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Monday, December 31, 2007

Buniyaad - Nostalgia times

After 'Hum Log' sort of opened the era of long-running serials on Indian television, making Doordarshan much more entertaining, it was the turn of another long running serial to try and captivate users. Buniyaad, from the Sippy house, was the next major running serial to capture viewers on Doordarshan. The serial started in 1987 and ran through 1988. The serial, however, will not ring in memories for a large number of TV viewers of today, given that it first appeared more than 19 years back.
The serial was directed by Ramesh Sippy, and was written by Manohar Shyam Joshi, and let to him becoming much more popular (he was already popular through being the writer of the serial Hum Log as well). The serial had the presence of Dadamoni Ashok Kumar who anchored the show without actually playing a part in the serial. The serial starred a number of characters who became very popular:

Alok Nath - Master Haveliram: The simple and unassuming teacher, he formed the backbone of the serial
Anita Kanwar - Lajoji: The simple wife of Master Haveliram, she was his student, but soon they realized that they shared a strong bond
Dalip Tahil - Master Haveliram's elder son: Dalip Tahil has probably had the biggest movie career out of the entire cast of the serial
Soni Rajdan - Sulochana: Master Haveliram's elder daughter-in-law
Kiran Juneja - Veeravali: Haveliram's sister. Kiran Juneja became very famous after the serial. As a side note, she also married the director Ramesh Sippy.
Vijayendra Ghatge - Vrushbhan: Veeravali's love interest
Kanwaljit Singh - Satbir: Vrushbhan's illegitimate son. Kanwaljit went onto act in many other hindi serials such as Saans, Family No. 1, Dard and Siski
Abhinav Chaturvedi - Jay: Vrushbhan's legitimate son
Krutika Desai - Mangla: Jay's wife and love interest of Satbir. This was a nice challenging role for her in terms of maintaining her relationship with her husband Jay, as well as maintaining a friendship with Satbir.

Buniyaad has a special attraction for the older generation because of the capturing of a number of emotions related to partition. The serial is based around the family of Master Haveliram (a dedicated teacher) and his wife Lajoji. They have a beautiful family with 3 sons and a daughter, and when everything seems great, the disaster of partition strikes.
They are now refugees in India, having lost all their material possessions, and have to make a life for themselves now. The serial is about this life, about the refugee camp and the rise in life while trying to maintain their principles in life.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Nach Baliye 3 winner declared

And the winners are the couple of Sanjeeda Sheikh - Aamir Ali on the final held on December 22, 2007. The winning couple defeated the pair of Rakhi Sawant - Abhishek Awasthi in the final. The final is now bathed in controversy, with the losing pair of Rakhi and Abhishel having filed a police case against the channel (Star Plus) accusing the channel and the winning pair of fraud, of manipulating results and of depriving Rakhee and Abhishek of a win. One could have expected something like this to happen; for example when I told a couple of people about this police case, they were not totally surprised and expected Rakhi to be a sore loser. In fact, later I read that Salman Khan (who was the star judge for the final), had told Rakhee to go back on stage to get her trophy, but she refused to listen. If this lady continues to behave like this, her career could get severely impacted.
Overall, the performance of the dance show was good. You could see people striving to improve their chances, with the judges not being lenient, and pointing out bad performances when they saw one. The judges were Isha Koppikar, David Dhawan and Vaibhavi Merchant. David Dhawan seemed the most lenient one, as you could see by the facial reactions of both Vaibhavi and Isha when they were not satisfied with the performances at times. The show was hosted by Hussain Kuwajerwala and Tina.
So how did the participants fare overall in terms of where they reached ?

Sweta Keswani - Alexx O' Neil (Eliminated on November 17th)
Karan Patel - Amita Chandekar (Eliminated on December 15th with Jodi No. 8)
Rakhi Sawant - Abhishek Awasthi ( Runners Up )
Shakti Kapoor - Shivangi Kapoor (Quit on October 6th)
Amita Sethi - Vikas Sethi (Eliminated on October 13th)
Karan Grover - Kavita Kaushik (Eliminated on October 20th)
Sanjeeda Sheikh - Aamir Ali( Winners)
Kashmira Shah - Krishna Abishek (Eliminated on December 15th with Jodi No. 2, Second Runners Up)
Kiran Janjani - Ritu Janjani(Eliminated on September 28th)
Pooja Bedi - Hanif Hilal (Eliminated on October 27th)
Indraneil Sengupta- Barkha Bisht (Wildcard Jodi) (November 23rd) (Eliminated on December 2nd)

Some videos:

Making fun of the judges


Youtube videos

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Jhalak Dikhla Jaa 2 winner: Prachi Desai

So finally the results of Jhakal Dikhhla Ja 2 on Sony are out and Prachi Desai (along with choreographer Deepak Singh) are the winners. After a long contest starting on September 28, 2007, the final episode was held on December 15th and Prachi Desai (Bani of Kasam Se on Zee) won after a stunning comeback. She had been voted out on the 10th of November in a surprise, but even more surprising, was voted back in through a wild card entry on the 23rd of November (fairly controversial, but hey, the channel makes the rules). She was the favorite of some of the judges, and there is speculation that this comeback was done by the channel in order to get a favorite back.
The show was hosted by Mona Singh (winner of Jhalak Dikhla Jaa Part1) and Rohit Roy, and had a total of 12 participants (celebrities coached by some hard working choreographers). The judges were Urmila Matondkar, Shiamak Davar and Jeetendra. The participants were:
1. Sudha Chandran - Choreographer - Uma Shankar (Eliminated in Round 6 - Nov 3, 2007)
2. Prachi Desai - Choreographer - Deepak Singh (Eliminated in Round 7 - Nov 10, 2007) - Then back through a wild card and won on December 15th 2007
3. Sandhya Mridul -Choreographer - Javed Sanadi (losing finalist)
4. Sonali Kulkarni - Choreographer - Toby (Eliminated in Round 10 - Dec 1, 2007)
5. Tapur Chatterjee - Choreographer - Feroz (Eliminated in Round 3 - Oct 13, 2007)
6. Mir Ranjan Negi - Choreographer - Marisha(Eliminated in Round 11 - Dec 8, 2007) - He had a great performance, but it was marred in the end by his griping about the biases of the judges
7. Aadesh Srivastav - Choreographer - Tina (Eliminated in Round 2 - Oct 6, 2007) - He cribbed like anything about being eliminated
8. Mini Mathur - Choreographer - Hemu (Eliminated in Round 4 - Oct 20, 2007)
9. Cyrus Broacha - Choreographer - Rozita Rajput (Eliminated in Round 5 - Oct 27, 2007): Cyrus was the joker of the batch and made everyone laugh, including in the finals when he came on to do a bit of comedy and also the hosting
10. Ronit Roy - Choreographer - Nicole Alvaris (Eliminated in Round 9 - Nov 24, 2007)
11. Jay Bhanushali - Choreographer - Bindi Khare (Losing finalist)
12. Mika Singh - Choreographer - Tanushree (Eliminated in Round 8 - Nov 16, 2007): He has an ego as big as a truck, with the constant claim that it was his large number of fans who would do anything for him

Some videos from the final event:

If you want to have more videos of Jhalak Dikhlaja, then use these links:

Youtube, India Forums

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dharti Ka Veer Yodha Prithviraj Chauhan on Star Plus

Prithviraj Chauhan is a well remembered figure in Indian history. The most common stories around his revolve around these concepts:
- He was most likely the last Hindu king of Delhi, and after him, the Sultans took over
- He married a princess called Sanyogita, who was the daughter of his arch rival. He was not allowed to come to her swayamvar, and in fact, his statue was placed outside the hall. She garlanded the statue and he came and whisked her away in front of her father
- He defeated the invader, Mohammed of Ghori, and let him go; but in the next battle, he was defeated and taken prisoner. He finally killed Mohammed in captivity, when even though blind, he was able to locate the sound of Mohammed and shoot with an arrow
You can read more about Prithviraj Chauhan at this Wikipedia entry.

Dharti Ka Veer Yodha Prithviraj Chauhan on Star Plus

And now this epic take is available in a pretty good serial that appears on Star Plus on the weekends (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) at 9:00 PM - 10:00 PM. It is made by Sagar Arts who are also the creator of older serials such as Ramayana, and have a lot of experience in making historical serials.
The serial is right now in the age of the young Prithviraj Chauhan, being played by a teenager called Rajat Tokas (a resident of Delhi who is all of 13 years old). The role of Sanyogita is played by Mughda. As the character of Prithviraj Chauhan grows older, the role will be played by Angad Bedi, the son of cricket legend Bishen Singh Bedi.
The costumes of this serial have been developed with a lot of hard work done by Nisha Sagar and Neerushaa, both of whom spent months doing research, visiting places associated with Prithviraj Chauhan and reading books on the era.
Eventually, the show the show will trace the life of Prithviraj Chauhan from birth till death, highlighting all aspects of him and his life - bravery, duty, patriotism and love. This will be presented in a lot of detail as the serial promises to be one of the most expensive serials in Indian television history.

