This blog post was prompted by two programmes that I attended in the past fortnight. The first was the preview screening of the film Harishchandranchi Chi Factory which is feature film biography on the life of the pioneer of Indian films, Dadasaheb Phalke. This was being screened at the Yeshwantrao Chavan Auditorium by the Prabhat Chitra Mandali.
The second was the Vinod Doshi Smruti Mohatsav, a festival of plays in Hindi and Marathi, held at the Ravindra Natya Mandir at Prabhadevi in the memory of the late Vinod Doshi, who was an eminent industrialist and Chairman of the Premier Automobiles Ltd., now known as Premier Ltd. Mr. Doshi had a huge passion for theatre.
At both these venues, I ran into people from the theatre world that were big in the T.V. world in the olden days when there used to be only one channel, the government run Doordarshan. This brought back fond memories of the good old Doordarshan days when one used to sit in front of the only channel available and see everything that it used to dish out.
When we were small, owning a television set was a rarity and I don’t remember when but my grandfather ordered my father to go and buy a television in order to avoid my siblings going to our neighbor’s house to watch T.V. So it was Dyanora a black and white T.V. with a sliding door that came into our house. In days of cable TV and DTH , today’s youngsters and kids would laugh at the bullock cart age we were in where an antenna which was on top of the building terrace/roof had to be adjusted all the time during the rainy season or there was a shake even when a crow sat on it!
Coming back to the people who I met/saw that revived my Doordarshan memories were Girish Karnad who I remember for his role in the serial Khandaan. In fact in his speech he remembered Mr. Vinod Doshi as a person who was very humble and never made them feel that he was a big industrialist helping them. Once when he asked them (Girish Karnad and Arvind Deshpande, who used to run a theatre company) how he could help, he immediately satisfied their big need of a rehearsal space. He gave them a whole floor… around 3000-4000 square feet of space in Walchand Terraces on Tardeo Road, opposite the A.C. Market which they used without any interference for many years.
One more person from the serial Khandaan that I met was Sunila Pradhan. Many will remember her as the wife of the industrialist whose character was played by Sreeram Lagoo. I ran into Chitra Palekar of the Marathi movie Mati May fame which starred Nandita Das and remembered that she and Amol Palekar had directed the serial Kachi Dhoop (Amol had acted in it too) which also starred their daughter Shalmalee. Then there was a bearded gentleman that I couldn't place but later realized that he was the guy who was the newsreader for years in the Marathi ‘Batmya’. His name is Anant Bhave. And sitting in the auditorium I chanced upon Meena Naik who used to host a Marathi children’s programme called KilBil and also Sulabha Deshpande who starred in Choti Baadi Baatein and a host of other serials and Marathi and Hindi movies.
A little history about Doordardhan....Doordarshan was established in India in 1959 but was a part of All India Radio till 1976. Mumbai Doordarshan started transmission in 1972. The color T.V. was introduced in 1982 during the Asian Games and that is when we switched from our black and white Dyanora to the GOI Undertaking produced E.C. T.V.
As watching T.V. was a fascinating novelty, we used to watch everything that came our way. Children’s programme like the Marathi ‘Kilbil’, the Gujarati “Santakukdi’ and the English ‘Magic Lamp’ were very popular amongst us. Then programmes like Amchi Mati, Amchi Manse for farmers, Phool Khile Hai Gulshan Gulshan, a talk show in the seventies aka today’s Coffee with Karan hosted by Tabassum, Chhayageet a programme with a medley of Marathi/Hindi film songs that later became Chitrahaar, the famous Chimanrao starring Dilip Prabhavalkar of Munnabhai fame which was a show based on C V Joshi’s short stories, the Baban Prabhu-Yakoob Sayeed comedy show and ‘Gajra’, a Marathi entertainment programme. There would be one Marathi and one Hindi film shown every week in the evening either on Saturdays or Sundays. Then there was Sports Round-Up hosted by Fredun Divitre.
My grandfather used to watch Batmya everyday at 7:30 pm. I remember Bhakti Barve, Pradeep Bhide and Anant Bhave who were regulars at Batmya. It is said that Smita Patil too started her career by giving the Marathi Batmya. It was preceded by Udyache Karyekram, a schedule of the programs that would be held the next day. Saptahiki used to show a schedule of programmes for the next week. I wonder if they still show Aapan Yaana Pahilat Ka, a flash of people who went missing. This must have done a great service to the families of missing people and I wonder if any of the channels today would do this community service. Lots of shows used to be shown featuring classical programmes. There were also some English shows like What’s the Good Word with Sabira Merchant, Fire Ball XL5 and Der Alte – The Old Fox. These were days before the arrival of the T.V. serials or soaps.
