Thursday, October 4, 2012

Doordarshan, etc: Wisps of Nostalgia (Part-III)

Author's Note: You may read the 1st part of this series: HERE.

The 2nd part can be read: HERE.

During the heyday of DD (Doordarshan), we watched a somewhat phenomenal amount of television, really. Something that would surely come as a shock-surprise to the generation that missed out on those glorious and carefree days (of DD) and grew up on a heavy diet of Cable television instead (thanks to a veritable deluge of channels, courtesy liberalization). Though I must admit that quite a few offerings (from the latter's stable) like: Cartoon Network, History Channel, National Geographic and Animal Planet grabbed our attention instantly. And still do.

Thank god for the adorable pair of Tom and Jerry ... they are a real stress-buster and an unlimited source of fun and joy!

Apparently, almost a decade before MGM's famed cat-and-mouse team; Amadee J. Van Beuren's New York studio had another pair of stars named Tom and Jerry. 

Get yourself acquainted with them: HERE.

There was a cult hit as well: Remington Steele - the 1980s television detective drama, starring Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist. The series actually blended the genres of romantic comedy, drama, and detective procedural. Before the cable revolution arrived, we would somehow catch the right airwaves (by never giving up on the self-deprecating yet miraculous powers of the TV antenna; aside: by twisting and turning it continuously) ... and then watch whatever we could (of Remington Steele) with immense satisfaction and glee.

The Irish Pierce Brosnan effortlessly went from Remington Steele and made his mark as the suave 007 (James Bond). In terms of suaveness, he can be ranked next to Scottish legend-turned-knight, Sir Sean Connery. I think.

Popular sci-fi, fantasy and historical tales on DD were: Star Trek and Captain Vyom (featuring Milind Soman - pre or post the 'famous' Tuff shoe ad, I don't quite know *wink*). Frankly, I could never figure out the huge popularity of Shaktimaan featuring Mukesh Khanna in the title role - in his post-Bheeshma avatar. But it clearly gave him a new lease of life and offered what must have been a welcome break (to him at least) from the numerous Bheeshma-Pitamah-like elderly man roles that sort of swamped him during those days. We too got to view him minus the lush extra-white beard that drowned most of his (then still-young) face. Shaktimaan was a desi Superman-like character that made elders and parents keep a constant watch on their wards, since the latter were more than keen to practice (in real life) what Shaktimaan performed on-screen.

There was also Jhansi Ki Rani Laxmibai (featuring Varsha Usgaonkar/ Uttara of B.R. Chopra's magnum opus), Dastan-e-Hatim Tai, Sanjay Khan's The Sword of Tipu Sultan and The Great Maratha; Bible Ki Kahaniyan, Chekhov Ki Duniya, Mulla Naseeruddin (Nasreddin Hodja, essayed by the versatile Raghuvir Yadav), Panchatantra Ki Kathayein, Ramanand Sagar's Alif Laila (tales from the Arabian Nights); Sindbad the Sailor, Mirza Ghalib (featuring Naseeruddin Shah), Chanakya, Chandrakanta, Bharat Ek Khoj (directed by Shyam Benegal, based on Nehru's "Discovery of India" and narrated by the Nehru look-alike Roshan Seth). There was the hugely popular Katha Saagar (that included Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan and B.R. Chopra's Mahabharat) ... and many more. [Here is a nice link to know more and/or to reminisce about the days gone by.]

Oshin - a popular Japanese drama series was telecast during 1983/84. I have no knowledge of it though.

The perpetually weeping Deepika Chikhalia (as Sita), the somewhat wooden-faced (read: sporting a permanently stunned look) Arun Govil (as Shri Ram) and Nitish Bharadwaj (as Shri Krishna, very aptly cast) became synonymous with the characters they portrayed. People touched their feet, sought their blessings, lit agarbattis in front of their photos or pictures ... and sat reverentially with folded palms when they appeared on-screen! [No wonder they made the transition from of the people, by the people and for the people - very swiftly.] 

On Sunday mornings, when the Ramayan and the Mahabharat was telecast (during different years though), streets wore a deserted look, with even the hard-nosed, lakshmi-conscious shopkeepers somehow forgetting to keep their cash-boxes jingling. None played backyard cricket, street cricket, gully cricket (galli = "alley" in Hindi), corridor cricket, or garden cricket. Morning shows in cinemas were cancelled, and I have a feeling that perhaps even the fastest-fingered pickpockets along with petty thieves and burglars too decided to give their dhanda a break - voluntarily. And THIS no doubt must have had a significant BP-lowering effect - on the law-enforcing force. The latter then (after letting out a well-deserved collective sigh of relief, that is) gratefully turned their attention to the plates of piping hot and unforgettably tasty kosha mangsho (Bengali-style mutton curry), crispy pheesh fry (battered or breaded fried fish, usually bhetki or pomfret), murgir-jhol (Bengali-style chicken curry), wheat or maida-based fluffy luchi or tinkona parota (triangle-shaped paratha), lip-smacking alu-r dom (new baby potato curry) and cholar daal, shaada jhurjhure bhaat (white non-sticky rice) and mishti doi (red sweetened yogurt, the most popular desert in the Bengali cuisine ... and in the whole wide world and beyond). 

