Saturday, April 23, 2011

Reality- National Geographic Channel Shows Indian Army

Anil Bhat 4/12/2011 10:24:15 PM
“March with the Indian Army and pay tribute to the saga of the unknown soldier with honour and pride” is the slogan of the ten - serial television reality show produced by National Geographic (Nat Geo) and currently being aired extensively on the Star Network.

Having produced Mission Udaan -Inside the Indian Air Force, in 2005 and Mission Navy- Lehron ke Sartaj in 2008, showcasing both the services in their full glory, Nat Geo launched a project to make the same on Indian Army, called Mission Army – Desh ke Rakshak.

Extensive interaction between the Army and Nat Geo resulted in this mega reality show aimed at giving television viewers an insight into the ‘making of an Army officer’ and ‘life in the Army’, through the eyes of a few civilian youth, selected and further trained. The serial showcases the history, values, customs and traditions as also operational and administrative activities of various combat arms and services of the Army, in varied terrain and extremes of climatic conditions.

Three young men and two young women were selected after passing physical, mental and medical tests of actual Army standards during the auditions Chib, a former Army officer of the Kumaon Regiment has as such a great asset to Nat Geo in making such programmes across Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi, for which 30,000 participants from all over India came to try to be a part of this mega reality show. They were, Ela Vohra 23, working at working IBM India, Pune, Priyanka Chand Oswal 19, from Pune College, Rohan Vijay Takalkar 24, running a fitness club in Pune, Rudrashish Sengupta 22, from St Xavier’s college, Mumbai and Kuldeep Rana 24, pursuing MBA from JIMS, Delhi.

Interacting at length with The Asian Age, Mr. Ramon Chibb, Senior Vice President, National Geographic and Fox International Channel, India, said “After grilling 30,000 enthusiastic and patriotic youth applicants across the country, Nat Geo selected the final five who embarked on a journey to win themselves a never before opportunity to experience the life of an Indian Army Officer. National Geographic Channel has taken the viewers to locations and places where none ever has and our Mission properties in the past have lived up to this tradition. We have worked closely with the Indian Army for our biggest Mission property – Mission Army “Desh ke Rakshak” and will take our viewers into the second largest army of the world – The Indian Army. I firmly believe that in the age of scripted reality shows, a docu-reality show like Mission Army will attract millions of people from different age groups across the country. Mission Army- Desh Ke Rakshak is a ten part series which will give us an insight into all arms and services of the Army”

‘Inside the Indian Army’, the first episode starts with a re-created story of Capt Vikram Batra, hero of the Kargil Intrusion of 1999 narrated by his then Commanding Officer, Brigadier Joshi. It is followed by the introduction to the Indian Army, considered as third largest in the world and what it takes to be an officer in it. Through the eyes of young civilians, viewers watch the selection process with high medical fitness standards and the aspirants going through a battle obstacle course at the Rajputana Rifles Regimental Centre to get their first feel of training in the Army.

In Episode 2, on Indian Military Academy, the Alma Mater of an Indian Army officers, the chosen five go through a tough training schedule of the academy by learning the basics of Army life as Gentleman Cadets and Lady Cadets - of drill, physical training, firing an INSAS rifle, doing night outdoor camping, negotiating the tough Russian obstacle course and finally crossing obstacles while live bullets are fired over their heads as a doze of ‘battle inoculation’.

Episode 3, with the Infantry, shows how it operates in various and toughest of terrains in the country, including the highest battlefield of the world – Siachen- where the temperature can be as low as minus 60 degrees centigrade. This episode covers the training in the Siachen Battle School and the High Altitude Battle School. The five contestants go through commando training at the Infantry school in Belgaum, compulsory for all Infantry officers. This includes unarmed combat, raid, rock climbing, escape and evasion and surviving by living off the land, which also involves catching, skinning, cooking and eating a snake. Their final task is the challenging climb and crawl to a 60 feet high board and jumping from into a swimming pool.

Episode 4, takes the team to the Armored Corps and the Mechanized Infantry Regimental Centres at Ahmednagar, where the contestants learn about customs and traditions of the cavalry and functioning mechanized forces. They get a great opportunity to learn how to drive the state of the art T-72 and the T-90 battle tanks, fire their guns and watch the complex flotation maneuvers by the amphibious Infantry Combat Vehicles in water.

Episode 5, about Artillery and Air Defence involves deployment of these big high-decibel guns in all terrains, learning about the artillery’s role and the performance of Bofors field guns in the Kargil war, the contestants functioning as artillery observation post officers, who guide the firing of guns over long ranges.

Episode 6, on the Army Aviation finds the team in the Army’s helicopters, watching the complexity of flying in high altitude and the role of Army Aviation Corps in support of the combat arms. The indigenously designed Advanced Light Helicopter, Dhruv and the versatile Cheetah and Chetak choppers are profiled in extremely challenging conditions of flying in inaccessible terrain like the Siachen heights and the scorching deserts. At the Combat Aviation Training School the contestants learn what it takes to be an army aviator, fly the Cheetah simulator and navigate a Chetak helicopter in a casualty evacuation mission.

Episode 7, on the technical arms of the Army, has the team watching the Sappers (Engineers) construct bridges, lay mines and handle high explosives as well as work with sophisticated communication equipment of the Corps of Signals. They get to drive the tank trawler and lay underwater depth charges. Their final task is breaching a minefield and blowing up a railway track with explosives.

Episode 8, covers the Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (EME) and the Army Medical Corps. The team learns how the Army is administered, how it gets its logistics support and how it is kept battle-ready at all times. The contestants get a feel of repairing and maintaining a battle tank with EME.

Episode 9, shows counter terrorist operations in the Kashmir Valley and on the Line of Control(LoC). The Corps Battle School at Srinagar imparting training for counter terrorist operations is showcased, includes fighting a battle in a built-up urban areas, where the margin of error is very small. While here the contestants get trained and tasked to flush out terrorists from a mock village, on the LoC, they learn how the Indian Army soldier is alert 24 x 7.

Episode 10, The Grand Finale, is about Indian Army’s men who spend their lives reinventing themselves to fight in all possible scenarios – the Paratroopers. Specialists of raid and know no obstacle and are trained to operate behind enemy lines. On rare display are some of the unique customs and traditions of this coveted maroon berets regiment, which has tough standards and a probation period, not everybody can pass. The final task for the five contestants is a parachute jump from a helicopter. This episode will also decide the winner of Mission Army, who will have the opportunity to be a part of an overseas Indian military contingent.

Chib, a former Army officer of the Kumaon Regiment and as such a great asset to Nat Geo in producing such monumental programmes, says the viewer ratings on the five episodes broad casted so far have been excellent.

An exciting development for contestant Ela Vohra has been that she has very recently been selected for pre-commission training at the Officers Training Academy, Chennai.

While there is no doubt that the serials mentioned and movies like JP Dutta’s Border, LOC and yet to be produced Border II go well with viewers, it remains to be seen how much of a difference they will make in the near future in attracting more academically, physically and mentally fit youngsters to join the Army, which is still short of about 12,000 officers.

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