Last Night's Viewing: Welcome to India, BBC2
DCI Banks, ITV1

 

I imagine that the new director-general has more pressing priorities at the moment than the issue of soundtrack music on documentaries but perhaps once he's succeeded in establishing that the BBC wasn't an island of sexual predation in a sea of new-man decorum, he could have a junior executive address this oddly vexing aspect of television production.

It comes up a lot in correspondence, mostly because many viewers find it overpowering the speech elements of programmes but also, occasionally, because it effectively vandalises the programme it is supposed to be enhancing. A good place to start these enquiries might be Welcome to India, a completely engrossing series in some regards but also marred by the most bizarre choice of music I've encountered for months. It's hard to imagine that it could have been much less suitable if the tracks had been chosen by a hen pecking at a touchscreen.

Such judgements are subjective, naturally, but the inappropriately jaunty music that has featured in both episodes so far aggravates another anxiety about the series, which is a narration of often discomfiting cheerfulness. The films depict life in the slums of Mumbai and Kolkata and seem determined to present this often desperate and hand-to-mouth existence as an exemplary triumph of the human spirit, rather than an instance of social injustice. The strategy is not impossible to defend, particularly when it's backed up by the resilience and cheerfulness of some of the people who feature in the film. But it is also at odds with important elements of their life as well, and employs a third-person plural voice that falsely enlists everyone in the same act of willed chirpiness. "Over one in six of the world live here," said the voiceover at the beginning, "and you know what? We are thriving on it."

Define "we" and define "thriving", I thought sardonically. True, Johora, a woman who earns a living recycling plastic bottles, seemed very upbeat about her plans to expand the business. She also showed the camera her private toilet with evident pride and didn't dwell on the fact that she'd had to pay off local gangsters to get it installed. But Johora was doing pretty well, relatively speaking. Others who appeared in last night's film were clinging far more precariously to existence, a fact the programme addressed with characteristic can-do spirit: "It's true we Indians don't have your unemployment benefits," the voiceover noted philosophically, "but search the city and there is always work available if you want it badly enough."

You'd surely have to want it very badly indeed to work in Mohammed's off-grid rendering plant, boiling down beef suet into tallow for the cosmetics industry and fighting to keep the maggots out of the finished product. Or to take a job in one of India's ship-breaking yards, places in which the phrase "safety record" can only be used with dark sarcasm. The truth is that life on the fringes of India's cities is very tough and very unforgiving, and frequently distinguished by a dog-eat-dog ruthlessness in which the money travels from the powerless to the powerful. Recognising the humanity and the qualities of those at the very bottom is important, but there are times in Welcome to India when the humane determination not to turn these individuals into a mere political problem comes close to implying that there isn't a political problem at all. And the music is just unforgiveable.

In DCI Banks, Stephen Tompkinson plays pretty much to type – that is, he looks cross, or exasperated or as if he's suffering from a nasty case of heartburn, according to what variety of weltschmerz the scene requires. Caroline Catz plays against type as a control-freak DI who snaps at her underlings and gets tetchy when rules are broken. Impressively, you almost forget how gorgeous she is. The drama itself fills the gap between 9pm and 10pm almost exactly.

twitter.com/tds153

Arts and Entertainment
The Rolling Stones at the Roundhouse in London in 1971: from the left, Keys, Charlie Watts, Mick Taylor and Mick Jagger

Music ...featuring Eric Clapton no less
Arts and Entertainment
In the dock: Dot Branning (June Brown); Union boss claims EastEnders writers are paid less than minimum wage

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Roger Christian wrote and directed the 1980 Black Angel original, which was lost until 2011

film
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Green (Hand out press photograph provided by Camilla Gould)

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones reviewWarning: Spoilers aplenty
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific