Oldish Gold

Inspired by my fellow blogger and close friend Neelanjana, whose superb blog can be read here,I’ve decided to follow her lead and write a post on the good ol’ serials of yore,when a certain Miss Kapoor’s brain was free of the K mineral.Without further ado,here goes:

1.Byomkesh Bakshi:

This wonderment of a serial,originally a series of short stories and novels by the Bengali novelist Saradindu Bandopadhyay,was turned into a 25 episode serial by Basu Chatterjee,way back in 1993.It was aired on Doordarshan and starred the uniquely and supremely talented Rajit Kapoor as the main lead,Byomkesh Bakshi and the ever versatile KK Raina as Ajit. Of course,I was oblivious to the talent of the actors and the screenplay and plot made no sense,me being six years old at that time.But something about the serial just stood out.I vividly remember a scene where Byomkesh pins down a murder suspect effortlessly and manages to keep him from escaping till the cops arrive.Also,the title tune was catchy.Not completely eerie,but not soothing either.This was a winner all the way.

2. Shriman Shrimati:

Shriman Shrimati was a hilarious take on marriage and infidelity. It first aired on DD in 1989 but had reruns in the later years.It had an ensemble cast comprising Jatin Kanakia as the meek Keshav Kulkarni,the smart and wise housewife Kokila,played by the superb Reema Lagoo,the effervescent and bubbly Prema Shalini,played by Archana Puran Singh (who was actually a delight to watch on screen) and finally,the immensely likeable and gifted actor Rakesh Bedi,who played Prema’s bumbling and philandering husband Dilruba.You can read more about the serial here. The spats between Keshav and Dilruba brought the house down.You could not help but smile widely at the painstaking efforts the two male leads took to impress the females and then fall flat on their face.All the four actors made their characters utterly believable and that is what made this serial such a big hit amongst the masses.

3. Star Bestsellers:

Now I loved this show from the depths of my heart. It aired on Star Plus and in my opinion,the best show ever to come out of the channel.I could not wait for Saturday nights,when I would turn down all the lights and sit huddled up under blanket and watch the show.There used to be a new story,a new episode each week and barring a few,the shows were an utter delight to watch.Crisp storytelling and towering performances at their best.This show introduced me to the powerhouse called Irrfan Khan,and several now-prominent Bollywood directors like Anurag Kashyap,Tigmanshu Dhulia,Imtiaz Ali and Sriram Raghavan.I remember many of the episodes very clearly even now,after almost eleven years of its last run.There was one about a psychopath killer on the loose (this was my first ever experience of watching horror on TV), a lovey dovey story on the internet, one about a housing society called Gulmohar (I used to live in a similar society so I could connect with it instantly) ,one about a woman who hitchhikes a ride and finds herself in the worst nightmare of her life.But the one which I loved the most was the Irrfan Khan-Tisca Chopra-Himani Shivpuri starrer.It begins as a simple story,with a newly married couple (Irrfan and Tisca) staying as paying guests with an elderly couple.Irrfan played a shopkeeper and Himani essayed the role of the elderly housewife.This story had a major twist in the end that still amazes me.Another story which stayed with me starred Aditya Shrivastava (Inspector Abhijeet of CID) and Nikki Aneja Walia (Dr.Simran of Astitva:Ek Prem Katha) as a bestselling novelist involved in a serious car crash,incapacitating him and a deranged woman who lives alone in a deserted part of the country respectively.The premise was borrowed from a Stephen King novel,Misery,but it had its own flavor.I couldn’t digest Nikki as the affable Dr.Simran for a long time, after I had seen her essay this character.They were both excellent. Serials of this kind prove time and again that a solid script and talented actors can produce wonders on screen,with mininum funding.I’d love to catch the reruns someday.

4.Family No. 1

This was a complete family entertainer in every sense of the word. Kanwaljeet Singh starred as a single dad with three kids Rahul ( a certified Mogambo devotee),Rashmi (addicted to makeup) and Guddu (a smarty pants) and Tanvi Azmi starred as a single mom with three kids Dev (loves karate,but is a simpleton),Bharti (a mother hen) and Toofan (a hulk with a pea sized brain).The two families occupy the two halves of a house and are constantly at loggerheads with each other.The hapless parents are often cast aside,while the vastly contrasting personalities of the six youngsters provided all the necessary humor.A wholesome show,full of wisecracks,cool parents,madcap children and a happily-ever-after feeling.

5.Rishtey:

No,I am so not referring to a hideous movie by the same name.This Rishtey appeared on Zee Tv and I was hooked the minute I stumbled onto it.Quite similar to Star Bestsellers,this showcased a story a week.Human interest stories formed the bulk of the episodes and each one was a gem.All of them engaging,all plots plausible,the characters flesh-and-blood.The one where Renuka Shahane played a single mom to a cute lil kid who is in a dilemma whether or not to marry her good friend is etched in my memory,for the sheer simplicity of the story.Another one,where a little girl wants her dad to get married to her teacher also tugs at your heart strings.The show touched on life issues,be it a young girl’s determination to succeed without offering bribes or influence or the arrogant son’s realization that life isn’t all about money or the rift between two sisters because of personality clashes,Rishtey brought forward a fresh breath of air in television.