The first serial that became a huge hit was Hum Log and later Buniyaad. I remember that when they were airing the last episode of Buniyaad, we had to go for a wedding at the Taj Mahal and hurried back to catch the episode wondering on the way why there were no lights anywhere on the way home. We realized that we had foregone the ice-cream at the Taj for nothing as Bombay had no electricity and was blacked-out due to the tripping of some grid. Then there were hundreds of serials that you would remember as they became very popular. Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi directed by Kundan Shah with Kishore Kumar’s title song and starring Shafi Inamdar,Swaroop Sampat, Rakesh Bedi, Satish Shah and Tiku Talsania and the dialogues “thirty years ka experience’ and “yeh kya ho raha hai’ were on everyone’s lips. Two other serials that I remember very well were Chunauti and Subah which were shot in my college, the Wilson College at Chowpatty. Many of my college mates had acted in them as there were auditions held at the college itself. The serials were on college life.
Ados Pados, a serial directed by Sai Paranjpe of Chasme Baddoor/Katha fame was truly hilarious. It was about life in a housing colony and I remember a family had six kids whose names were A, Ba, Ka, Da, and E like the first five letters of the Marathi Barakhadi. Then the carrot chewing Karamchand, a detective serial with his assistant Kitty starring Pankaj Kapoor and Sushmita Mukerjee. Nukkad, the serial with a medley of characters touched upon issues faced by the common man and Rajani made Priya Tendulkar immortal when she took up various civic and social issues. Kachi Dhoop which featured a young Bhagyashree Patwardhan had Ashutosh Gowarikar as her boyfriend in the role of a tuition teacher! Khandaan was a good drama series on an industrial family and starred Sriram Lagoo, Sunila Pradhan, Mohan Bhandari, Girish Karnad, Neena Gupta, Rohini Hattangadi, Shekhar Kapur and Jayant Kriplani. Quite a full house. Surabhi took you on a travel and cultural. journey with Siddhartha Kak and Renuka Shahane.
I loved a Marathi serial called Shwetambara that ended very abruptly, another one called ‘Gotya’ and Ek Shoonya Shoonya based on crime. Of Course, Ramayan and Mahabharat brought life on the streets to a standstill. The World This Week on Friday nights hosted by Pranoy Roy (NDTV) was very popular as he showed a snippet of news and information from around the world.
Then there were so many others that I will just list like Idhar Udhar, Mr Mrs, Ek Do Teen Char, Wah Janaab with Shekhar Suman and Zarina Wahab, R.K. Narayan’s Malgudi Days which till date is a popular ring tone, Star Trek, Choti Baadi Batein, Udaan which made Laltaji urf Kavita Chowdhary very popular, Gul Gulshan Gulfaam, Wagle Ki Duniya starring Anjan Srivastava and Bharati Achrekar, Bharat ek Khoj based on Nehru’s Discovery of India, Chanakya , Dekh Bhai Dekh, Isi Bahane, Jaspal Bhatti’s flop show, Bikram aur Betal, Paying Guest, Mr. Yogi with Mohan Gokhale, Zabaan Sambhaal Ke,
Lastly there were English Serials mostly British which one can see on BBC Entertainment. I loved serials like Fawlty Towers, Are You Being Served, Some Mother’s Do Have’Em, Different Strokes, Mind Your Language, Remington Steel, Spider-Man, He-Man, Body Line, Sandokan (Kabir Bedi) and all the cartoons and one that I hated was the Didi’s Comedy Show.
Many of the actors in the above mentioned serials have become big stars and well known character actors in Bollywood and some sadly passed away, many prematurely. These include Priya Tendulkar, Mohan Gokhale, Bhakti Barve, Smita Patil, Arvind Deshpande, Dilip Kulkarni, Manorama Wagle, Shafi Inamdar, Chandrakant Gokhale, Shankar Nag, Sudhir Joshi, and Laxmikant Berde. Gone are the Doordarshan days with their passing.