"yeh jo zindegi hai" and "nukkad"

Ace film maker Kundan Shah had once said, ‘the audience loves the underdog. They can relate to displaced dysfunctional characters’. True to his saying the first Hindi sitcoms aired on TV in India were essentially, for the common man and of the common man. The first of the kind was the big crowd puller Yeh Jo Zindegi Hai. Shown in Doordarshan, in the year 1984-85, the serial was an instant hit. It was about a couple played by Shafi Inamdar and Swarup Sampat and Shafi’s brother-in-law Rakesh Bedi. It dealt with the trouble they get into. So intense was the impact of the sitcom that people could see deserted streets in most of the over-crowded Indian cities whenever it was on the TV screens. Retired Judge, Somir  Mukherjee recalled, “people would talk about the failing box office openings in cinemas because of the popularity of the show”.
What made Yeh Jo Zindegi Hai memorable were the character sketches played by Satish Shah. These characters would be regular people like a plumber or repair guy, a prospective servant, someone from the street who wants to use their bathroom, and so on. The audience loved his unique mannerisms, his borrowed accents from all over India.
The next sitcom that took the country off its feet was Nukkad (written by Prabodh Joshi and directed by Saeed Akhtar Mirza & Kundan Shah). It dominated the television during 1986-1988, and almost everyone would remember it for its realistic approach to life. The idea of the serial was to show their life, and for many of us, it was a good awakening to see how people separate from us lived, what were their hopes and aspirations, and most of all, they emotions, their ambitions, and their despair. Indeed it was Nukkad of every street corner. The serial was directed by Saeed Mirza, and starred such actors such as Dilip Dhawan as Guru (Electrician), Avtar Gill as Kadar Bhai (Hotelier), Sameer Khakar as Kishore Bhatt (Gupta ji)the drunkard Khopdi, Javed Khan as the barber, Pavan Malhotra as the cycle repair guy (Hari), Rama Vij as the wise teacher, Suresh Chatwal as Chotu, and many others. And people still seem to love it. The viewers identified themselves readily with the characters for unemployment was still a menace and frustration did lead to excessive drinking. There characters were at times even exploited by vested interest. Overall they were miserable people and had no apparent joy in their lives. Rakesh k. Mittal in his book ‘Positve Mind Theory’ commented about Nukkad as,”…the group as a whole appears quite cheerful and contented. They enjoy every moment of life despite all the problems they face. They try to help each other beyond means. They happily accept the shortcomings of each other and genuinely try to help each other. There is no tension visible on their faces. Overall, the group, though beset by problems, is quite happy and enjoys life to the extent possible under the    circumstances”. [1] In this connection one cannot forget the pleasant episode of one of the characters winning a lottery and along with two of his friends, he spends the entire day, buying clothes, eating out in restaurants, and going around places; and finally when they find it difficult to spend the whole amount, they give it away to a beggar considering the fact that even he has a right to enjoy the taste of luxury once in his life time. The episode will also be remembered for Khopdi , the Drunkard’s famous dialogue, ”chicken do paisa nahi bhai, hum tin hai, humare liye chicken tin paisa lao”. Many of those who regularly made time to watch this serial would want it to be re telecasted again.Some do lament that the idea of nukkad gossip or adda did afterall had a charm of its own, something that the present generation will fail to understand.“Though India has made a place for itself on the IT map, it hasn’t been able to balance the unemployment ratio. Nukkad will be a good show for today’s youth, who are coping with a lot of pressure,” says Srinivas Krishnamurthy, retired bank officer. [2]


1)positive mind theory –rakesh k. mittal Pg 9 sterling publishers pvt.ltd -2006

2)The charm of old serials continue... SHILPA BANSAL 16 July 2009-the times of India.


 Priya Tendulkar, better known as the firebrand crusader 'Rajni' hit the national limelight for her role as a crusader fighting for the rights of the common man in the TV serial 'Rajni'.

In the early 80’sthe most popular character on Indian television was a feisty young housewife called Rajni. It was Basu Chatterji’s first foray on television and the lead role was played by Priya Tendulkar. Draped in the traditional saree, hair pulled back and a bindi on her forehead, Rajni could have passed off for a woman next door. In reality far from being demure, fatalistic stereotype of Indian womanhood, Rajni was a gutsy no-nonsense lady. Her problems were common everyday obstacles faced by thousands of ordinary middle class Indians. The difference was that she refused to be cowed down by them. Errant taxi drivers, corrupt civic officials, deceiving astrologers were all straightened out with a dozen of her whip lash tongue. The fault, her conquering zeal seemed to suggest, was not in the stars but in ourselves. [1] And Rajni was certainly not underlying. The serial was broadcast every Sunday morning. Rajni’s exploits provoked a storm of indignation- taxi drivers went off the roads in response to their negative portrayal in one of the episodes. The TV critics too condemned the quick fix solutions provided to every problem as being typically “escapist”. Television viewers however loved her. Ratings rose rapidly and Godrej, the company that was sponsoring the show registered a noticeable increase in the sales. And so completely had she captured the popular imagination that in march 1986, when imprint, a monthly features magazine decided to run a cover story on the Indian Middle class, it put a Rajni look-alike aiming a red glove punch at the camera on its cover. The article, titled “The Middle Class Strikes Back”-a forerunner of many to come-also identified the key to Rajni ‘s spectacular success:”The show is successful” the magazine claimed,” because it embodies a raising middle class consciousness…” Clearly, Rajni’s appeal was that of a warmonger. Her audience was middle class. If Rajni’s invitation to battle evinced such a strong response from this category of people more privileged than the country’s starving millions. It was because the perceived injustice among this class was equally great. Mrs. Indira Gandhi‘s policies and Rajiv Gandhi’s initial purported desire for carrying ahead his mother’s ideas for the benefit of the poor and the downtrodden deepened the middle class’s sense of isolation. With Rajiv Gandhi’s broadened economic policies in his later years of prime minister-ship, the middle class started to breathe easy. And so did the TV serials portray the society that was ready to strike back the right chord of survival. It is interesting to note that so alive was the slow that even ordinary people would approach Chatterji and Tendulkar for help. Even government officials from different parts of India asked Tendulkar, who was known to the masses as Rajni, help to instill confidence in the people's minds. Atal Behari Vajpayee, former Indian Prime Minister, on the death of Priya Tendulkar, said,” Her crusading role in and as Rajni gave voice to many important social issues… the popular TV show was a precursor to many meaningful issue-based serials”.[2] The mid 80’s faced a decreasing interest of the general public for theatres and movie halls. The fragile experiment to reestablish the losing glory of these entertaining avenues faced a threat from and unexpected source. In 1982, following Doordarshan‘s amended policy on private sponsorship, a series of television programmes went into production. The new producers included ex- Doordarshan personnel, documentary producers, FTTI direction graduates and some commercial filmmakers. In the absence of a television tradition, the new programmers borrowed formats from the American TV. And to find actors for this sudden demand for TV series, the talent scouts descended upon Prithvi Theater troops, coaxing the actors to work for them.[3] Soon the cafĂ© began to wear a deserted look as everyone including hangers on and layabouts began to find work began to find work on the plethora of sitcoms, quizzes, popular music programmes, detective shows, and soap operas. “The faces that seemed to have a place was fixed in the restaurants were on their way to becoming familiar faces on the small screen”, noted 60yrs old Ravi Kothari, a retired Government official, who had spend some years in the erstwhile Bombay during the boom of the first TV serials. Many, in fact became virtually indistinguishable from their small screen personae! Pankaj Kapoor, turned into the carrot chomping case cracking detective Karamchand; Sushmita Mukherjee, his goggled-eyed assistant, Kitty; Anita Kanwar assumed the mantle of the compassionate Lajoji while Shafi Inamder was transformed into the henpecked husband of Yeh Jo Hai Zindegi. Thus the new colourful programmes on television diminished the audience for plays. In 1984,Doordarshan had began airing India’s first and longest running soap, Hum Log(it was considered the longest before the advent of mega serials like Kyuki saas bhi bahu thi, kahani ghar ghar ki). The serial was started at the initiative of the then Information and Broadcasting secretary; S.S. Gill had visited Mexico to study the pro –development soaps of Muguel Sabido. These soaps were different from the regular commercial soaps aired on American television in the sense they combined entertainment with specific messages to promote some aspect of development. [4] On his return, Gil commissioned a private producer, Snobha Doctor, to create a series that would combine a storyline with no family planning, the statue of women and so on; and thus Hum Log was born. The success of the serials indicated the existence of a huge market for well made indigenous programmes. And the government’s decision to go commercial laid the foundation for a new TV serial industry. Doordarshan still held the reins on paper; at least, its approval for a programme was subject to the inclusion of pro-development messages in the content. Nevertheless, the focus had shifted clearly towards entertainment. From few hours of dull, education-heavy programming, Doordarshan expanded its telecast time with lively fare that included Khandaan, a hindi serial on the line of American serial Dynasty, Buniyaad, a family saga beginning in pre-partition India, Ek Kahani on villagers struggling against feudal oppressors and Subah on contemporary college life. There were thrillers such as Karamchand and Khoj. Sitcoms such as Yeh Jo Hai Zindegi, Mr Ya Mrs and Rajni get around ordinary middle class couples in ordinary middle class homes. There were also serials for children, like Indradhanush and Potli Baba ki. Yet it is said that some sections of the society did grumble about their in adequate representation in the TV serials. The appearance of diversity thus was deceptive. Most of the new programmes, particularly the top rated ones, portrayed an urban way of life that was alien to majority of the country’s people. A study conducted by Arvind Singal and Everett Rogers in 1987 discovered the 60 % of the low income households felt that television did not adequately project the difficulties and problems of their daily lives, over 90% of artisans and labourers felt that the knowledge and the skills of their occupational category were not properly depicted and 85% of the low cast TV viewers felt their needs and aspirations had no place on the electric medium. Since the national programme- on which the serials were aired – was Hindi an inevitably high percentage of non hindi speakers (60%) also felt alienated.[5] Despite inadequate representation, the new glossy looking serials immensely boosted the populality of TV in India. And it presented with a few hours of free, well packaged diversion. Thus every evening most TV owners chose to stay increasingly at home. This predictably took the audience aware from the other media- the theatre and the movie halls. Sarda Devi, a 78yrs old widow complained,’ my sister would decline watching movies and theatres on pretext of watching TV. She was married and had that idiot box in her in laws place. We still didn’t have one.’ As for the general, the new form of entertainment was accepted in open arms, the adults would watch but the children were kept away from it. 35yrs old TV serial director, Subhasis Chakraborty lamented during his interview,’…I was not much allowed to indulge in movie watching or even serials at that time by my parents. I did not watch Hum Log or Buniyaad for the same reason.’

