Strange but true: This government owned unprofessionally run non-24-hour TV channel was all we ever wanted. For us, Doordarshan (or DD) was Santa Claus who had at least one gift for every person in the family. DD probably peaked in the eighties and after that satellite TV took over. Last month, DD completed 50 years.
Here’s looking at 10 of my favourite programmes in no particular order…
Weekend Movies: Our home box office
The high point of every week was the Sunday Hindi movie. No matter what they showed, you still looked forward to it. Blockbuster or flop, millions would sit glued to it week after week right till the very end. I never missed the weekly regional movie too. It was a glorious peek into the culture of every state and national integration at it best.
The World This Week: The ultimate news capsule
When this was first aired, we were all blown away. Nobody thought news could be so slick and sexy. Prannoy Roy became a superstar overnight. If you missed this, then you felt as if you had missed the entire news of the week. But if that was cream, then the 24/7 news channels of India today are definitely highly diluted and adulterated milk.
Buniyaad: Saas Bahu ka baap
There was a time when Master Haveliram and Lajoji were the most watched admired couple in India. This epic, from the maker of Sholay, spanned decades and we didn’t feel like missing a single episode. The first serial for me that probably became a habit. (I always found India’s first soap Hum Log a tad slow)
Bharat Ek Khoj: India’s history channel
Even if you didn’t like Nehru, you couldn’t dislike Bharat Ek Khoj, based on the book The Discovery of India. This serial, which lasted roughly a year, took you through India from the Vedic period to Independence without sounding like a history lesson.
Karamchand: Desi Sherlock Holmes
We heard at that time that Pankaj Kapoor became the highest paid TV actor with this serial and he deserved every Rupee. Just like Hardy’s “Here’s another fine mess you’ve got me into”, the eccentric Karamchand’s “Shut up Kitty” became a national rage.
Byomkesh Bakshi: Classy and gripping
I had never heard of Byomkesh Bakshi or Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay in my whole life but when I saw this Bengali detective serial, my first thoughts were, “It’s right up there with Sherlock Holmes.” Sterling performances by Rajit Kapur and KK Raina.
Quiz Time: The battle of the brains
For me Siddhartha Basu’s university quiz is still the gold standard for quizzing in India and he’s still the ultimate quizmaster. The suspense and drama beat KBC, Dus Ka Dum and Bournvita Quiz Contest all put together.
Mr Yogi: The original What’s your Raashee?
By 1989 standards, this was quite an exotic concept and Mohan Gokhale seemed like an exotic actor too. This was a fresh serial and Om Puri as the sutradhar excelled. Our bumbling NRI and his 12 heroines enthralled us.
Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi: The original laugh riot
Shafi Inamdar, Swaroop Sampat, Rakesh Bedi and Satish Shah were the perfect cast. The script was perfect. The comedy was perfect. Indian TV is yet to better this serial. We looked forward to what avatar Satish Shah would come up with in every episode.
Chanakya: Vedic magic
While we had heard so much about Chanakya and his Arthashastra, to see it come out on the small screen was really different thing altogether. The atmosphere transported us straight back to the Vedic era. Dr Chandraprakash Dwivedi was Chanakya incarnate.
…and 4 “imported” ones…
Secrets of the Sea: The precursor to National Geographic
Jacques-Yves Cousteau has no idea how many millions of Indians he introduced to the wonderful world of televised nature. In an era starved of good educational and enlightening multimedia this was an hour of pure bliss.
Oshin: The most famous Japanese girl of that era
The dedication and toil of this 7-year-old girl bowled all of us over. We cried with her and rejoiced with her. We grew up with her.
Jungle Book: Chaddi pahan ke phool khila hain…
The cartoon was good, the story was good, Nana Patekar’s voice as Shere Khan was good… but the only thing that sticks is the title song penned by Gulzar.
Talespin & Duck Tales: High octane adventures
Kids of today who have 24 hours access to multiple cartoon channels will never understand the weekly anticipation for these two serials. Disney’s wonders travelled all over the world in these adventures… and we travelled with them.
And to think all that on a Black & White TV!
© Sunil Rajguru