Chitra Ramaswamy: ‘The definition of stubborn’

Chitra Ramaswamy. Picture: Dan Phillips
Chitra Ramaswamy. Picture: Dan Phillips
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THE WAR continues: your correspondent versus the rise and rise of HD. It’s been a lonely battle, one fought from the sofa with nothing but a remote control as a weapon and the glow from the television to guide me towards my enemy.

Me against the global Goliath of high-definition who – to my mind anyway – is basically Rupert Murdoch in a cape. I imagine this is how Ma and Pa R felt all those years back when the rest of us were delighting in a brave new digital world of Freeview and they were still adjusting their aerial and “sticking a tape in for EastEnders”.

Now comes the next phase, the one before we all don Google glasses and blind ourselves with propaganda flogging ugly sofas and beautiful lifestyles. Characters stepped off the page from George Orwell’s 1984, wandering this rainy dystopia lost, brainwashed and forever bumping into things.

Here’s the thing. I hate HD. People seem to like it because it makes everything look more real. Yet when I switch on the telly I am trying to escape reality, not replicate it. If HD could actually transport me to the Amazon jungle where I could watch chimps cuddle one another in the company of David Attenborough, then I might consider it. But it can’t. It just makes the chimps look a bit more chimpy.

The only power HD has is a unique ability to strip all films of the magic of cinema. It makes Dorothy’s entrance into the Technicolor land of Oz look like a scene out of Prisoner Cell Block H. It makes Tarantino’s oeuvre look like it’s been directed by Chris Tarrant. It’s like having a killjoy eternally on your shoulder, whispering while you watch, “Remember ... it’s not real. And check out the size of Robert Redford’s hair follicles.”

Anyway, for a long time my hatred of HD continued without much notice. Others made the switch. I didn’t. But then the phone calls started coming. “Your Sky+ box is getting sooooo old,” wheedled cunning Sky minions. “Why not switch to a Sky HD box?” They offered me deals, promised me the moon (in stunning high-definition, naturally), said they would come over, brush my hair and watch all six episodes of Pride and Prejudice with me if I said yes. The answer was the same. Over my dead, low-definition body. No.

But it’s no longer easy to keep hold of one’s consumer power. They have ways of making you cave. And so this is how they started to chip away at my resolve: my Sky+ box. The 
merest breath of wind now causes the picture to disappear for an age, often just as Parks and Recreation is beginning. None of my tricks for making it come back (basically 
turning it off and on) work. And so I phone Sky and the answer is loud and clear: “This kind of thing never happens with HD. Why not switch?” 
So HD is so all-powerful it can stop the wind? In 
Edinburgh? Basically, yes.

“But I hate HD,” I explain for the millionth time. “That’s OK,” comes the chirpy reply. “You don’t have to watch in high-definition.” “So basically I would be paying extra for a feature I won’t ever use?” “Well, yes,” he admits eventually. Aha! Now I’ve got him. I go back to my constantly interrupted film feeling triumphant.

It is now a matter of principle. I will not give in. I’m like the Miss Havisham of Sky TV, the clocks permanently stopped ‘at twenty minutes to nine’, refusing to move on, accept reality, let the light of HD in. Sacrifices have been made. For some reason the top and bottom of the screen has been sliced off, which means forgoing people’s heads and the odd subtitle. I can no longer record programmes. The wind continues to disturb the picture, even when all looks mysteriously still outside. But still I watch, and wait, and hope that someone out there is recording Parks and Recreation for me. Maybe I should ask Ma R to stick a tape in.