6. Tehkikaat:

Tehkikaat,aired on DD,was the first crime based show I watched.Being very young at that point of time,I believed in everything which was shown.Like,when a character was stabbed to death,I used to think he/she is dead forever.There is one particular scene which remains in my memory till date.A man,faking his own death,lying in a bathtub full of water,only to open his eyes and terrify the detective who comes to investigate.It starred Vijay Anand as the detective,Sam and Saurabh Shukla as his sidekick,Gopi.Not very slick when compared to today’s crime shows,but it was the first of its kind and did a pretty good job.

(I could not get a suitable image for the following shows)

7.Swabhimaan: This first aired on DD National in 1997. I still remember the title song.It went like this.

 Ek pal,hai zindagi;ek pal kuch bhi nahi.Kahe ka gham,kaisi khushi;ghadiyaan hai na,ek sadi.

Or something to that effect.It starred Kitu Gidwani,Naseer Abdullah,Anju Mahendroo,Ronit Roy,Kunika,Manoj Bajpai,Achint Kaur,Ashutosh Rana,Sandhya Mridul,Harsh Chhaya,Simone Singh (all very famous and noted names in the telly and film world as of now) et al in pivotal roles.The story was basically about business tycoons,inter family rivalry,legal disputes,property disputes etc.But it was handled in a very mature and non dramatic way,which is why it ran for a long time.

8.Shanti: Before Mandira Bedi became synonymous with a certain food type,she was a powerful performer in the all dark drama,Shanti,aired on good ol’ DD. She essayed the title character of a woman whose parentage is unknown with aplomb.The other principal characters on the show,Kamesh Mahadevan,played by Yatin Karyekar and Raj Singh,played by Amar Talwar,were equally stolid.The entire show was like hanging on a cliffhanger.Secrets would be revealed at every turn and the twists were really twisted.The story had a fresh appeal to it and it wrapped up neatly.I still think of Mandira as Shanti,whenever I look at her.

9.Hum Sab Ek Hai: This aired on Sony TV.A perfect blend of patriotism,humor and people of all nationalities living under the same roof.Jatin Kanakia played Brig.Kachroo,a strict but loving husband to his wife Bharti,and three sons Mohan (Rakesh Bedi;hilarious),Sohan (Dilip Joshi;fantastic) and Rohan (Deven Bhojani;side splitting).The three sons have wives from different parts of India.Mohan is married to Manjeet (Dolly Bindra was born for this role.She was truly amazing) a golden hearted loudmouth from Punjab.The music maestro Sohan is married to Protima,a Bengali,who is meek and in awe of her husband’s apparent genius and Rohan is married to Preeti,a Gujarati,whose aim in life is to serve dhokla to everyone she meets.The ensemble of characters created a perfect harmony on the screen.I loved this show.Unfortunately,there were no reruns.

That’s it then.Readers may kindly point out any mistakes and/or any shows I might’ve missed.

>That Soapy Feeling

>Some of my soapy observations:

Whenever there is a bereavment in the family,all the characters sport matching white dresses that seem to have sprouted on the spot.Wonder where they procure them from so fast.

When a leading male character gifts his wife/girlfriend a saree which is still yet unopened,the very next moment the wife/girlfriend produces a matching designer blouse with her exact measurements.Telepathy at work?

The female characters of any soap opera are always dressed to the hilt at any given time but even so,whenever they have to go out to buy veggies,they have to “dress up”.

A typical soap opera family almost always consists of aged grandparents,parents,aunts,uncles and their menagerie of children.The children deserve a special mention.If there are two sons,one of them will be the golden boy of the family and the other,the black sheep.If there are daughters too,the eldest is always a God fearing pious soul who tries to set an example for her younger siblings.

The daughter in-law is a very peculiar feature of any soap.There are two kinds of the species.Type One is the Ultra Pativrata Bahu,who will weep at a moment’s notice,bear the insults of her in-laws,forgive any and everybody within three miles of her,leave the house with a suitcase which is always kept packed for cases like these.Type Two is the Wronged Bahu,who is always misunderstood by everyone.Even her smallest intentions are viewed with suspicion.This type of bahu usually transforms into the vamp.

The vamp(no connection to Luigi Vampa) is perhaps the most colorful and snappy characters of any soap.They wear the most outgrageous outfits and accessories and their heavy kohl lined eyes do most of the talking.They get to have the most fun,what with treating their in-laws like dust,heaping insults on anybody who is less than a vamp,take delight in harrassing the Type One Bahu and indulge their grey cells in cooking up the most ingenious schemes to turn everybody out of the house.They are usually taken down a peg or two in the end by their long suffering spouses and/or the Type One Bahu.