More updates of the serial can be found in these locations: India-forums, Apnicommunity, Song

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Banoo Main Teri Dulhan: Meandering

Banoo Main Teri Dulhan has caught a fair amount of user attention, getting some publicity to its lead actors: Divyanka Tripathi (Vidya) and Sharad Malhotra (Sagar) have gained a fair amount of name and fame. In addition, the character of Sindoora (Kamya Punjabi) is the most hated character of the serial; this should make Kamya happy since it is a well know character now, and she will also be more famous because of this.
The serial started on 14th August in 2006, so it has now done more than 1 year and 4 months of run-time, and seems to have taken over the 8 PM weekday slot on Zee TV. Like most other serials that feature conflicts within families, most of the story that it shows does not normally happen in real life. So for example, you have the heroine getting married to a boy who is mentally very small; she is shocked when she gets to know this, but resolves to do what she can (as expected from a Hindi serial heroine).
She is hated by the 3 sisters of the hero, known as Sindoora, Mahua and Chandra.
Over a period of time, she is able to start converting family members to her side inspite of all the machinations of the evil Sindoora who does what she can to make Vidya's life miserable. Sindoora has also no regard for her own husband, or for her own brother Sagar; all she wants to do is to get rid of Vidya in her way.
Right now, there is an additional story playing of 2 people with the same face, in whom the 2 sisters, Mahua and Chandra are interested. Vidya and Sagar (who is now healed, and is starting to warm towards Vidya) play a role in resolving this issue, with Mahua starting to warm towards Vidya.
But Sindoora still hates Vidya like anything, and the serial makers can drag the serial for as long as they want by showing her up to some new tricks.
If you want to get lots of news, videos and updates for this serial, refer to these links: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3, Link 4, YouTube videos

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Doordarshan Nostalgia: Mythology - Ramayana

The Ramayana is the most popular and holy epics in Hinduism, the story of the God who came to Earth and lived among humans in the form of a human, and who is now worshiped as epitomizing the ideals of the ideal man, in thought and action. In the 80's, as society developed, people were slowly moving away from religion and faith. TV was developing as a new media that would provide information and entertainment. And then came the serial written and directed by Ramanand Sagar called 'Ramayan' (with 78 episodes).

Mythology - Ramayana

The serial took the epic and presented in a dramatized form. It started coming on Doordarshan Sunday Morning at 9:30 AM from January 1987 to July End 1988. India had never seen something like this serial. It ignited the religious thought in people like nothing that had been seen. Television in India was not so common then, and yet, people found a set somewhere to watch. If a neighbour had a TV, you would go there to watch, or go over to a relative's place. In smaller towns or villages, a single set would have a large number of people watching the single set.
The effect was apparent. Roads would be empty when the serial came, and woe betide a electricity board office if the light would go off; people would gather and raise slogans and threaten. At one time, it set a record for the world's most watched mythological serial. In addition, it opened the floodgates for more mythological and historical serials after that.
The serial took the whole story of the Ramayana from before the birth of the God Rama and all the way till the story of how he re-discovered his sons, Luv and Kush when they had grown up to be child warriors. This was covered through an extension of the serial called 'Uttar Ramayan', created on public demand. The serial brought about a much greater understanding of the epic in a way that no amount of reading would have brought about, and also served to highlight the values and culture embedded in the epic.
The serial also made celebrities of the main actors, who were revered as godly figures (except for Dara Singh (played the role of Hanuman) who was already famous)
* Arun Govil as Ram
* Deepika as Sita
* Sunil Lahri as Lakshman
* Arvind Trivedi as Ravan
* Vijay Arora as Indrajit
* Sameer Rajda as Shatrughna
* Mulraj Rajda as Janak
* Lalita Pawar as Manthara

Watch Videos from Ramayan on Youtube

Nostalgia: Hum Paanch

It has been said again and again that serials that have run well once before do not so well in their second innings. Many times, a serial has been very well-received earlier, and then years later, the serial makers come out with a desire to run the serial again, hoping that it will reach the same level of popularity. That is an event that does not happen, in almost all cases, the serial being introduced again does not work that well, and gets eventually withdrawn. Example of such serials are Karamchand, Hum Paanch, and a few others. There are many reasons for this, such as the choice set being limited when the serial first started appearing, but now choices are much greater. Further, why a serial becomes a hit is not exactly a well-defined science, and just because it was a hit earlier does not mean that the serial will still be a hit.
Hum Paanch started appearing on Zee TV in 1995 and ran for a couple of years, and was well appreciated. The story of a father with 5 daughters, each of them a specimen of a different kind, would make for each episode to have a new story. And to make things even more interesting, there is the photograph of the dead first wife hanging on the wall that speaks to him and only to him. No else knows about the conversation that he has with the photograph, although his second wife is very suspicious. Although the serial was a different sort of comedy, it could produce a lot of laughs when dealing with the normal travails of a middle-class family. The serial was one of the first made by the Ekta Kapoor-run Balaji Telefilms before it started specializing in saas-bahu serials.
Who were the principal characters ? Ashok Saraf plays the role of the struggling father Anand Mathur, who has a mind of his own, but it does not work much when against his daughters intentions. Priya Tendulkar played the role of his dead first wife who only speaks through her photograph. His daughters are:
- Meenakshi: The eldest, played by Vandana Pathak. She plays the role of a feminist and presents that outlook in her actions and statements.
- Radhika: The second eldest, Radhika was played by multiple people including Vidya Balan for a short while, Amita Nangia played the main part of the role.
- Sweety: The third daughter, Sweety was fascinated by Bollywood heroes and dreamed all the time about marrying them. Sweety was played by Rakhee Tandon.
- Kajal: The second youngest, she was the only who was the closest to a son. Playing a tomboy and speaking all the time about bhai-log, her presence on the serial made a huge difference. Her role was played by Bhairavi Raichura. If you needed to threaten or bully someone, then she would be the one to do so.
- Chhoti: The youngest. She would love to gossip and the role was played by Priyanka Mehra.
The role of the second wife, Bina Mathur was played by Shoma Anand; she would always side with her daughters even when Anand Mathur was fed up with something done by his daughters.
The serial was re-introduced in 2005 and was finally taken off in 2006. It never did catch on much in the second run.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tripti goes from Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi

For so many years of the serial, Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Tripti (Suvarna Jha) played the role of a bitter woman and then a bitter wife. A long time back, she swayed the vacillating and weak Sahil Virani into leaving his great wife Damini. Even though Damini Khanna / Virani was a devoted wife, Sahil started moving towards Tripti (who was also interested in moving to become a Virani). So, in the previous time installment of the serial (about 2 decades back), Sahil divorced Damini and married Tripti (shocking everybody in the house, but they had to accept Tripti since Sahil is the son of the house).
Over the period of the marriage, Tripti was bitter about Sahil's lack of success as compared to the stupendous success of Karan. She tried to goad Sahil to be more ambitious, but was mostly bitter. And then when Sahil met Damini again, Tripti was jealous and unsure of Sahi's intentions.
But all this pales into insignificance compared to what would happen next. Obviously, there was a need to evict Tripti from the serial, so suddenly she was shown to have a previous husband called Rishabh Malhotra; and in an increase of her bitterness, she also deviously managed to get all the property and assets signed over to her; and then she started showing her true colors. She started dictated all the things happening in the house, and behaving like an absolute horror. Part of this included taunting everybody in the house.
And then things moved fast again. A person is shown with a knife and who is moving around stealthily, and then Tripti is attacked. Even while she is recovering, she is pushed down the stairs and dies. And she leaves a statement written in blood that a Virani is responsible for her death. WHo is it ?

If you want to read regular updates and other gossip, then refer to this link.
Watch videos of Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Amber Dhara: The story of conjoined twins

This, hopefully, is a serial with a difference. For some time now, Sony has been advertising its serial about 2 twins, and as time for the serial launch came closer, details became clearer. People joined together are called 'Siamese twins', and have a difference in their lifestyle as compared to other people. Many people see such people as oddities, and hence this serial is a good attempt to try and portray them in a more realistic and detailed way; as well as some of the problems that they face.