[Note: For other parts of the country, appropriate dishes applicable. So, please fill in the blanks.]

Mind you, the perfectly puffed-up pristine-white or wheatish-golden luchi is not even a distant cousin of the puri, and a Bengali breakfast on Sundays is never complete without tinkona parota or luchi with alur dom and cholar daal. And though I mentioned shaada jhurjhure bhaat or white non-sticky rice, many Bengalis favour the short-grained, white, aromatic, sticky rice - Gobindobhog (literally: offering to the gods, more specifically to Shri Krishno). As for the tinkona parota (triangle-shaped paratha) - again a Bengali specialty, it may not be found outside Bengali homes and restaurants.

Btw, 'Golbarir Kosha Mangsho' at Oh! Calcutta is very well-known and finger-licking delicious. Golbari at Shyambazar (a place in Kolkata) is famous for the very dark-coloured, spicy-sweet kosha mangsho that is served at the New Punjabi Hotel. With a closely guarded cooking process, it is what legends are made of and is considered an essential stop if one is on a food-tour of Kolkata.

The hot and spicy Lamb or Mutton dish (kosha mangsho) is best served with tinkona parota or even luchi. One may try it with gorom gorom phulka (puffed Indian bread) too. Rice would do, but not the long-grained Basmati rice. Gobindobhog, it must be.

The (chicken) murgir jhol is very different from the mutton kosha mangsho. The latter is slow-cooked, is more garam masala heavy, thicker, browner and spicier than the yellowish (murgir) jhol or thin gravy. In kosha mangsho, the hot and spicy thick gravy just coats the meat (mutton) pieces. It is okay to leave the murgir jhol a little runny, but the kosha mangsho can never be runny. NEVER. If it did, that would be worse than culinary sacrilege. The mutton in kosha mangsho is served in a spice paste that is thicker and drier than the sauce in the murgir jhol.

Meat on Sundays, after a week of fish and eggs, was the done thing for most Bengali families in the 80s and 90s. Mutton actually. Saturdays meant chicken. But such is the Bengali gene that we simply could not let go of the chicken and fish either. And so, happily ended up by having the best of all the worlds. :-)

I soooooooooo miss those days and those weekly rituals :-(

But then Maa aaschen (Maa is on her way; read: Durga Pujo), and therefore, I can (rather, all of us can) taste all of the above and more - soon. Very, very soon. :-) :-)

Umm, well, from pet-pujo let's get back to the serials of yore. 

There is a possibility that Ramanand Sagar's efforts - have shaped our views and thoughts about the various characters in the Ramayana (including that of the protagonist) - in a regressive manner. Not that books, experts, scholars, pundits, et al have done otherwise. But the visual medium is very powerful; all that we see and hear make a sharp impact on our psyche. Hence, this magnum opus may have (unwittingly) nudged us towards a warped version of Ram, Sita, Lakshman, Raavan, and Hanuman, ... in fact of Ramayan itself; ditto B.R. Chopra's Mahabharat. [Note: Since I plan to share my thoughts on them later, in a different series, I'm refraining from delving too deeply into these two so-called "epics" here.]

Nevertheless, all of the above-mentioned serials were entertaining and informative. We dropped everything in order to garner vantage spots in front of the telly or planned out our day factoring in our favourite shows and serials. Families watched television together, and discussed the goings-on: favourite characters, scenes, twists and turns - threadbare, in the minutest of detail - at the end of the episodes; though the exchanging of a quick comment here or a shared meaningful glance there (while watching the serial or show) was the norm. People identified with the emotions of the protagonist and empathized with the various characters and situations, since the serials of yore did not quite demand a total suspension of disbelief on the viewers' part (as they do today). The serials and shows of the 80s and the early 90s were very much a slice-of-life.

Horror scenes or tense moments were dealt with by spontaneously grabbing the arm of whoever sat beside us ... and then holding on to it tightly!! Remember those days and those moments? Watching a suspense or a thriller, especially during the chilly winter nights, meant something else altogether. Goosebumps obviously, but we were extra careful of our own shadows too ... and even checked under the bed to satisfy ourselves that there were no unwelcome visitors!!