1)    Shah, Amrita: Hype, Hypocrisy And Television In Urban India: 1997 ‘Middle Class Strike Back’, Pg:-31, (Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd)
2) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/2270398.stm
3) Shah, Amrita: Hype, Hypocrisy And Television In Urban India: 1997 ‘Middle Class Strike Back’, Pg:-49, (Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd)
4) Shah, Amrita: Hype, Hypocrisy And Television In Urban India: 1997 ‘Middle Class Strike Back’, Pg:-50, (Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd)
5) Shah, Amrita: Hype, Hypocrisy And Television In Urban India: 1997 ‘Middle Class Strike Back’, Pg:-51, (Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd)


A interview taken to understand the nuances of Hindi TV serials:

Mr. Subhasis Chakraborty’s opinions about “Hindi TV serials and the society and the changing plot”:

  “Hindi Tv serials score over our Bengali serials because of national coverage.                                                                           
If I was to fall back to my childhood days, the TV series that fascinated me the most was Fauji, starring Shah Rukh Khan. If the 70’s were the era of the angry young man, the 80’s brought in the hero looking for a socio-economic establishment. I could get a glimpse of bollywood and sense its glamour, since I was not much allowed to indulge in movie watching at the time by my parents. I did not watch Hum Log or Buniyaad for the same reason. I did watch few of the episodes of hum log on youtube though some time back. Fauji was about the young protagonist becoming a soldier in the Indian army, his romance with the army doctor. It was a story of patriotism… yes to some extent I did identify with the protagonist.
The other series that I would get a chance to watch some time or the other was Circus, again starring Shah Rukh Khan.
I even watched few of the episodes of Rajni and liked it.
The basic aim of hindi serial according to me, to maximize its “reach” and “time spend”.And all these depend on the TRP-TV Rating Point.