Amber Dhara Serial

The only hope that I have is that, in an attempt to generate more TRP's and popularity, the makers of the serial should not insert unnecessary drama and situations in their life. Already one can see such things starting to happen; after all, just because they are conjoined twins, it does not mean that they would end up in a circus; further, there is no necessity that there needs to be a strong villain like character in the serial. It is only in TV and movies are there people who are evil, in real life, most people have shades of grey and even bad people have their own sympathetic nature.
The serial started on 24th September 2007 on Sony, and shows up at 9 PM. The basic story of the serial is: The sisters share the vital organ liver and are conjoined at the hip. 20% of the liver is a part of Amber's body and the remaining 80%, a part of Dhara's body which rules out the possibility of a surgery being carried out to separate the twins without any fatality being involved in the process. The surgeon, who the twin's mother Lata consulted, acerted that if the surgery will be carried out, Amber will die. Hence, no surgery, and both the sisters remain joined, and their father left them because he did not want the responsibility of bringing up conjoined twins.
The serial gives the title roles to 2 young debuting actresses, Kashmira Irani, from Pune being Amber, and Shaguna Panigrahi, from Delhi playing the role of Dhara. These 2 youngsters had to spend a lot of time practising in order to get the concept of conjoined twins becoming real, after all, it is not easy to play a role in which you have to pretend to being joined together with another person. For example, both of them are right handers, but Dhara had to practise the role of being a left hander.
Both of them are different and unique personalities. Amber is an extrovert, friendly and ambitious, while Dhara is protective about Amber and loves her family a lot. Amber is quick in reacting, Dhara is much of a thinker and a planner. And Dhara is very intelligent.
Some of the other characters in the serial are essayed by Mona Ambegaonkar who plays the mother (Lata Shukla), Kanwarjit Paintal plays the grandfather, (Mahendra Pratap Dixit), and Shweta Gulati plays a negative role (Sonya Jaiswal). And now Milind Soman is now in the serial, playing the role of an angel.
The official website is at this URL.
Videos of Amber Dhara can be found at YouTube.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Doordarshan Nostalgia: Epic Serial - Mahabharat

After the success of Ramanand Sagar's Ramayana, it was the turn of the other great epic of India, The Mahabharat to be brought to television viewers. The series was produced by B.R.Chopra and directed by his son, Ravi Chopra. It was a spectacular success, maybe the most popular serial ever in terms of dedicated viewing. The serial had 94 episodes and ran for a length of 45 minutes for each episode, appearing on Doordarshan between 1988 and 1990. For people who know the Mahabharat as a great epic that also incorporates the Gita, the spiritual guide to all Hindus, it was as if the epic had come to life.
For many, the Mahabharat was a story that was not supposed to be kept in the house, and a story that they could relate to only with context to having read in their childhood as an 'Amar Chitra Katha' comic. Seeing it in life and blood, with real life characters was an incredible experience, and kept the immense crowds watching the serial. If you did not have a TV, then you would go to the neighbor's house to watch the serial. If you wandered out, the roads would have much less traffic than you would expect.
If you watch the serial now, having watched much more slick serials, you might think that the serial was a bit crude in terms of sound and shooting quality, but my recollection of the serial (including re-runs that happen from time to time) was that of a fast paced serial combining some good acting of these-larger-than-life characters with the weaknesses and human failings that they had. It was essentially a serial that conveyed a deep sense of what The Mahabharat was all about, the depth of human emotions such as loyalty, love, bonding, jealousy, hatred, envy, and bitterness.
Starting with the fore-fathers of the Pandavas and Kauravas and the twists and turns in their life, along with the life of that incredibly complex character known as Bheeshma; and the life and machinations of Krishna, the Supreme Being who knows what good and evil is all about, but prefers to let people do what they are doing rather than trying to make major changes, and the titanic clash between good and evil in the end that forces people to use loyalty rather than good vs evil; and one of the most doomed characters of the epic, Karna, who was steadfastly loyal out of gratitude even though he knew that he was going to be fighting against his kinsmen and against the good side; the serial presented all these in enough detail. There are few major acts of the epic that were missed out.
The serial made stars out of a number of people such as Harish Bhimani who essayed the voiceover of Samay (time), Mukesh Khanna as Bheeshma, Nitish Bharadwaj as Lord Krishna, Girja Shankar as Dhritrashtra, Puneet Issar as Duryodhana, Pankaj Dhir as Karna and Gufi Paintal as Shakuni. For more cast members, refer to this link.

Here are some video scenes from the Mahabharata serial:

Opening sequence of Mahabharat

All the major characters who are involved in the war

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The strange saga of Kahaani Ghar Ghar Kii

The strange saga of Kahani Ghar Ghar Kii continues. The serial originally had as a center-piece, the goings on in the life of a joint family, with the couple of Om and Parvati Agarwal (Kiran Karmakar and Sakshi Tanwar) respectively being the main driving force behind the family.
And then some time ago, mainly due to some misunderstanding / dispute between Kiran Karmakar and Balaji's producer Ekta Kapoor, the character of Om Agarwal had to die a sudden death in the floods in Gujarat (although this was a murder done by Trishna (Mita Vashisht) due to Om marrying her when he was already married). And then Parvati had to go through a period when she was framed for the murder, and vanishes for 18 years after staging a death in the jail. She then comes back in order to get revenge, and eventually gets revenge on Trishna by getting her to commit to doing the murder in front of the police and taken to jail.
But there was never any doubt that Om was dead; after all, it has been 19-20 years since he has been apparently dead, and there was a funeral organized for him with his own body. And now he is back in the serial when they suddenly see him in Varanasi along with a wife and children. The entire Agarwal family are amazed to see him in the role of Rishab and he does not acknowledge any traces of familiarity. Current speculation is that either he had a memory lapse and built up a new family, or that his current wife is forcing him to play that role for some specific reason.
Of course, it is quite clear that Kiran Karmakar has made his peace with Ekta Kapoor, and hence is back into this prime-time (10 PM) never ending serial. As an aside, if he is indeed Om, then why is Trishna in jail ?

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What's happening in Saloni Ka Safar

For the first time for a long time in Hindi Serials, I am at a loss to figure out what is happening on the Zee prime-time serial, Saat Phere - Saloni Ka Safar. At a time when Saloni has got pregnant, she suddenly starts feeling dizzy and faint.
And then the unthinkable happens. With a promise about her musical career, Saloni, whose life is all about her husband and relatives, starts misbehaving with all of them, to the extent that she speaks to her mother-in-law badly, does not attend Poojas at home, and horrors of horrors, tell Nahar as to whether they can postpone having the baby (imagine Saloni saying that she would go in for an abortion now !!). Nahar is positively disgusted with her behavior, and Saloni also starts belittling the young girl given shelter by Nahar, reminding her about her low status (something that you would not expect from Saloni).
And you always keep on wondering about how these people can never learn; all of them know that Kaveri can never reform herself, and yet they keep on overlooking all her issues. So, after getting to know that Kaveri had taken somebody else's baby and claimed it as her own, they kicked her out, and then got her back after Saloni pretty much convinced them; and now Kaveri will again try and do some mischief against Saloni.
Back to Saloni's behavior, it might be that she has been told that she is affected by a terminal disease, and that is why she is attempting to push Nahar away from her and towards that young woman. One can never understand what the motive is for characters inside Hindi serials.

Doordarshan Nostalgia: Nukkad: Streetlife

There are times when you get reminded of serials that one watched a long time ago, at a time when Doordarshan was the only channel in town and the only entertainment that you got on TV were the serials and Chitrahaar that Doordarshan would dish out.
One such very popular serial of the Doordarshan time was called 'Nukkad'. What does Nukkad mean ? It literally means the neighborhood, and was all about the characters who would live in the neighborhood or a locality (in the case of the serial, it was a locality of people that were not well-off by any means, in fact, they were poor). 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.
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 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.
So you had stories related to their everyday life and interactions, and you had stories about their attempts to do something like when Hari attempts to set a world record for the longest continuous time cycling and fails when very close, and another time when they play a cricket match and win with a shot from the most unlikely of sources.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Sa Re Ga Ma Pa finale

The finale of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa on the 13th of October, a Saturday was relatively star-less. It had just Akshay Kumar and Vidya Balan as the stars, which seems somewhat less for the finals of a major reality show. However, the show, staged live, was held in a massive location with a large crowd.
Overall, I found the show to be somewhat disappointing, it seemed to follow a set pattern, with the organizer of the show having decided that the time of the event needed to be filled in. I found only 3 things of interest in the whole show, whereby Akshay Kumar sang a song live, the show got 10 crore votes overall, and they got Maulie Dave in to sing a song.
The show started with some commentaries from the family members of the 3 finalists, Amaanat Ali, Aneek Dhar and Raja Hasan. All 3 deserve to be there, with some great overall quality of singing. In many cases, with proper orchestra and the sound room support, these folks can start singing for movies. And they waited for Akshay to arrive, since he was delayed. They had the gurus coming in style, and showcasing the progress of people in the various teams under the gurus.
So the show moved on and on, and these 3 finalists got to sing more songs wearing all manner of costumes. But eventually, they announced the results, with Amaanat coming 3rd, and then after some more song and dance, having Aneek declared as the winner. And that was it. I liked the series in terms of the quality of singing, and the encouragement offered by the gurus, with Himesh being the master at screaming and otherwise making his presence felt.