Television meant family time. The only thing one had to do back then was to open the wooden shutters of one's Crown TV or Bush TV set (or fiddle with the numerous knobs and buttons on one's Philips TV set), run up to the terrace and adjust the antenna (if required) and then ... tadaaa...!! 

Pictures of some interesting Black and White television sets (courtesy, the South West England Vintage Television Museum Black-and-White Television Gallery) can be viewed HERE.

(Stay tuned…)

Pictures: 1. Pic1 - Tom and Jerry. 2. Pic2 - Another pair of stars named Tom and Jerry. 3. Pic3 - Remington Steele. 4. Pic4 - Mukesh Khanna as Shaktimaan. 5. Pics 5, 6 and 7 - The Sword of Tipu Sultan, Chanakya and Bharat Ek Khoj respectively6. Pic8 - B. R. Chopra's Mahabharat. 7. Pics 9, 10, 11, 12 and 13 - Luchi-alur dom, cholar daal, fish fry, tinkona parota and mishti doi - in order of pics. 8. Pics 14 and 15 - Kosha mangsho and murgir jhol. 9. Pic16 - Ramanand Sagar's Ramayan and 10. Pic17: Bush TV.


  1. Even now, I love to watch Tom & Jerry!

    We used to watch Remigton Steele regularly. We were sort of addicted to it. Pierce Brosnan was so young and I liked his boss too!

    I remember Milind Soman's Shoe ad! He became very famous. Who was the lady, I forgot!

    Somehow I am not familiar with Shaktimaan. I think my sons were engrossed by then in the English serials in other channels! I remember reading about a school boy jumping from first or second floor like Shaktimaan!

    Tipu Sultan was a well made serial with rich settings. Sanjay directed and acted very well. His accident was unfortunate.

    I remember Mulla Naseeruddin. Do you remember Raghuvir yaadav's serial where he goes dreaming often.

    Again, Chanakya was well made after good research. Bharat Ek Khoj, Ramayan, Mahabhaarath were classics. We were in Hosur then. A group used to recite a Bhagavad Gita Shloka in houses (one house on a Sunday morning). They did it after Ramayan was over. So many stories were there about Ramayan in those days, how people were crazy about it.

    I remember watching 'Oshin'. It was new to us, watching Japanese serial, their lifestyle etc.

    Will come back again to complete this comment post, Roshmi. Enjoyed reading this post!

  2. I think that Mahabharat was better than Ramayana...direction and picturization-wise. Even children watched these series. Will it happen now?! English channels have taken over!

    Yes, television watching was family time. Breaks were less and so the flow of the story was not disturbed. So people became emotional and blended with the storyline.

    We had EC TV with shutter! Yes, we used to change the direction of the antenna!

    Hmmm...enjoyed reading and commenting, Roshmi, thank you! Went back to those blissful days with children which has become just memories now!

  3. @Sandhya: Same here Sndhyaji! I too love Tom and Jerry. Can never outgrow them :)

    Yes, Pierce Brosnan was good in his youth, very eye-candy material.

    The lady alongside Milind Soman was Madhu Sapre; they were an item then. That ad had created quite a sensation, and it was talked about for a long time.

    Yes, Shaktimaan gave a tough time to parents. I too haven’t watched it really; once in a while, while surfing channels I may have watched it for a few minutes, that’s all!

    Sanjay Khan’s accident had a Zeenat-angle to it, from what I read in those days. Mullah Naseeruddin was fun, I have read the book (in Bangla, by Satyajit Ray).

    That was “Mungerilal Ke Haasein Saapnein” – will write about it too. It was hilarious!! But it was clean entertainment, something we cannot even imagine these days.

    Yes, Chanakya, Bharat Ek Khoj, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata – were very well done … and well received too. However, I think our understanding of the latter two is very wrong.

    I have never watched ‘Oshin’. Do blog about it, if you can.

  4. @Sandhyaji: True. And they are meting out mindless and mind-numbing stuffs. And yet they bring in huge advertising revenue!!!

    The Ramayana and the Mahabharata cannot be compared. They represent different “yugs”. But I’m convinced our understanding of both is not right.

    Yes, EC TV was very popular those days, how the television set has changed over the years?!! Now, LED sets are to be found everywhere. Gen X may not even know that T.V. sets came with shutters!

    Those were the days Sandhyaji. Growing up was sooooo much fun!!!

    … And thank you for your comments. Glad you liked the post. I have shortened it too :)

  5. I didn't compare the epics. The direction and picturisation was better in Mahabharatha. War scenes were great for that period.

    Now, will read the next part!

  6. @Sandhyaji: Ah! That I agree. I am not a fan of Ramanand Sagar’s direction and/or vision. But these eras (the preceding yugs, I mean) were far more advanced than the current one. Though we refuse to acknowledge this...