Chronicling history in a dry language meant for scholars is one thing and presenting it as an interesting documentary to general audience is quite another. But British writer-presenter Michael Wood manages to achieve the latter to perfection. His six- part documentary on the 10,000 years of Indian history is simply marvelous and a must-see for anyone even remotely interested in knowing and understanding one of the most ancient and influential civilizations in the world.
As a presenter, Wood enthusiastically presents a candid, contemporary and compassionate perspective on India. Traversing the entire Indian subcontinent from Khyber Pass to Lahore and from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Wood traces the colorful and complex course of India’s historical evolution and metamorphosis. Taking us on a memorable cross-country tour of important historic places and monuments, he recreates the events from the past by skillfully blending expert discussions, background narrations, drawings, photographs and movie-scenes.
Wood’s story starts off with the migration of first Indian settlers from Africa to South Indian state of Kerala. He then chronicles the rise and fall of Harappa- Mohenjodaro civilization and explains the real life significance of epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata. He describes the proverbial golden age of India when the Gupta Empire and the Cholan Empire ruled the roost in the north and the south respectively. The scientific and architectural achievements of those years are still marveled at. Then he discusses the emergence of Mughal Empire and the important role it played in homogenizing the diversely multi-religious society. He is particularly effusive about the Emperor Akbar’s broad-minded humanitarian approach and practical governing reforms. When it comes to the British era and India’ freedom-struggle, Wood openly dissects the British divide-and-rule policy, which finally led to the Partition in 1947 and even questions the British role in modernizing India.
From just being hailed as the spiritual beacon and largest democracy of the world to becoming the emerging global economic giant, India has indeed come a long way. Michael Wood’s Story Of India is a fascinating take on that historical journey.