Some videos from the event:

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Update 28 and 29 September: Sa Re Ga Ma Pa

The programme is now reaching the final stages. There were 4 contestants left before this week's episode, Amaanat, Anik Dhar, Poonam Yadav and Raja Hasan. In Friday's episode, another contender was to be evicted by the public voting. It would be even more painful for the contestants since they have come so far and it would be hard to go now, so close to the end. This time the voting was to have international votes as well, and the voting was actually best for the serial, since there were a total of more than 54,00,000 votes sent via SMS, and since the vote costs a person at least Rs. 6, the channel made a huge amount of money. However, after all the voting and singing, the person to lose was Poonam. This was sort of expected since the voting for the girls had been lesser than that for the boys, and with Sumeidha getting out last week, the path for Poonam was clear. It was disappointing to see her go, but this is a competition based on audience voting, and such things are bound to happen that you don't like. It was good to see such eminent talents such as Pandit Jasraj and Jagjit Singh being the celebrity judges.
The other thing that we have been seeing nowadays is that movies about to release jump on the bandwagon of these reality shows, and this episode was no different. This time it was the Shahrukh Khan production, Om Shanti Om, that was the combination. So you had Farah Khan, Deepika Padukone (looking radiant) and Shreyas. Obviously, Shahrukh Khan would have been too big a personality to get on the show (although he did spend time with the contestants off-stage). The movie and then Shahrukh was the center of attention, with the songs of the film (and some were pretty good) song pretty nicely by the contestants. The other attraction for the singers (all male) was the inducement of singing the songs to Deepika Padukone and maybe getting her to dance with the singer. They were all a-blush over being so close to her. In addition, Vishal-Shekhar were the music composers for the movie.
It was a bit disappointing for people who wanted to know what the movie was about, since when Farah Khan was asked about the movie, she said that you should watch it for seeing Shahrukh, Deepika, Shreyas and the songs. This was so strange, because the movie should have something on its own, and you are not expected to watch it only for the stars.
And then the singers got a chance to meet Shahrukh 1:1 at another location where selected songs for them to sing, all from his movies. However, one thing that struck me was how well they seemed to sing. Another observation from Farah Khan was about how this was the only program where the judges did very little fighting with each other.

Shahrukh Choice - Amaanat

Shahrukh Choice - Aneek Dhar

Shahrukh Choice - Raja Hasan

Amaanat singing Ajab Si from Om Shanti Om

Raja Hasan singing classical - Dil ye pagal dil mera

Pandit Jasraj in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa

Poonam Yadav's last performance in Sa Re Ga Ma Pa

Amaanat Ali singing a ghazal

Dastaan-e-om Shanti Om - Shaan full song

Ajab Si - Om Shanti Om Audio

Om Shanti Om Main Agar Kahoon

Friday, September 28, 2007

Doordarshan Nostalgia: The cultural show - Surabhi

This is more like nostalgia for people of my generation, given that a number of today's youngsters would not remember this excellent cultural program called Surabhi; but it was more than just a simple cultural program. The serial attempted to show us the diversity across the length and breadth of this country; it is almost a guarantee that in each episode we would discover something new.
The serial ran for a very long time and had a total of approx 415 episodes making this a very long-running serial indeed. Imagine learning about the martial art of Kerala called 'KALARIPAYATTU', or learning about the art and culture of a city in Tamil Nadu or Rajasthan. The serial was hosted by the popular duo of Siddharth Kak and Renuka Shahne. It was a popular combination, with the slightly more serious Kak and the ever-smiling Renuka. One of the hottest point about the serial was the involvement of the audience, with audiences being asked a question at the end of an episode, and the involvement grew and grew till they had to handle a huge number of postcards (I believe that they had a record of 10 lakh postcards for one episode).
If you want to know more about the contents of each episode of the serial, there is a whole list available at this link. In addition, you can download clips of videos at the Rajshri Site (after some ads), or purchase the entire episode at this link.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Jhalak Dikhla Jaa on Sony

The second version of this dance contest is here. But this was to be expected, since Nach Baliye started on Star Plus, Sony had to come out with its own competitive program, and voila, the second version of Jhalak Dikhla Jaa was born. The serial differs from Nach Baliye in that Nach Baliye takes a star couple and gets them to dance, while Jhalak Dikhla Jaa pairs a celebrity with a dancer, in the hope that with practise, the celebrity will improve. So, for example, in a previous version, the master chef Sanjeev Kapoor appeared and tried his best to perform.
The judges for the earlier version have all changes, so now Urmila Matondkar, Shiamak Davar and Jeetendra replace the judges of the previous version, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Farah Khan and Shilpa Shetty. Similarly, the show was hosted last by the husband-wife duo of Archana Puran Singh and Parmeet Sethi was planned to be hosted this year by Shweta Salve and Rohit Roy, and then Shweta Salve was replaced by Mona Singh.
The twelve participants in the second season are Ronit Roy, Cyrus Broacha, Sonali Kulkarni, Prachi Desai (Bani), Mika, Mir Ranjan Negi, Sandhya Mridul, Sudha Chandran, Aadesh Srivastav, Mini Mathur, Jay Bhanushali and Tapur Chatterjee.
The show will start on September 28th, and will appear on 9 PM on Sony on every Friday and Saturday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Kasturi: A women-oriented show on Star Plus

Kasturi is a relatively new show on Star Plus at the prime time 9:30 PM slot on weekdays. Star Plus has introduced its new primetime offering daily soap, 'Kasturi' – Laakhon Jaisi Par Laakhon Mein Ek from April 23, 2007. Given that the serial starts with 'K', has ladies dressed with a lot of make-up and jewelery and there is a lot of heavy emphasis on drama, family values and malice, it would seem obvious that it is a Balaji Telefilms serial, and bingo, it is.
It primarily stars Shubhangi Atre, who hails from Indore, and had auditioned for Kasturi in the past and is now playing central character in Kasturi. The serial is the story of the middle class girl named Kasturi and her struggle to protect her family’s legacy as well as the story of her dreams and aspirations which are so closely intertwined with her family. The ambience is pure Delhi- as Kasturi’s Dad has a Saree Shop in Chandni Chowk. Kasturi is born in a middle class Punjabi family. She is bright and intelligent and loves everyday simple things. Kasturi is humble and polite but innately very strong- who’s fighting to forge her own identity. Kasturi graduates with top honours from the University. Kasturi’s father who was earlier not opposed to her carrying on with her education, suddenly changes his mind- as he is afflicted by Engina. From this juncture starts the real struggle- The family wants her to marry but Kasturi wants to do something in her life. Unknown to the family Kasturi begins to work at a firm.
From here the trials and tribulations, the vicissitudes of life begin to emerge through which Kasturi forges her identity. There is a lot of drama at this point, and a lot of trials and tribulations that she goes through at the hands of Robbie Sabharwal (Karan Patel), who is a famous rock singer and thinks he is the best. In fact, he is the best and is also arrogant. He always likes to be in the company of people. She is framed in a morally compromising position at one point of time, and her detractors including some evil family members blame her for letting down the family name. At this point, Robbie's fast friend Raunak marries her.
And so on, with Raunak being implicated in a murder, and then Kasturi saving him by presenting the victim in court, and then believing that Robbie is behind all this. And so the story will keep on moving on, with things happening like this.

These are the songs played in the serial.