The characters always have a family business which is flourishing nicely till the Black Sheep (refer to point four) decides to enter into it.Then,it all goes downhill and while Black Sheep goes baa-ing all over the place,the rest of the characters tear their carefully set hair in anguish.

A soap opera house is not a house.It is Buckingham Palace’s grandfather.Their houses are big enough to conduct two large scale weddings simultaneously.I always wonder,who the hell manages to keep it so spick and span at all times?The poor servants of the gargantuan household receive no mention other than being summoned to hear an earful from the Vamp.Ramu kaka is the eternal name for any servant of the house.He is almost always old,hobbling,has an unmarried daughter and a wayward drunk for a son.The Type One bahu is the one who usually bails him out.

Most of the female characters never work in any soap opera.I never did understand why.

The older characters are medical miracles.For instance,the reigning Ba of a popular serial lived for almost five hundred years.They just simply refuse to die.The rest of the soap keeps on taking generation leaps by leaps and bounds;other characters get replaced;new faces come in and they too leave after the next leap but our in house Dadaji and Dadiji stay put.They should be taken in by our cricket team.Abhi to boht centuries baaki hai mere dost.It is as if our soap opera makers have discovered some sort of a herb or tonic which preserves youth.That explains why even after the children of the lead pair have grown up and have kids of their own who in turn grow up,the parents and grandparents still look Just Married.

God save us all from these soaps.I am switching to bodywashes.

>Of Comas and Full Stops

>

Television serials of today sprout nonsense like no one can ever imagine.With a wafer thin or in most cases,a non existent storyline,cardboard characters and an ample supply of dangerous looking makeup,today’s telly soaps provide entertainment in very unexpected channels.These soaps last so long that one can just sneak a peek every two or three months and still grasp what is going on.A very popular character from a soap,a young child bride,cute but mostly annoying,was shot in the head in one of the episodes.In normal life cases,such a fatal shot can only result in instant death with the brains lying all around the body.But no sir,you see,our soaps are never normal.So instead of dying,the child bride slips into a convenient coma only to be revived with the magic touch of her child husband.And when she wakes up,she transforms into a geometrical entity as she keeps on muttering,”main cone hoon?”.So,along with providing us with continual laughs,our soaps also impart mathematical education.Yes,math plays a great role in all of our soaps.Generation leaps,number of kids from a number of husbands,the never ending supply of dishes coming from the gigantic kitchens and the country of people,ranging from a hapless baby to grandparents who refuse to die,telly soaps are a source of math lessons.

Another quaint feature of these soaps is the phenomenon of plastic surgery.Again,veering off completely from real life,a plastic surgery means the utter and whole transformation of the person’s face,height,weight,gait,manners and makeup.People coming back from the plastic surgery room look 200% different from what they were when they went in.Also,it is only in our soaps that a character can return happily from the dead.Sometimes people start stirring on the funeral pyre itself.Quite a spooky experience,that.

The trend now is to focus on the rural parts of India.Every channel worth its name has a dozen soaps on rural problems on air at any given time.Why this sudden interest in rural India and its problems,I will never understand.There are very serious issues like poverty,illiteracy,unemployment,farmer suicides,child marriages and dowry deaths still prevalent in our country today but none of the so called “social issue soaps” ever do any justice to them.All we see is ample glorification of the problems without any concrete steps to rectify or correct them.Almost all of the serials start on a promising note but there is very little stuff to go on with and most fizzle out in the first month.From then on,it is an exercise in futility.If the fictionalized soaps are no good,their “real” counterparts are even worse.Reality shows today are simply too horrible to watch and most of the times,even embarrassing.No aspect of our lives is private now.Everything is visible on camera for everyone to see.Certain shows cater to the supposedly brave and adventurous,some are the routine song and dance shows which continue to wreak havoc on people’s minds,some are plainly voyeuristic and some are downright shameful.The cherry on the cake is taken by two recently held reality shows which displayed the discomfiting spectacle of getting married on national television.While the first show was a sham,when the “couple” parted ways soon after,the second one had an actual wedding boomed through cameras into our living rooms.How long can such a marriage last is the obvious question.
To say that there is an absolute dearth of original content in today’s telly world would not be untrue at all.And those poor souls who do manage to come up with original content are not given primetime slots nor the importance.Offbeat shows,like the ones coming from the stable of a well respected filmmaker have hardly found any takers.Let’s face it,we as an audience,are not ready for anything novel or imaginative.Somewhere down in our psyche,the good guy always has to win,he has to have the best looking girl hanging onto his arm,the bad guy is a bad guy no matter what,rich people always exploit poor people and in any abuse cases,the victim is always to be blamed.Any deviation from this well ingrained conditioning is certainly not welcome to us.It is not the telly soaps,but we,the people who are regressive in our acts and mindsets.Until that changes,there is no hope for redemption.Let the “main kaun hoon” phenomenon continue.