| In the house: (top) Saddam Hussein with his real family (above); a picture of the BBC production, House of Saddam
Great Saddam drama; but is it propaganda?
Nobody does drama better than the BBC. That is certainly the case with House of Saddam, a four-part television series currently charting the Iraqi leaders brutal rise and spectacular fall. He is portrayed chillingly by Yigal Naor, an Israeli actor of Iraqi origin.
However, it is difficult to resist the uncharitable thought that House of Saddam, which will be seen all over the world, also serves as useful propaganda, at least, from the point of view of Messrs Bush and Blair. Where Blairs dodgy dossier on weapons of mass destruction failed, House of Saddam has succeeded.
What sort of father turns his own daughters, Rana, played by the UK-based Indian actress Shivani Ghai (credits include Gurinder Chadhas Bride and Prejudice) and Raghad, into widows? But that is what Saddam does.
In part three, broadcast last week, he instructs his sons, Uday and Qusay, to arrange the murder of his sons-in-law, Saddam Kamel Hassan al-Majid and Hussein Kamel, because he feels the latter have betrayed him by snitching to UN inspectors about Iraqs secret weapons.
There is another telling scene in which Saddams wife, Sajida, asks her husband what he thinks of her new hairstyle.
Its cheap, Saddam remarks crushingly before everyone at a family dinner, reducing his humiliated wife to tears.
The average viewer may conclude that if a man can be so gratuitously cruel to his wife, then it was a good job that Bush and Blair paved the way for Saddam to be caught and hanged. They may also consider it fitting that Saddams sons, the maniacal Uday, shown clubbing a man to death, and Qusay, eventually get their comeuppance from American soldiers.
I was interested in an examination of how Saddam Hussein remained in power for 24 years in spite of being hated by many of his own people and the world, commented Alex Holmes, the plays director and co-writer.
House of Saddam is great drama but is it also great propaganda?
In the dramatisation, the eight-year Iran-Iraq war receives cursory treatment. This misses the fundamental point that it was the wests backing for Saddam, then lionised as a vital ally in the campaign to neutralise Ayatollah Khomeinis revolutionary Iran, that turned the Iraqi leader into the force his new best friends would later have to confront.
The drama could have included a scene from 1983 in which a Donald Rumsfeld-like American figure shakes Saddam warmly by the hand and reassures him: Chemical weapons? No problems. You have our full support, Mr President.
| India bound: Kevin Pietersenone
Kevin is Kinng
How should India deal with Kevin Pietersen, the new England captain who will next be leading his side out against India in a Test match in Ahmedabad on December 11?
(Narendra Modi wont be amused that some in the British media have changed its spelling to Ahmadabad).
The South Africans tried to provoke Pietersen, calling the 28-year-old almost a traitor, but that seemed only to get the best out of the man who left South Africa to seek his future in England.
Pietersen has already started planning his tactics against India, hoping to carry on where the Sri Lankans left off. To be sure, he will recognise there are ups and downs in Indian cricket — sometimes India loses by an innings, at other times only by eight wickets.
After the Oval victory, Pietersen said: The structure, the players weve got, the type of attack we have now, the way we have gone about the game every single day, the emotions the guys showed, it is certainly not far away from a perfect start and the way I want to play cricket in the future.
India had better watch out.
I have done a lot of thinking over the last few days, added Pietersen.
Its perhaps best not to irritate him by keeping him waiting for the toss, for instance. May be the best way to deal with Pietersen is to shower him with presents, promise him starring roles in Bollywood and untold riches in the IPL in which he is desperate to play, give him the Rajput suite at the Taj and treat him as Englands greatest captain since Michael Vaughan. Simi Garewal, In Rendezvous, should flutter her eyelashes and ask: Kevin, tell me about your switch hit?
What India should really examine is the judgment of England selectors that it is better to have the same captain for both Tests and one-dayers to avoid competing power centres.
Should India do the same?
Once watching a cricket match between Dulwich College and Dulwich Prep schools in south London, I heard the scorer shout: Bowlers name?
Patel, came the reply.
Ive got that, the scorer said.
The rejoinder floated back: No, no, this is another Patel.
Now, Samit Patel, 23, born in Leicester of Indian parents and an all rounder with Northamptonshire, is in the one-day England side and has set his sights on touring India this winter.
|ONE SHOW, ONE LIFE:
Elena Roger as Piaf
(Pic: Johan Persson)
The Donmar is only a small London theatre so tickets will be hard to get but Indians coming to the UK should book now for the new musical, Piaf.
The role of Edith Piaf, the tragic but iconic French chanteuse who died in 1963, aged 47, is played by the Argentinian actress Elena Roger, who goes from young street singer brought up among prostitutes to dying international celebrity dependent on drugs and alcohol in 90 minutes.
Roger (last seen as Evita on the London stage) brings the house down at the end by belting out what to most people is Piafs signature song, Non, je ne regrette rien (No regrets), which she sang three years before her death.
It is worth buying a ticket just to hear that.
Piaf, the Little Sparrow, was the nickname given to Édith Giovanna Gassion. The musical, written by Pam Gems, is played partly as a bawdy tragi-comedy with a fair bit of sex thrown in, for many men did pass through Piafs life.
Her complex relationship with the Germans during the war, her friendship and romances with the famous — the boxing champion Marcel Cerdan, Maurice Chevalier, Charles Aznavour, Marlene Dietrich and Jean Cocteau — provide the backdrop to Piafs richly textured story and the essential fickleness of fame.
Piaf is sponsored by Barclays Capital, which has big plans for India. Perhaps the bank can be persuaded to finance similar musicals on Indian figures such as Meena Kumari or the living legend Suchitra Sen.
|Celeb power: Shilpa Shetty
The Bachchans may consider themselves to be the big draw at The Unforgettable Tour which is about to hit London next Sunday. But the Evening Standard, plugging the tamasha, ran a picture not of the Big B or Abhishek or Ash, but of the woman the paper considers to be the real star of the show — Shilpa Shetty.
To be fair, judging from last years IIFA extravaganza in Yorkshire, Shilpa is by far the best Bollywood dancer seen in Britain.
But where would she be without Jade Goody, who would be justified in demanding a commission on Shilpas UK earnings? At least in London, Shilpa can dine out for the rest of her life on the strength of Celebrity Big Brother.