Mitwa from Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna

Yeh Honsla from Dor

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Nach Baliye 3: A new season

The 3rd episode of this popular dance show is on the air now. It now appears on Star Plus with Friday and Saturday 8 PM (twice a week). The show format is that it takes 10 couples and takes them through a dance competition where they get weeded out by public participation and are reviewed by judges every day. All of them get a choreographer to guide them through the steps and dance sessions (and the rehearsals can get quite tiring); so in many ways the win is also that of the choreographer.
Judges will be Vaibhavi Merchant (who is a famous choreographer), Isha Koppikar (a film actress and who can be quite a tough judge), and David Dhawan (the famous film director who has made a number of comedies, with Partner being his most recent one). The aim of the dance competition is to judge which couple dances the best as a couple, to the required fluidity and most naturally, all of which takes hard work. Hosts for Nach Baliye 3 are Hussain Kuwajarwala and his wife Tina(winners of nach baliye2).

The couples who are taking part in Nach Baliye 3 are:
* Jodi No. 01: Sweta Keswani and Alexx O'Neil
* Jodi No. 02: Amita and Karan Patel
* Jodi No. 03: Rakhi Sawant and Abhishek Awasthi
* Jodi No. 04: Shivangi Kapoor and Shakti Kapoor
* Jodi No. 05: Amita Sethi and Vikas Sethi
* Jodi No. 06: Kavita Kaushik and Karan Grover
* Jodi No. 07: Sanjeeda Sheikh and Aamir Ali
* Jodi No. 08: Kashmeera and Krushna
* Jodi No. 09: Ritu Janjani and Kiran Janjani
* Jodi No. 10: Pooja Bedi and Hanif Hilal

If you want to know more about these couples, then refer to these links (Rediff, Link 2, Wikipedia (full details about all 3 seasons),

Videos of Nach Baliye 3 are available at YouTube

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Finale to Indian Idol 3

So, it's the last steps to the finale episode of Indian Idol 3, where you can find out who the winner is, who the person is who is going to make all the money and contracts awarded for the winner. It's been a tough contest, and has involved a fair amount of tension, and open fighting. We have seen judges bickering over the points awarded to a contestant, and we have seen judges being very biting and unpleasant towards contestants. However, once the contestants agreed to be part of the contest, it is normal for them to expect such treatment.
The episode to watch for is the episode that will appear on the 23rd of September, 2007 on Sony TV at 9 PM. And who are the contestants to make it to the finale ? These are 2 contestants from the eastern part of the country, with Amit Paul from Shillong (in Meghalaya) and Prashant Tamang (from Darjeeling in West Bengal). As one might expect, the involvement level of people if contestants are from a smaller state is much greater, and you have the effect of these 2 being heroes when they visit their hometowns. Even local politicians (and apparently even militant organizations) have asked people to vote for them.
It must have been very painful for the last eliminated competitors, Emon Chatterjee, Ankita Mishra, Meiyang Chang, etc. However, it is creditable for them to have reached this point, and to have been singing in front of such critical judges every week is a great thing. And who are the judges for this competition ? Well, you have the abrasive Anu Malik, Alisha Chinai (forever fighting with Anu), Javed Akhtar (one wonders as to what he is doing in a music competition show), Udit Narayan, Sonu Nigam and Farah Khan. Anu Malik is one of the most hard and harsh judges, but his performance must be well-likes since he has been there since the first Indian Idol.
And of course, you have had a whole list of celebrity judges appearing (one wonders how good they are at evaluating music), notably John Abraham, Adnan Sami, Kailash Kher, Anil Kapoor, Ajay Jadeja, Ganesh Hegde, Ila Arun, Ritesh Deshmukh, Govinda, Shabana Azmi, Zayed Khan.

For a site with clips, click on this link.
Another site with clips.
Directly watch Amit Paul's videos on Youtube, Prashant on YouTube.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Latest developments on 'Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki'

This is one of the long running serials on Star Plus, being a Balaji (Ekta Kapoor) Telefilms creation and happening at the prime time of 10 PM on weekdays. This serial captures the usual incredible happenings in a large joint family, with good people suddenly turning bad, with a new wife suddenly appearing, with a son going ballistic when he learns that his mother is not actually his real mother, and so on.
In the ongoing episodes of the serial, the serial moves from the point where Parvati managed to get rid of all the bad elements in the family and got Trishna arrested for murder and numerous other acts. And then a new problem where the good son Pranay suddenly got to know that he was swapped between the mothers at the time of birth (this swapping never made sense), and turns into an evil and malicious person. And this was the person whom Parvati had handed over Rs. 500 crores to get out of the hands of Trishna, and he is now the owner of this whole money.
And the level of his change in the serial is so much that he refuses to accept his wife Maithili, and instead starts living with Mallishka, somebody whom he had rejected in the past. So Maithili has to see her husband living with another women and be treated like dirt by them; in fact Mallishka treats her like a servant, but slowly Maithili starts turning the tables.
And then something happens that changes everybody's impression of Pranay; he rapes Maithili and then tortures her after that. When Parvati wants to get him prosecuted, as usual, many members of her family turn against her and then her evidence gets stolen. Also, in a slightly tacky way, Balaji has used this incident to try and get public involvement in the incident. It is a tricky area since India does not recognize marital rape as a crime (and the way it has been presented in this serial, with a lot of drama and not much debate or substance is not going to move the law in any way).
However, with members of her family for and against her, Parvati goes very quickly to the Supreme Court (after her case is rejected in the High Court) and there manages to get her daughter to see the right track, return the evidence and provide the information necessary to get Pranay convicted for rape and sentenced to 7 years. It is handled in a very tacky way, with very little debate about such a complicated issue, and most disappointing.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Drama in Saat Phere - Saloni Ka Safar

Well, it's that time again. The serial is made of a series of episodes, with each episode lasting a few weeks or months. So, the latest episode was regarding Piya, the sister of Nahar. Her husband was ill-treating her and not working, so she started working and when her brothers Brijesh and Nahar found out, they were very angry that she had not told them and had started to work. Anyhow, Saloni pacified them.
And then Mannu Bhabhi was presented with a handsome looking, affable young man Abeer she was told was her son. All her maternal instincts got activated and she was very protective towards him. Anyhow, when Piya and Abeer met, they were attracted towards each other, but Piya did not proceed since she was already married. Her husband though was very suspicious of her behavior and suspected her character. Then tragedy struck, she was raped and she could not even see who had done it. Everybody suspected her husband because of his previous behavior, with only Saloni being somewhat hesitant about believing this. Anyhow, after some chases, her husband dies and she eventually marries Abeer. Everybody is happy except for Saloni as she has come to know that it was Abeer who was the rapist. And since Saloni is the one who is the proponent of truth, she speaks out her mind, and turns everybody against her. Even her own parents refuse to support her since she is going against family traditions. Her brother-in-law Brijesh also goes against her (although it is revealed later that he was actually supporting her, and I never understood this turnaround). Eventually, with the help of her husband Nahar and with the aid of a modern technology (DNA testing of the rapist's child inside Piya and Abeer's hair), she is able to prove that Abeer is the rapist. And then suddenly everything comes together, and it is also revealed that Abeer is not even Mannu Bhabhi's son, just somebody her estranged husband paid money to come and impersonate her son. So, as usual, Saloni saves the day.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Doordarshan Nostalgia: Shanti (made a star of Mandira Bedi)

Nowadays Mandira Bedi is on a roll, having made a mark in the area of television commentary on cricket, something that no other lady in cricket has managed to do. You can imagine the reaction of cricket purists when they first saw Mandira on 'Extra Innings' wearing her noodle straps. There was an lot of hue and cry about trying to sex up the world of cricket commentary, but she managed to overcome the controversy and made her name. And now she is very much in demand, having posed for a series of very sexy photographs in the men's magazine 'Maxim' and also having acted in a Hindi movie called Shaadi Ka Laddoo (which was not so good though and sank without a trace).
What started her on this path to fame were 2 things - a supporting role in Shahrukh's movie 'Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge' and her role as the main heroine of the Hindi serial 'Shanti'. Shanti was an incredible episode in Doordarshan's history, a show set in the daytime to appeal to the stay-at-home women audience, and it was incredibly successful. Imagine a serial running every day on the weekdays, and managing to go for 804 episodes. I remember when Doordarshan started this show in the mid-nineties and I remember that the word was out that there was no limit on the number of episodes. The serial only finished when it seemed that the serial was dragging on and TRP's had gone down a lot (in fact, it seemed that Doordarshan actually put a stop to the show because of its low ratings).
The serial was about a strong career oriented women, in the world of show-biz and powerful movie moguls, it was a strong role for Mandira Bedi with her playing the role of an inspirational character, head strong woman, and was essentially the story of an illegitimate child who came back to take revenge and fight for both her and her mother's rights.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Dekh Bhai Dekh: A great comedy serial

