more interested in minute, nifty touches of the everyday, amounting to cultural, social and personal representations. In its five out of total eight episode run so far, I thought everybody involved was able to create individual pieces of this anthology with an eye and ear for silent internalization of these lives. It’s complex, leisurely and layered in its approach to the idea of first world privilege and the personal shenanigans of various proportions, handled with due diligence and realism. So in talking about the series further, I will go very briefly about the episodes and what stood out for me. I believe as viewers you need to partake the experience yourself first and foremost . Ultimately, this miniseries that has close to 60- 90 minute episodes deals with the efforts of essentially decent individuals trying to make sense of the issues that grip them and attempting to not falter in the process. Never for a second do we doubt that the humanity of these flesh and blood people is compromised.

*****

THE ROMANOFFS( it’s spelled like that in America for reasons I don’t know, maybe it’s about pronunciation) was immensely interesting to me as its central conceit made me think of my own royal history. I come from the erstwhile Rajput warrior class of Rajasthan, a martial race and upper class that has in its ranks fabled kings and queens that India is famous for owing to their bravery, wit and extraordinary hold over generational popular culture. Existing links to other royal families within India and abroad has kept the history alive but it is largely segregated among various units, mostly in a comfortable middle and upper middle class cocoon. The glory is far behind , not that I personally would want to live like a king but preservation of a lineage is quite a quintessence, right? I wonder sometimes how certain branches of a glorious kingdom veered off into middle class obscurity, only to raise it as an inconsequential, extant background detail. Not that it is the last and first particular to boast about in an age of individuality.

*****

A short story collection when translated to the visual medium of television is called an anthology and this fits in perfectly with the idea behind THE ROMANOFFS. Each tale is an individual piece guided omnipresently by the line of royalty it mentions but with no intrusion on the people and their tales.

** I believe its Russian legacy ties in beautifully with the country’s reputation for short story writing as all these tales are evocative of the same kind of mastery. They all come with a welcome, unobtrusive twist at the end.

**It also reminded me of KEN COSGROVE, the talented advertisement executive from MAD MEN who was essayed impeccably by AARON STATON. He was shown to dabble in his passion for writing short stories and gaining success in terms of publication.

** socially, the issue of carrying forward a quasi or nominal identity, something belonging to the distant past brews strong and is touched upon subtly and effectively in all episodes aired so far. Finally while Mad Men dealt with the aftermath of growing up in the Depression era for Don Draper, the antecedents of having a slain family’s history on your back is prominent here, especially in the second episode. So the morose parallels are established. I mention these as I felt they were important observations to be committed to the written word regarding this series.

In the next post, I will discuss about the episodes briefly, pointing out their salient features. All in all, THE ROMANOFFS is quietly effective.

*****

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