By Kouser Fathima
Ekta Kapoor, nicknamed the Czarina of Indian television, recently said that the audience is not ready for progressive television shows. Her statement underestimates the intelligence of the Indian audience. She thinks that the audience likes her sob stories and goes on making these never-ending soaps. Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi and Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki ran for a record eight years (2000-2008). Balika Vadhu, which started airing in 2008, is still running. Kumkum ran from 2002 to 2009. Kasauti Zindagi Ki was aired from 2001 to 2008.
It is time to remind her that Humlog and Buniyad, the longest running tele-serials in the history of Indian television were way ahead of their time. These serials promoted progressive ideas intelligently and wove in Indian family values. They are remembered by the viewers even today. The storylines had a clear plot and progressed with clarity. Be it family dramas or light-hearted entertainments like Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi, the story was the main attraction. The stories were such that the audience could relate to the characters; the serials acted as a window to sections of society.
Buniyad portrayed the Partition (1947) through the lives of some identifiable characters, who have had to undergo the pain of the event. The story starts in Lahore in 1915 and continues in Delhi till the 1980s. Master Haveli Ram, a secular and idealist man from a rich zamindar family takes part in the freedom struggle, marries a common girl, Lajoji, against his father’s wish, leads a principled life after migrating to India, and tries to inculcate these values in his children. While the story revolves around his family, the serial portrays strong female characters like Lajoji, Veeranwali and Lochan.
Humlog portrayed the struggle and aspirations of the Indian middle class. The monologue at the end of each episode was a great concept. At the end of each episode, Ashok Kumar appeared on screen to discuss the ongoing story and the events in the episode using Hindi couplets. He received a lot of letters from the viewers discussing their personal lives which resembled the ones enumerated in the serial. He always ended the one-minute monologue by saying, “Phir milenge hum log.”
Nukkad dealt with the struggles of people from lower income group living in big cities. Unemployment, housing problems, poverty, and health-care were all intelligently woven in the stories reflecting socioeconomic issues, which are still relevant today. Despite all the hardships, the characters would still share jokes about their never-ending troubles and unfulfilled dreams. Some of its characters like Khopdi, Ghanshu Bhikari are still etched in the viewers’ minds.
Shanti, telecast in the 1990s had a strong female protagonist fighting for her rights against a powerful family. It dealt with the rape of a construction worker and her daughter Shanti’s quest for the truth. The serial captured the hearts of millions of viewers giving it a cult status.
Wagle Ki Duniya, Malgudi Days, Fauji, Tamas, Udaan, Karamchand, and Vikram aur Betaal were masterpieces, which covered social issues, were entertaining and had a positive message.
The makers of these serials forget that Humlog and Buniyad both entertained and enlightened the audience. Those were not mere shows but experiences which viewers could relate to and remember for years. The audience is not regressive but the makers are lazy, scared to take new challenges, and dictated by the TRPs.
It’s time the producers /directors dare to make serials which are progressive and positive, instead of running behind the TRPs. The audiences are ready for change. But the Czars/Czarinas are busy making stupid excuses.
Dr. Kouser Fathima is a Bangalore-based dentist who writes on issues concerning women, especially Muslim women. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @drkf_18
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