Hindi comedy serials are a very rare set. If you neglect the current set of stand-up comedies such as Comedy Circus, Laughter Challenge, etc, then in the past, there have been very few, and specially ones that can make you laugh. There was for example, some serials such as Wagle Ki Duniya, Sarabhai vs. Saraibhai, Khichdi, Yeh Jo Hain Zindagi, etc. But excepting for some of these, in many cases the comedies have been flawed, and in most cases, the serial makers have not been able to find the exact combination that will have audiences in splits.
Currently, most of the serials are some sort of family dramas, with something or the other happening between relatives; and of course, many of them are very rich and not somebody we can connect with. It is then that I remember this serial called 'Dekh Bhai Dekh' that started appearing on DD Metro in 1993 (at that time, DD Metro had appeared as the alternative entertainment channel, as Doordarshan main used to be much more boring).
It had a set cast of characters, and was extremely entertaining, taking a joint family in their home, and their antics and activities. You watch their activities, and how their interactions generate comedy by itself, and how it all seems so natural. This was a production by Saraswati Production, a company owned by Jaya Bachchan.
The story is about a joint family with 3 generations staying in the same house. So you have the grandparents, with the grandmother (Sushma Seth) being the matriarch, being in control of everybody including her husband. She is a socialite, while her husband, even though hen-pecked, could not enjoy more than having fun with his grandchildren, and plays a person who is loving and nice to like.
And then the 2 sons of the house, with Baldev (Navin Nischol) being the elder son, the more serious of the two, and who watches everything that happens in the house, understanding and not getting angry and having a loving relationship with his wife, Suhasini (Farida Jalal) who runs a beauty parlour at home. The younger son, Sameer (Shekhar Suman) is the more dashing and flamboyant of the two, and runs his own business. He is married to Sonu (Bhavna Balsaver) who is a writer, very sweet and also very absent-minded, and slightly dumber than the others.
And then there are the kids - Sanju and Keethi are the teenaged children of Baldev and Suhasini, while Vishal and Pinky are the school-going children of Sameer and Sonu. Sanju by himself is able to generate a huge amount of laughter, with a hot-tempered girlfriend Shilpa (Urvashi Dholakia) who always doubts him and he is always trying to ensure that he remains in her good books. And then there was Liliput and the house servant, Deven Bhojwani

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Chanakya, a serial from the past

In the midst of so many serials about troubles within the family, about the serials that explore the relationship between a mother-in-law and daughter-in-law (saas bahu) and the constant problems between them, one sometimes get a wish (driven by nostalgia) for some of the serials that appeared on Doordarshan. One of these was Chanakya; and why am I thinking of Chanakya ? Because while I was browsing on YouTube, I came across some videos of Chanakya (watch them here), and that activated the section of brain dealing with memory.
I remember Chanakya for many things. At a time when serials based on ancient India or mythology were mainly costume dramas with a heavy focus on heavy language, where every other sentence referred to honour or the lack of it, here was a serial heavy on political drama. While in school, we learnt in a few short paragraphs (or maybe it was one chapter, I don't remember) about who Chanakya was and what he had done. However, as far as I can recall about what we were taught, we were primarily taught that Chanakya was the writer of the 'Arthashastra, the book on Indian politics and that he was a very clever tactician who brought his favorite king to power.
However, it was the serial that presented things in a slightly different (maybe it was just more detailed) context, labeling Chanakya (known as so because his father was called Chanak) (also known as Kautilya or Vishnugputa) as a person who was inspired by a mission to bring the country together after the invasion of Alexander (or Yakshendra as I remember the name being pronounced in the serial). Just like the Discovery of India series (Bharat ek khoj) brought the history of Indian to everyone, this serial brought the life of times of one of India's greatest thinkers and tactician to the screen.
The serial essentially captures the rise of Chanakya in those time when the Nandas were the rulers (but not very skilful). They had a superb minister, almost to the level of Chanakya himself, called Rakshas. Rakshas was able through his actions to keep the Nandas in power and ensure that no one was able to plan or execute any actions against the Nandas. It was Chanakya, a ruthless person in his mission, who was able to weld together the different states, defeat the Nandan and bring his brave protege, Chandragupta Maurya to power.
There are many examples of his determined nature shown in the serial, but the most famous of them have to be the episode of where when grass hurts his feet, he gets the grass eaten by ants; and probably the most famous one where he makes a solemn vow not to tie his hair till he has got rid of the Nandas.
The serial seemed to be very well-researched, and spent a lot of time and effort to make the entire portrayal including the sets seem authentic. The director and lead actor (Dr. Chandraprakash Dwivedi) essayed the role in a way that seemed to be very authentic (including the fact that people rode horses bare-back since the saddle was not yet introduced in India). One person who did not come off so well in this serial was Alexander, since the serial also mentions his brutality many times. People will also be surprised to know that the serial was somewhat controversial at its time because of the large use of saffron flags particularly because there was already a lot of feelings about the ongoing rise of the BJP and the Ram Janmabhoomi agitation.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Kumkum: Ek Pyaara Sa Bandhan on Star Plus

This is yet another long running serial on Star Plus, the only difference being that it does not appear on the night slot, coming instead in the morning around 7:30 AM, and then coming at 1 PM in the afternoon, from Monday to Thursday. The show has created 2 stars in the name of Juhi Parmar and Hussain (who play the lead characters of Kumkum and Sumit), madly in love with each other. The show has been running for so long, having started on July 15, 2002 and still running (it recently crossed the 1000 epsiode level), one feels that until TRP pulls it down, the show will keep on going forever. And the show has already had the favorite part of the K series (even though it is made by another company); it has taken a time-leap to show another generation. Sumit and Kumkum however will keep on going forever.
The story is about the Wadhwa family, where Jatin and Sumit were brothers, with Jatin married to Kumkum, and Sumit in love with a college colleague. Sumit is however attached to Kumkum, and they are very good friends. However, when Jatin dies due to brain tumour, Sumit eventually marries Kumkum, and whatever we are seeing now is after that event. They are an extremely attached couple.
Kumkum is also a type of super-woman, which I think is the prime attraction she has among her audience. Like many others, she is forever on the side of good, always acts for the benefit of her family, is devoted to her husbands, in-laws and others. At the same time, she is not willing to take any injustice, and has often fought for her relatives (even using stealth and other such activities).
So, for example, when her own daughter-in was upto no good, essentially wanting everything and pushing the rest of the family out, it was Kumkum who fought back including appearing in disguise, exposed her wrong-doings and got her arrested for her wrong-doings. In another instance, when her own old friend wanted to break up Sumit-Kumkum over jealousy, she accused Sumit of outraging her modesty. It was then Kumkum who fought the legal case, and finally using a mixture of drama and shock, who finally got the old friend to admit to her crimes in court and got Sumit off.
So as long as the serial lasts, one can be sure that this is what will continue to happen, with things happening that impact Kumkum and her family, and Kumkum fighting back to save them, thus continuing the crusade of Indian's super-woman.

Comedy Circus: Slightly Adult, but very good

Comedy Circus is a very controlled format with the whole show lasting just 13 weeks. I have always like the 'Great Laughter Challenge' and was wondering as to whether more comedy shows will be like me-too, trying to copy the format but otherwise being totally boring, but I was pleasantly surprised.
The show has a different format, with a total of 7 pairings, and in a unique twist, pairing 7 popular television actors ready to train under 7 well-known stand-up comedians. This seemed interesting, and when I got around to watching it, it was very interesting.

Comedy Circus on Sony

(Ali And Kashif enacting two beautiful ladies!!)

