Wednesday, October 24, 2007

When Television Rocked !!!!

A few days back, doing the usual channel-surfing on TV, I came across three serials playing at almost the same time on different channels. And the three serials were remarkably similar in their content and the characters. In fact, it was a typical case of ‘seen one, seen all’ variety. And not to mention that the drama levels in the serial were so high that one could not bear it after a while. Going through that ordeal, I was suddenly reminded of the golden age of television in India (atleast according to me). The latter half of the 1980s. An age when serials were limited to 13, 26 or maximum 52 episodes, as compared to today where production houses think in terms of years. An age where there was only one channel and hence no channel surfing. And for a change, the monopoly was actually not a bad thing to have. It ensured that the same kind of serials, talk shows, talent competitions were not replicated across channels. It was also the time when some of the finest serials graced the small screen. While most of them were top class, five of my favourites were.

  1. ‘Honee Anhonee’ : It may seem an odd choice to many. For those who remember, this serial dealt with the paranormal (ghosts, re-incarnation and other eerie stuff). Though it aired at 10pm on Thursdays (late night in that age), I still managed to catch a few episodes. And for a boy in primary school, some of the stuff was quite scary. More than once, I remember not having a good night’s sleep after watching that.
  1. ‘Bharat Ek Khoj’ : (Sundays 11 am) Being a history buff, this serial remains close to my heart. Shyam Benegal was brilliant in the way he adapted Nehru’s book to the small screen. Anchored by Roshan Seth playing Nehru himself, the serial traced India’s history right from the Mauryas to Independence. A galaxy of small-screen superstars played various historical characters in this mega-series. And yes, there was the wonderful title track (‘Shrishti se pehle kuch nahi tha’ – have the mp3 version, contact me if you want).
  1. Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi: Arguably the most famous of the laugh-riots. Friday evenings at 9pm were a time to look forward to. An arraw of wonderful comic talent (Shafi Inamdar, Satish Shah, Rakesh Bedi etc) made this serial an absolute joy to watch.
  1. Malgudi Days: Possibly the serial that appealed the most to people of my age then (and I suspect that adults were no lesser fans). What I remember most about the serial was the way Malgudi was created and depicted. A village was bought to life in full splendour and one actually imagined oneself living there. And Master Manjunath was absolutely adorable as the protagonist.

And last, but definitely not the least:

  1. Mahabharata (Sundays, 10 am): For me, it is quite simply the greatest story ever told. Even after a few millennia, the epic remains as relevant today as it was then. And BR Chopra did an almost flawless job in bringing it alive on the tube (no wonder the streets were empty on Sunday mornings). And he was backed by brilliant performances all the way through. Stars like Pankaj Dheer (Karna), Mukesh Khanna (Bheeshma), Nitish Bharadwaj (Krishna), Roopa Ganguly (Draupadi) became super-stars of the small screen. A definite one for your collection (and I am going to buy the DVD collection soon).

In addition, there were plenty of other quality shows on TV during those times (Mr. Yogi, Mungeri Lal Ke Haseen Sapne, Khandaan etc etc etc). And not just Hindi, even the regional channels did amazingly well. Two Marathi serials that immediately come to mind are Dwidhaata (Vikram Gokhale was superb in the central role) and Swami (based on the Peshwai Sawai Madhavrao).

How I wish all these serials were re-run again by Doordarshan !! It would beat all the Zee’s and Sony’s of the world hands-down in TRP ratings.


Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Lets be a sport....

Yesterday, NDTV aired a story on how sportspersons who have represented India internationally in various sports (and who are employed by the Indian Railways) have been reduced to managing car parking outside New Delhi station. While it was absolutely shocking to hear that, it was another story in an ongoing controversy i.e. cricket v/s all other sports. While this rivalry, and the feeling of step-motherly treatment nurtured by other sportsmen has always been around, ever since that nearly vulgar display of celebrations post the T20 win, the battle between cricketers and the rest has come sharply into focus. It began with the state governments and associations awarding cash prizes as if there was no tomorrow. Then some of the hockey players threatened a hunger strike against the double standards shown by the administrators when it came to appreciating success in cricket as compared to others. In between, Viswanathan Anand added his own cheque-mate move, quipping about the reception he expected to get on landing home after the World Championship win. All in all, the events of the past month would not have bought to the genuine Indian sports-lover.

But if you really ask yourself, how many genuine Indian sports-lovers are there ? And who is to blame for the sad state of neglect that all Indian sports still find themselves in ? (including hockey, even after Chak de !?) We might point the fingers at the governments, corporate sponsors and the media for glorifiying cricket at the expense of other sports, but it is equally true that we ourselves are party to this preferential treatment. Some time back, an opinion poll on NDTV showed that 86% of people felt that the media was not fair in its coverage of cricket vis-à-vis other sports. But is it just the media, or is its audience also to blame ? How many of us watched the Asia Cup Hockey final that we won just a few days before the T20 win ? Or atleast read the newspapers the next day to know who scored the winning goals ? Indeed, how many of us know who is India’s current hockey captain is ? To expect the corporates to sponsor a hockey match that nobody watches is, in my opinion, a bit too much. And I am not preaching here. I take the blame for the neglect that other sports find themselves in. Today, about 40000 people in my city have packed themselves at the Wankhede to see a match which has little relevance to the series. Till the time we start to care about football and volleyball and badminton, things will never change.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

My car's dream home !!!!

The following article in Monday’s DNA serves to reinforce a belief that I have been holding for quite some time now. Namely, that in the years to come, traffic management is going to be single biggest issue facing mega-cities like Mumbai. Nariman Point can now proudly claim to have the most expensive office and parking space in the world. Spending a few lakhs a year on parking space is obscene enough. To add to that, every time you actually take the car away from its expensive resting abode, you have to contend with ever-increasing traffic as well. That is why I firmly believe that addressing this issue should be the topmost priority for the governments, municipalities and urban planners. We are, of course, at making plans and announcing them with much fanfare. Almost every alternate day, Mumbai wakes up to read of the next grand plan which claims will cure the city of its traffic asphyxiation. Be it several dozen new flyovers, or the recent announcement of 20 skywalks to avoid pedestrian congestion outside the suburban stations (which, if done well, is actually quite a decent idea); the plans always look very seductive. But when it comes to execution and management, it is completely a different story. The much-hyped Bandra-Worli sea-link still has to see the light of day. Earlier it was end 2007, then 2008 and now 2009 is finally supposed to be the year when this is supposed to be opened. We will continue to see more of it in the movies than in real-life. Such delays are common with most big projects. The work on the Metro Rail was supposed to have started already, now it will not be sooner than January next year. More than conceptualizing and announcing new plans, what is required is an iron hand supervising the execution of such grand projects, freeing them of government red-tape and legal hassles. The authorities owe this much to the people of Mumbai.