 According to the analysis of TAM MEDIA RESEARCH, how many people are watching a programme that’s associated with reach of the programme, at the same time how long they are watching a programme without shifting the channel, that’s associated with the time spend of the programme-these determine the making of TV serials for it reflects the interests of the people watching them.
Being a popular art form, hindi serials follow the ideology of “Indian ness”, its nationalism, secularism and reflects its patriarchal form. There is also a joint family structure, a grandfather or a father figure. This pattern is present in the society and this is what the serials show. Women are the main viewers of these soaps, thus the saas bahu formula works for them. Nothing is more intimidating than the tussle, the tug of war between the mother-in-law and the daughter -in-law. Serials mostly portray characters in black and white. This is done to add the dramatic effect, to induce the idea of morality working at all the layers of the society.
Women form the maximum bulk of the serial viewing population. So to sale the serials, the producers and the directors put in many woman characters, discuss their life, their expectations and their trials and follies, celebrate their achievements at the slightest pretext.
Hindi TV serials for that matter all TV serials do affect the children, they get matured quite fast, they get to know things beyond their age and thus there is a loss of the actual childhood. Complications in families do result from this unwanted development. It seems children no more act like children; they all are adolescents from the age of 5 or 6.
I haven’t seen much of the serials meant for children, thus won’t be able to judge as to whether they have been able to meet the required demands.
But I feel if there is a scope all the serials of any language do have a chance to better themselves.
All across the country there is a large section of the population who lead a superstitious life, are orthodox believers of gods, from whom religion is the means of ideal livelihood-mythological serials cater to these section of people. Rural India would come under this section. The urban sector seems to have grown out of such myths; it is only the aged who have given their life to religious rituals watch these mythological serials.
Necessity of mythological serials is a relative discussion.
Again, analyzing positive and negative factors of mythological serials is difficult…all I can say, Mahabharata and Ramayana, when first aired in Doordarshan made people stick to their TV sets, it was a joint family TV viewing affairs…these serials would transport the audience to a different place, time and situation, make them aware of their culture..The built up fantastic atmosphere was enough, to many the viewer faithful to the serials. Thus the techniques, special effects were seldom noticed. Now there are several such mythological serials telecasted in most cable channels, the intensifying effect of the old DD days have ceased to exist.
Art form is never absolute…it creates the dream, the desire suppressed in viewer’s mind…if serials are to be made as an absolute representation of the society-it becomes news. Even documentaries are little bit made up. Serials are never the TRUE picture of the society.
People are prone to watching Hindi serials than the Bengali ones due to several factors.
The Hindi serials have a huge market in India, the north is its faithful audience and the south is catching up. The serial making teams has huge budget, thus it can produce better quality serials than the regional ones, which lack these requirements. The sets are elaborate, the props are better, advance techniques are employed, thus the entire get up become more attractive, thus draws the potential audience more easily than its regional counterparts.
The serials in early days focused on the middle class, sometimes in the 90’s it shifted to the upper class, so called the elite section. As for now, the focus is on the village scenario, since TV coverage has increased and in order to attract the villagers, we have to depict them in the serials too.
I don’t think this section-vise depiction of the society is bias. Serials show what the pulse of the time, situation, and social condition suggest.
Also, the choice of portraying a particular section of the society depends on the policies of the channel on which the particular serial is shown. The policies again are determined from the agency TRP reports depending on viewership analysis.
I think in the present day Hindi TV serials the technique is  better, as per the storyline-the  Indian-ness remain, it is more fast content wise to do away with boredom. Old serial showed more details in each of the shots, in present day serials the total take gets established in a short time in turn making the narrative fast.
The themes of TV serials cannot be compartmentalized like pure drama, social issue or simple comedy. It is either dramatically presented social issues or comedy with social issues; social issue always is the main factor. Thus both the above mentioned blends are popular.
Yes serials do help in forming opinions-‘gossip feeds the serials, serials feed the gossip…’’

Mr. Subhasis Chakraborty, has worked as an  EPISODE DIRECTOR of a Mega Serial, named  EK JE ACCHE KANYA, (Akash Bangla) Story, Script and Directed by Sandip Chaudhury. He was a PROGRAMMER cum POST PRODUCTION DIRECTOR of ERAO SHATRU(zee bangla).  He was also an Assistant Director in Documentary film: A JOURNEY WITH KAKMARAS (2002)Dir: Dhananjay Mondal,  and Bengali Feature Film : ANAMNI ANGANA Dir: Dr. Swapan Saha, released in 2002.

little thought too..

No sun today
Greets the morning lark,
No leaf shivered
Over the sleepy pond,
Ducks have not left their pen...
As i sit along my sleepless window...
Letters of pain form droplets at my feet
The slashing rain never leaves this frame
What anguish does this monsoon suffer
The question forever unanswered remain....


 What more can I ask
From the morning sun?

A pinch of good luck
A sleepy, silent night...