The people taking part in this program were the following: saucy Urvashi (Komolika) Dholakia, stage-cum-television actor Ketaki (ar ar arrrr...) Dave, sexy Karishma Tanna, cute and sweet Ali (Kamal) Asgar, ever popular Kiran (Om) Karmarkar, chocolate boy Swapnil Joshi and the versatile Varun Badola - they team up with well-known stand-up comedians like Shakeel Ahmed Siddiqui, VIP, Annu Mudgul, Pratap Faujdar, Khayali Saharan, Kashif Khan and Sunil Sawara. With these pairings, every week, the judges will give points based on their ability to make the audience and the judges laugh, and the 2 weakest pairs will then face a voting by the remaining contestants and one pair will leave.
The following were the pairing ups:
- Ali Asgar & Kashif Khan
- Karishma Tanna & Khayali Saharan (Voted out)
- Ketaki Dave & Pratap Faujdar
- Kiran Karmakar & Sunil Sawara (Voted out)
- Swapnil Joshi & VIP (Vijay Ishwarlal Pawar)
- Urvashi Dholakia & Shakeel Ahmed Siddiqui (Voted out)
- Varun Badola & Deepak Dutta (Voted out)
A bit more about the people involved is there in this link

Now most comedy programs are about jokes, but the jokes are of the clean kind. Comedy circus is slightly more risque. There are jokes about sex, lots of jokes about marriage, about parenting, about cross-dressing, attraction between males and females and between people of the same sex. It meanders on the edge, and can be fairly adult, but never really steps over the line.
The contest is anchored by Shruti Seth (and many of the contestants make humorous advances at her), with judging being done by Satish Shah, Archana Puran Singh and Johnny Lever (and judging seemed to be fairly decent, although one person's version of comedy may not be the same as that of another).
Some videos of the Comedy Circus can be found at this link (YouTube) and at the Forums link

Finale of The Biggest Loser on Sahara One

Well, it finally is happening today. On September 1, the show The Biggest Loser is coming to an end, at 8 PM on Sahara One. Starting with 16 contestants in May 2007, all of whom looked like they needed to lose weight, we have seen on a weekly basis as to how they have been losing weight. At first, it seemed a bit strange to have such a program on air, after all, to have a program based on getting people to lose weight would seem like making fun of them to some extent. Then I realized that it was based on an international program. And as time passed, just like the earlier reality show called The Biggest Boss, there was a lot of play about the inter-play between the different characters, the drama and the tension (expected since the program was about eliminating people based on voting from other contestants). And there was the weekly drama about getting people down to either their shorts (or in the case of the ladies, their T-shirts and shorts), and then weighing each of them in order to get the total weight loss for the week.
One could see that there was a lot of hard work and exercise, along with control involved in getting them to lose weight. And one could see them actually losing weight on a weekly basis, and as time went by, it must have been inspiring for over-weight people to actually see the amount of weight that must have been lost due to regular exercise and control. A lot of neighborhood gyms must have benefited tremendously from this feeling about losing weight.
The presence of Suniel Shetty lent the star power to the show, although there is a sneaking suspicion that given that he is not being seen in too many movies nowadays, this is an attempt to use the glamour power of TV in order to get back to the main-stream movie business.
One good thing in the show has been the presence of fitness experts such as former physiotherapist to the Indian cricket team, Andrew Leipus as Health & Fitness Director. The team consists of Deepika Mehta & Yusef Khan who are experts & specialists in the fitness & training arena, ably assisted by Varun Shivdasani (Culinary Nutritionist) & Dr. Ajit Desai (Cardiologist). This should be a reminder to people that a rigorous weight loss program has a strong medical affect on the body and should be done only under proper advice.
So now the show has 3 people left, being Hiren who lost 40 kg, Natasha who lost 30 kg, and Sandeep who lost 41.6 kg. This is a tremendous effort, and these people deserve to be in the finals. In the course of this program, some of the contestants who were left behind were Gracious D'Costa, Ravinder Singh Sahni, Ajay Nagrath, Nirmal Soni, Sharmila Joshi, Neeraj Paul, Kiran Jethwani, Dr. Rizwan Ahmed Qureshi, Samirah Ahmed, Robin Soloman, Hemangini Merchant, Priyanka Bhayana, Muna Aleem. All of them lost varying amounts of weights but were eventually voted out one by one (either for lack of dedication or bad attitude).
Some of the highlights of the various episodes are available on the videos at this link; and then some more videos at this link

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Saloni Ka Safar: Same story again

Somehow the concept of Saath Phere - Saloni ka Safar keeps on going through the same phases. Initially, the serial was all about the struggle of a dark colored girl, Saloni (Rajshree Thakur) against the prejudices that seemed to be against people with dark complexions. She had to struggle against her own parents who favor her fairer sister. In addition, her quest for a marriage partner was a big struggle.
However, I have the serial all worked out now. The serial will essentially capture one by one, a series of stories whereby Saloni will be forced down a path whereby she has to struggle to go with her convictions, She has to live by the truth as she knows it, even though she has to forsake support from her family. So, for example, in the latest incident, Saloni's sister-in-law, Priya was estranged from her husband and had to work make her living. One day, she was raped by somebody, and eventually suspicion fell on her estranged husband. Everybody believed this except for Saloni. Manno Bhabhi has recovered her long lost son Abhi and is very happy, and is even happier when Abhi marries Priya. Then Saloni gets to know that Abhi had raped Priya, and is shocked, but accuses him. And then then inevitable happens. Her in-laws, and even her own father forsake her because of these accusations and don't believe her. So she has to struggle all alone to prove this.
These are the kinds of struggles that Saloni has to go through for the sake of living for the truth, and my belief is that as soon as a particular set of problems are resolved and Saloni is proved right, she moves into the next set of problems where again she has to struggle, people don't believe her, and so on.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Strange Sa Re Ga Ma Pa episode - Post Independence Day Special

On the 11th of August, there was the Independence Day Special on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa on Zee TV with Kapil Dev being the star guest. Now the reasonable expectation is that on an Independence Day Special, there will be a lot of patriotism on display. What would make it interesting is the fact that there are 3 Pakistanis competing, and it would be difficult for Pakistanis to sing India independence songs. Now, this could be a political thing, in the sense that the Indian Independence struggle brought independence to both India and Pakistan.
However, this is still a competition involving singing, and getting voted on by the public, and while the rest of the singers sung rousing patriotic songs, these 3 folks sang songs that were either slower, or not heard before by a large section of the population. I can play these 3 songs below:

Junaid singing 'Mere Dushman Mere Bhai' from Border:

Mussarat singing 'Dil Na Lage'

Amanat Ali singing 'Ae Watan Pyare Watan' by 'Amanat Ali Khan Sahab'

Now what happened after this, for the next week where the voting results were calculated is that all of these 3 singers (and are pretty good singers) were voted to be the lowest vote getters, with one of them guaranteed to get eliminated. Now this placed the organizers in a piquant situation, after all, if suddenly all the 3 Pakistanis were rated lowest, then there would be a lot of noise about bias. At the same time, these were votes by people, who obviously did not appreciate the songs that were sung, and so voted them lowest. This led to emotional drama, and eventually a decision was taken that there was a lot of bias, a lot of rumours, and this would have made the results wrong. So, this week, nobody was eliminated, and the votes of this would be tabulated withe votes of next week to eliminate somebody next week.

See an excerpt of this drama (with audience, singers, all very emotional):

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Zaara: The only major Muslim serial on air

For a country that has a significant Muslim population, there are never too many serials on air that are based on a Muslim setting. One of the prime serials on air now that is based on a Muslim family is called Zaara – Pyaar Ki Saugat, and is about the choices having to be made in life by a young lady, about the choice between love and family. Sounds familiar, does it not? Most serials on air are about choices, sacrifice, and so on. Well, Zaara – Pyaar Ki Saugat, also has all that, in the sense that it also has all the usual stuff about back-biting, jealousy between relatives and sisters, second marriage, and so on.

Zaara, Samiksha Jug

The serial appears on Sahara One at 8 PM every weekday, Monday to Friday, and is part of the effort by Sahara One to bring in many more serials so as to get more user TRP's. The story so far is fairly simple. Being set in an upper middle class Muslim family, the lead character played by Samiksha Jug was a student abroad in London, and has now returned to her hometown after completing her studies. While in London, she was in love with her childhood sweetheart, Samar (Abhay Vakil), and was all prepared to get married to him.
When she comes back to her hometown, she is plunged into an ethical dilemna. Her adopted sister, Zeenat (Malini Kapoor) is childless in marriage, and married to Aamir (Jatin Grewal). Zaara is waiting for Samar to come back from London and ask for her hand in marriage, when Zeenat comes in and asks for a favour. The favour is a big one, with Zaara being asked to marry Aamir so that they can have a child. In these days of surrogate mothers, of fertility and IVF treatments, one wonders why they still need to go in for a second marriage.
Updates on the serial, including videos of episodes and updates on a day-to-day basis of the story can be had from these forums. Essentially, the story has now evolved to another serial of conspiracies, acting against each other, good vs. evil, with all 4 of them, Zaara, Zeenat, Aamir and Samar now involved. No longer a serial with a difference.

