By Ananya N Mar. 28, 2020
Ramayana isn’t the only old gem in Doordarshan’s archives. Here’s our recommendation of 12 Doordarshan serials we’d love to watch again.
Today marks the day that the mythological epic TV hit of the ’80s, Ramayana, will return to screens on DD National. It’s a welcome move to keep us occupied in quarantine and educate us on the benefits of social distancing through the parable of Lord Ram’s 14-year-long exile in the forest. Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting, Prakash Javadekar, tweeted yesterday that the move to bring back Ramayana was taken thanks to public demand. But Ramayana isn’t the only old gem in Doordarshan’s archives. Here’s our recommendation of 12 Doordarshan serials we’d love to watch again.
Literally meaning street corner, Nukkad was one of the most loved comedy dramas that aired on Doordarshan in the ’80s. With episodes running under 25 minutes, the show brought you up close and personal with the streets of Mumbai, leaving you with a feeling that this could very much be your own locality. Nukkad marked the first time on national television that the characters felt like your own neighbours and not larger-than-life heroes. Everyone, from alcoholics, mechanics, the chaiwala, and even unemployed youngsters, found a voice on the show and had a story to tell.
Bharat Ek Khoj
While filmmakers these days do a half-baked job at accurately portraying Indian history on screen, Shyam Benegal’s Bharat Ek Khoj is a history-lover’s delight. Written and directed by Benegal, the monumental show is based on the book The Discovery of India by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, and brings India’s 5000-year history — from the Indus Valley civilisation to independence from British rule in 1947 — almost flawlessly to the screen. The documentary-style dramatised series is 53-episodes long, was narrated by Om Puri and anchored by Roshan Seth who also played the titular role of Nehru in the series. With an ensemble cast of Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Mohan Gokhale, and more, the show gave a launch platform to over 350 theatre actors. Naseeruddin’s nuanced portrayal of Shivaji is a special treat.
The documentary-style dramatised series is 53-episodes long, was narrated by Om Puri and anchored by Roshan Seth who also played the titular role of Nehru in the series. Bharat Ek Khoj
The documentary-style dramatised series is 53-episodes long, was narrated by Om Puri and anchored by Roshan Seth who also played the titular role of Nehru in the series.
Bharat Ek Khoj
One of Doordarshan’s most popular series, Ramesh Sippy’s Buniyaad was a Partition saga that kept audiences glued to their television sets post the very successful Hum Log. The show gave us a detailed understanding of life in pre-Partition Punjab through Master Haveliram’s family. The epic drama narrated the story of an upper middle class Punjabi family from Lahore and had a storyline spanning across four generations, from the 1920s to the 1950s. It brought to life Partition stories, which before then were only heard from elders in the family. Much before Mihir Virani’s death on national television blurred the lines between fact and fiction, Buniyaad’s script-writer Manohar Shyam Joshi was often stopped and chided by fans on the streets when they were unhappy with plotlines. Interestingly Buniyaad was a hit in Pakistan too.
This short-and-sweet 13-episode series revolved around the life of students in a boarding school. True to its title, Neev gave us an insight into what really went on in the lives of students living in a boarding school. The show covered a range of themes, from school rivalries and pranks, to academic pressures and the anxiety of living away from family. Neev was like DD National’s very own Hip Hip Hurray, featuring Ali Asgar of Kapil Sharma fame.
Neev gave us an insight into what really went on in the lives of students living in a boarding school. Neev
Neev gave us an insight into what really went on in the lives of students living in a boarding school.
The Flop Show
Paving the way for political satire in India, Jaspal Bhatti’s The Flop Show released in 1989 with an opening sequence that read (in Hindi), “This episode is dedicated to those government officers who misuse office machinery and have thus inspired us to make this show”. The brilliantly written satire skit series included a mix of contemporary issues, intelligently narrated under the garb of satire and situational comedy. Often also resorting to parody, the show saw the cast — mainly Jaspal Bhatti, his wife Savita Bhatti, and fellow comedians Vivek Shauq and Rajesh Jolly — take on multiple roles and characters. Bhatti’s wit ensures the show is timeless, and if you’re looking for something to just cheer you up in these gloomy times, The Flop Show is a great pick.
Chunauti covered every detail of college life and the audiences also loved romantic angles the show portrayed.
Stone Boy was an Indo-Mauritian short fantasy film that was broadcast on Doordarshan as a TV series in the early ’90s. An unexpected emotional rollercoaster, Stone Boy portrays the legend of a poor milkman’s boy who is cursed by fairies when he accidentally gets a peek into their time on earth. The curse: A promise that can’t be broken. Prosperity and a problem-free life await the poor boy as long as he keeps the fairies a secret. Should he break the promise, he will transform into a stone on the very mountain he met the fairies. He can then appear as a normal human only once in 50 years for no more than three days, and even then only if called upon by someone climbing the mountain. This one will keep you and your kids occupied as siblings Ajith and Archana, who have just shifted to a new country, hear the Stone Boy’s legend and decide to call on him.
Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi
A clean family entertainer, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi was a sitcom that aired in the ’80s. The show revolved around the lives of the married couple, Ranjit and Renu Verma, played by Shafi Inamdar and Swaroop Sampat respectively. Rakesh Bedi played Renu’s unemployed younger brother while Satish Shah was a standout character that appeared in every episode playing different roles. Following the routine life of the middle-class Vermas through the lens of humour, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi was important viewing in the ’80s. The title track, sung by Kishore Kumar, is still iconic.
Through the lens of humour, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi was important viewing in the ’80s. Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi
Through the lens of humour, Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi was important viewing in the ’80s.
Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi
Debuting in 1987, Chunauti became an instant hit and ran for close to a year with 22 episodes on air. With a teacher as the protagonist, it was among the first shows to capture college campus life, albeit through the eyes of the idealist principal Mr Shastri. It featured a star-studded cast of Rajeev Verma, Mohan Bhandari, Ajit Vacchani, Arif Zakaria, Rita Bhaduri, Ali Asgar, Suchitra Krishnamoorti, Channa Ruparel, and more. Relevant to campus life in the ’80s, the show was quite dramatic and intense with topics like drug addiction, admissions, ragging, cheating in exams, and the higher education system in general. With almost every detail of college life covered at length in the show, audiences also loved the romantic angles the show portrayed. The bond between prof Shastri and his students stays with you for a long long time as you join them in their ups and downs, and so does the title theme sung by Amit Kumar.
Starring real-life sisters Ratna Pathak Shah and Supriya Pathak, Anand Mahendroo’s Idhar Udhar was a hilarious two-season show with a total of 34 episode. What made Idhar Udhar ageless and relatable was how it captures the struggles of two independent working women who are flatmates and poles apart. Hoping to share household chores by subletting their flat, their life takes an interesting turn when they let two men, Ravi Baswani and Lilliput, share their flat. The sitcom was way ahead of its time with two women and two men sharing lives platonically and was a window into what adulting was like in the ’80s and ’90s. Idhar Udhar is a great watch if you want to relive the young working adult’s life in Bombay.
Buniyaad was a Partition saga that kept audiences glued to their television sets post the very successful Hum Log.
One of India’s first ever detective series, Pankaj Kapur in and as Karamchand went on to become an icon for his portrayal of this stylish character in mysterious dark glasses. His silly assistant Kitty, played by Sushmita Mukherjee, complimented him well and left a lasting impression. What made Karamchand enjoyable was Pankaj Kapur’s easy swag as he munched carrots, played chess, and solved tough cases in his own desi Sherlock way. The show attained cult status in the ’80s. A surprise element of the show was Naseeruddin Shah’s introductory commentary at the beginning of each episode. The show is considered a classic and received plaudits from not just fans but also Pankaj Kapur’s contemporaries in the movie business.
What made Karamchand enjoyable was Pankaj Kapur’s easy swag as he munched carrots and solved tough cases in his own desi Sherlock way. Pacific Press / Getty Images
What made Karamchand enjoyable was Pankaj Kapur’s easy swag as he munched carrots and solved tough cases in his own desi Sherlock way.
Pacific Press / Getty Images
A Govind Nihalani classic, Tamas, based on Bhisham Sahni’s award-winning book by the same name, was originally meant to be a theatrical release but was eventually first released as a mini-series on Doordarshan. The period drama told the story of the Partition with the help of a stellar cast, including Om Puri, Amrish Puri, Pankaj Kapur, Saeed Jaffrey, Deepa Sahi, AK Hangal, Dina Pathak, Bhisham Sahni, Manohar Singh, and many others. Portraying the unfortunate plight of Hindu and Sikh emigrant families who came to India at the time of partition, Tamas even courted many controversies back in the day owing to its depiction of religious violence.
Nukkad brought you up close and personal with the streets of Mumbai.
Mandira Bedi’s television debut in Shanti – Ek Aurat Ki Kahani made her a household name and had viewers hooked when it launched on Doordarshan in the ’90s. The super-hit show took us through the journey of aspiring journalist, Shanti, played by Bedi, as she meets Bollywood producers Kamesh and Raj in the hope of writing their biographies. With each character’s hidden past being unfolded as Shanti attempts to tell their story, the show takes a dark twist when she comes face-to-face with her own past. Dark secrets, a strong female protagonist, and a meaty storyline definitely make Shanti worth your time.
As this lockdown grinds on, searching for new things to watch on Netflix and Prime Video might become increasingly futile. Quarantine might actually be a good time to revisit some of these classics. Is any one at Doordarshan listening?