Raavan, a different kind of serial

There is a serial on Zee, which can be truly called a serial with a difference. There have been a number of serials on air to do with mythology, with most of them being loud, very flashy costumes, big dialogues, etc, not at all subtle. But there is now a serial with a difference. Ravan attempts to tell the history that no one knows about, the story of Ravan, the embodiment of evil. The makers have tried to present his entire history, including many of his positive points. The attempt of the makers is that the serial will not glorify Ravan. It will simply give Ravan's point of view - why he abducted Rama's wife Sita - without justifying what he did. The serial will show Ravan's transformation from mahamanav (a great human being) to a mahadanav (a great demon).
“Ravan has been portrayed in a negative light so far. He is known as Sita’s kidnapper but what people don’t know is that he was a big pandit and a powerful man. His real persona has been hidden from the audience and in this show you will see him as a warrior, a real hero!” The serial will reveal little-known aspects about Ravan like the fact that he was the grandson of Brahma, that Hanuman was one of the ministers in his court who left after a misunderstanding, and that Ravana did not actually have ten heads; he actually wore a necklace of ten heads.
Raavan Serial

‘Ravan’ is shown Saturday nights at 9 PM (and started on 21:00 from 12th November 2006). Basic story starts with Ravan's mother Kekashi (Ravee Gupta) shown trying to seduce Rishi Vishrava (R K Gupta), because she wants to have a child with him. It all began with the Daitya named Sumaalee ( maternal Grand Father), Raavan’s Nana. After Sumaalee lost his kingdom the Devta’s, he was very upset and started to conspire and wanted his kingdom back at any cost.
He got a vision that if he had son’s from Vishravaa, he would have sons equal to Kuber the ruler of lanka. Sumaalee’s daughter Kaikasee, was convinced to go and entice Vishravaa into marrying her and has children from him. Kaikasee went to seek out for Vishravaa, and managed to win his love. After some time she gave birth to a 4 children. His father named him Dashgreev (ten-headed). Then born Kumbhkarn and after him their sister Shoorpankhaa. Kaikasee’s last child was Vibheeshan.
Having watched it many times, it can be gripping, and because of the previous mythological serials, I was a bit apprehensive. But to connect to the 21st century, the loud drama of the 80s’ Doordarshan presentation has been cut out. Ravan speaks human. There is no thigh-slapping, foot-stomping swearing of a bigmouth. He is younger and leaner. Rama looks like a conscientious leader not given to lengthy discourse and beatific smiles.
The serial is also raising a toast to scientific progress of the age. “The sages, like Agastya Rishi, were actually great scientists. Why speak of only Ravan’s Pushpak rath? There were nine types of aircraft in vogue then, including fighter planes. The Brahmastra itself was a missile. It is well-known that centuries later Leonardo da Vinci was influenced by military accounts in Ramayana.
An excerpt from the serial that shows the inherent nature of Rama. Rama has picked up the Brahmastra and taken aim, but Ravana has desisted from countering with an equally destructive weapon from his arsenal. “I cannot let Creation come to end,” he thinks and embraces his own death.

Producer : Gulshan Sachdeva ( Film and Shots )
Research : Om Prakash
Screenplay Writer : Umesh Chandra Upadhyay
Dialogue Writer : Vijay Pundit
Director : Ranjan Kumar Singh
Star Cast : Narendra Jha (Ravan), Divya Desai (Mandodari), Ravee Gupta (Keksi), Rajendra Gupta (Sumali)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Saathii Re on Star One

There used to come this cute serial on Star One at 9 PM called Saathi Re. This was a serial with a fair amount of drama, but not with the saas-bahu kind as seen in the Balaji Telefilms kind of K serials. One thing was common though, there were people who were portrayed as evil and vicious. And for those watching the serial Woh Rahne Waali Mehlon Ki on Sahara One, there was a common factor in the sense of a guruji predicting death after marriage, and hence a character doing a false marriage to get around it.
Why do I write everything in the past tense ? Well, could be because the serial is over, it ended on 9th August after around one year of operation, which is a fairly small period of time. The rumour is that the serial was stopped as the direction was planning to move to film direction, but there is no confirmation on this.
The serial principally starred the following characters: Indira Krishnan as Rajeev, Parakh Madan as Suman. The story is fairly simple. Suman wanted to marry Prem, her love; but as her sadhu had told her that her husband would die within 6 months of marriage, she refused to marry Prem and instead married Rajeev. Calculation was that when he would die, she would then marry her true love. But this is an Indian serial. Over a period of time, she fell in love with Rajeev (who played a soft, strong and gentle voiced man). But Prem refused to go away, instead he wanted to play a role in her life again.
Suman was absolutely not ready for this. She had a steady and good family life and she did not want Prem to cause disturbances in this life, especially since she had never been able to tell Rajeev about this background. Prem, having a charming personality (seemed a bit slimy to me though), eventually got Suman's sister, Chaitali, to marry him. So now he is close to Suman, even though now all she wants to do is play the part of a good dedicated and supportive wife.
At the same time, the other daughter-in-law Shalaka does not like Suman and wants a better share of the household and business operations, and makes Suman's life miserable. Eventually, things boil over. Prem rapes Suman, and when Rajeev finds her in this state, he goes after Prem. Too late, in a quirk of fate, a snake has bitten him and he dies. Chaitali tells all at this time about the background between Suman and Prem, and now Rajeev is shocked. He asks Suman to leave the home and announces the end of their relationship.
Suman leaves, but then Rajeev gets to know that she was telling the truth. In between, in a massive show of faith and devotion, Suman, after having left, goes to the Sadhu's ashram and does a rigid penance to remove the clouds hovering over Rajeev. Coincidentally, Rajeev had also been bitten by a snake, and this penance by Suman is supposed to have saved her (such a massive show of devotion, by standing for a long time in flowing water in ill health, but a very string display of superstition as well). He gets better in hospital, and then eventually comes searching for her. They finally meet; at the same time at home, Shalaka gets found out about the ill-treatment she had been doing of Suman, and after a few slaps and shakings and screamings from her mother in law and then husband, she gets reformed. A happy ending for all, except the cast who will now have to hunt for new serials to appear in.
Parakh Madan (Suman) is actually trained in Kathak, did her graduation in NIFT, and did a fair number of shows as part of a modelling career before moving to the television industry.

Friday, August 10, 2007

An update on Sa Re Ga Ma Pa as of 10th August 2007

I prefer this program over the other singing contests on the other channels (Sony's Indian Idol and Star's Voice of India). Now that the last 9 singers are left, the quality of the singing is incredible. Many times I feel that if I were to listen to these on radio, they would sound no different from the other singers who are actually singing in films. This is also a measure of how much of these people would have trained to reach this level. The judges are not hostile, and it was particularly nice today when Musarrat Ababs, a wonderful singer from Pakistan forgot the words of the songs, the judges, particularly Ismail Darbar encouraged the viewers to forget about this mistake, and not to penalize him during the public voting. This was nice. At the same time, from the final 10 selected next time, the list had to be weeded down to 9, and hence this time Joy from Himesh's team made his exit. It got somewhat emotional for Joy, but he went out with the promise to become a music director.

Raja Hasan sings 'Teri Diwani', originally sung by Kailash Kher; superb singing and I really appreciated the song:

Standard stereotypes in popular Zee serial

That is a question I got after watching the latest (9th August) episode of the serial, Ghar Ki Laxmi Betiyaan, coming at 10 PM on Zee. The fight is between the daughters of the first wife, Savitri, and the second wife, Menaka (along with her son and daughter-in-law), with the fight being over the property allocation of the father's property. In this, the daughters get to know that the daughter-in-law (Kajri / Pavitra), who wants to get the entire property, is actually a former nautch girl, a kothe ki ladki. They are horrified about this and are trying to get a way that the entire family will get to know this, so that their battle will be won.
Now, in the serial, these daughters are seen as the heroines, and the daughter-in-law with her mother-in-law being the arrogant and scheming self. They believe that the son of the house is the prime and only inheritor; and while Menaka is shown as being ignorant of Pavitra;s true identify as Kajri, her son, Yuvraj, is seen as being complicit in the knowledge of Kajri's background, but he is also being fooled to some extent. It is only Kajri who knows her true intention, which is to get the property for herself and her fictional unborn child.
So, in today's episode, the daughters manage to get the reality of Kavitra's identity unmasked by tricking her to dance for money in a party where the entire household is present, and then unmasking her. So, now things are better, with Kajri getting a resounding slap from her father-in-law who cannot take this blot on the honour of the family. And he does this even without knowing the full extent of her intentions, just because she is from a 'suspect' or non-clean background.
This was what troubled me. If it was just that the lady wanted to get out of her background, and marry into a respectable family, the reaction of the head of the family would have been the same, seeing it as a blot on the family name. This goes against the concept whereby we argue that ladies in this trade are mainly there due to circumstances and should be given every chance to leave. If Kajri had been shown to have a heart of gold, even then she would not have been welcome, which is something that is worrying. And the serial has packaged this as a right thing, which in my opinion is not handling this issue correctly.

Enjoy Nautanki TV